February 21, 2018 10:53:06 AM
Columbus council members on Tuesday selected Yvonne Cox to serve a five-year term on the Columbus Municipal School District Board of Trustees.
Cox is a former special education teacher who also served stints as assistant director of special programs at CMSD and director of special services for West Point Consolidated School District. She has unsuccessfully applied for previous CMSD board appointments.
In March, Cox will replace two-term board member Angela Verdell, who decided not to apply for reappointment.
"I'm ready to begin working with the school board as an active member," Cox said after her appointment. "... If we think about the children first in every decision we make, then we'll make the best decision."
The board voted 5-0, without discussion, to appoint Cox over two other applicants -- retired educator June B. Leigh and local pastor James E. Samuel Sr. Ward 1 Councilman Gene Taylor recused himself from the matter, later telling The Dispatch he is related to Samuel by marriage.
After the meeting, councilmen spoke optimistically about their decision, especially as the school district is reorganizing its special education program in the wake of a Mississippi Department of Education probe of CMSD providing insufficient services to SPED students.
"She has a good resume," Ward 5 Councilman Stephen Jones said of Cox. "We've had a lot of complaints with special education (at CMSD), so with her background maybe she can get in there and help with that."
Charlie Box, who represents Ward 3, called Cox "tremendously qualified" and an "excellent educator."
"I've talked to several people who have worked with her and they all said she is a consummate professional," Box said. "Her interest is in the children, and that's what we need."
The council must still fill one vacancy on the board after second-term board member Currie Fisher resigned earlier this month, although her term doesn't expire until 2020. Two applicants -- Willie Petty and Cedric Vance -- so far are the only two applicants for that post, and the council will select someone on March 20 to fill Fisher's unexpired term.
Mayor Robert Smith said Leigh and Samuel would need to reapply to be considered for Fisher's vacancy. The city also will accept other applicants until 5 p.m. March 20.
Both Fisher and Verdell supported extending the contract of current CMSD Superintendent Philip Hickman, but a 3-2 majority of the board decided not to renew his contract beyond June 30 and begin searching for his replacement.
Cox, who will now participate in selecting the district's next head administrator, said she's focused on hiring a superintendent who has "heart" and one who will help improve the "culture and climate" at CMSD. She said CMSD also needs to recruit more quality teachers who want to be a part of the community.
"I'm so excited," she said. "We need to come together as a team. ... I want the school board to represent the school district in a positive way."
Zack Plair is the managing editor for The Dispatch.
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