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CMSD board applicant field swells to five


From left, Johnny Judson, Eric Thomas and Telisa Clay Young

From left, Johnny Judson, Eric Thomas and Telisa Clay Young



Zack Plair



The pool of applicants to fill the Columbus Municipal School District board's final vacancy has grown to five. 


Three applicants -- Johnny Judson, Eric Thomas and Telisa Clay Young -- submitted their names this week. They joined local pastor Willie Petty Sr. and Navistar Defense employee Cedrick Vance for consideration. 


Columbus City Council can appoint a new board member on March 20 to complete the last two years of Currie Fisher's unexpired term. Fisher resigned from the board on Feb. 9 citing personal reasons. She had served for almost eight years. 


Deadline to submit applications to City Hall is 5 p.m. March 20. 


The new appointment would join the school board as it seeks a new superintendent. The board -- who had already decided not to renew Superintendent Phillip Hickman's contract past June 30 -- fired Hickman last week and appointed Deputy Superintendent Craig Shannon to serve as interim. 


The board has hired a search firm to assist in finding Hickman's permanent replacement. 




Johnny Judson 


Judson, 60, has worked as a registered nurse at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle since 1987.  


He is currently an employee health nurse and nurse recruiter but has served stints as director of medical/surgical nursing, administrative house supervisor, staff development coordinator and emergency room nurse. 


All three of Judson's children graduated from Columbus High School, he said, and he has two grandchildren attending CMSD. He said his focus on the board would be building a quality education system that could serve as an economic development engine for the city. 


"I believe in public education, especially at CMSD," he said. "I have a vested interest in seeing this system succeed and to see Columbus (as a community) succeed as a result." 


To do that, Judson said the district must not only focus on improving test scores but find a way to prevent the high rate of teacher turnover CMSD has experienced in recent years. 


He hopes the new superintendent hire will foster relationships and develop an effective plan toward that end. 


"It would be wonderful if we had someone who is willing to invest their heart into making it work," he said. "Not just for a career move. 


"We need someone who is willing to seek and listen to feedback from stakeholders, (be they) teachers parents or other taxpayers in the district that don't necessarily even have kids in school," he added. 




Eric Thomas 


Thomas, 46, is applying for the third time to join the CMSD board. He unsuccessfully applied for appointment in both 2015 and 2016. 


He is a sales manager for Action Auto and served for more than three years on the now defunct Lowndes County E-911 Board. 


Thomas is a Motley High School graduate who has volunteered for years with local youth sports and recreation programs. 


If appointed to the school board, Thomas said he would focus on better district accountability and building more parent involvement. 


"If we could get more parents involved, especially with teachers, that would help with accountability," Thomas said. "I want to help put our kids in a position to win." 


He hopes CMSD finds a new superintendent who can reverse course from the district's negative overall image and poor student test score performance. 


"We need a superintendent who is ready to come in and work," he said. "It's been so negative for so long. We need a positive superintendent who is ready to turn this whole district around." 




Telisa Clay Young 


Young, 45, is a federal social insurance specialist with the Social Security Administration. She previously served as an adjunct instructor at East Mississippi Community College on the Staff Advisory Council at Mississippi State University and as director of housing at Mississippi University for Women. 


She holds bachelors' degrees in accounting and marketing, as well as a master's in instructional technology and workforce development -- an area for which she is now seeking a doctorate. 


As a parent of a Fairview Elementary student, Young volunteers with the school's parent-teacher organization. 


Young said she believes her extensive public service background and her vested interest in CMSD best qualify her for the CMSD board. 


"It is evident that an education grounded in excellence improves both the economic and quality of life for its citizens," she said. "I believe in the value of a diverse, premier public education for current and future students. 


Young also is concerned about teacher turnover and teachers being "allowed to do their jobs." She wants to hire an experienced superintendent who works well with teachers and puts the needs of students first.


Zack Plair is the managing editor for The Dispatch.



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