February 23, 2018 11:01:52 AM
Local pastor Willie Petty Sr. hopes his third try to get on the Columbus Municipal School District Board of Trustees proves the charm.
Petty and Cedrick Vance, who works for Navistar Defense, are so far the only two applicants to fill Currie Fisher's unexpired term on the CMSD board. Fisher, whose second term was set to expire in March 2020, resigned from the board earlier this month for personal reasons.
The city council can appoint Fisher's replacement during its March 20 meeting -- the first meeting it has scheduled after the required 30-day window to advertise the position passes. The deadline to apply at City Hall is 5 p.m. the day of the council meeting.
Applicants must live within the boundaries of CMSD and be a registered voter.
Petty, 62, unsuccessfully applied for school board appointments in 2014 and 2015.
He has pastored Jerusalem Baptist Church for more than 25 years and said he regularly substitute teaches at CMSD campuses.
Petty also has worked stints with the U.S. Postal Service, Weyerhaeuser and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He holds math and physical science degrees from Mississippi Industrial College, he said, and has taught full-time in Missouri and briefly at CMSD.
He believes education should "get back to the basics" of reading, writing and math -- and do so in a way that students use technology without becoming wholly dependent on it.
"The instruction is there," he said. "The children just need to understand how important it is."
Petty's two children both graduated from CMSD, and he said parental involvement is a key component for student success. He believes his track record as a parent volunteer with the district, as well as his connections with faculty and administration through his substituting, best qualify him for the board post.
"You have to have a genuine love and care for children and what they need," Petty said. "That's what I bring."
Vance, 40, also volunteers with the school district as well as with youth programs throughout Columbus, he said. This is his first time to apply for a CMSD board appointment.
The graduate of West Point High School holds a degree in psychology from Alabama State University and also studied at East Mississippi Community College.
If appointed, Vance said his goals would center on a stable, safe educational environment at CMSD and getting the administrators, teachers and district patrons "in one accord."
"We've got to think about the kids, not about ourselves," he said.
With the board currently involved in a search for a new superintendent, Vance said he wants to see the board hire someone who is visible in the community and who relates well to the public.
"It needs to be someone you will see in the grocery store and who will talk to parents," Vance said. "We need someone who is going to be here a long time. ... It's not about pay. It's not about taking the job so they can make their status better. It's about the kids."
Zack Plair is the managing editor for The Dispatch.
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