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CMSD releases further information on superintendent candidates


Jason Spears, left, and Tommye Henderson

Jason Spears, left, and Tommye Henderson



Isabelle Altman



The Columbus Municipal School District Board of Trustees will look at 19 of the 21 applications of superintendent candidates. 


While the names of the candidates have not been released, a CMSD press release included further information on the candidates. Board President Jason Spears said while he didn't know their names, he feels "optimistic" about the board's choices. 


"Out of the 21 ... to have 19 that qualified under the law is a good sign," he said. "To have such a high number of doctoral candidates applying is a good sign." 


The board hired consultants with the Mississippi School Boards Association to conduct the search for a new superintendent after voting in November to not renew the contract of then-superintendent Philip Hickman beyond June 30. The board later fired Hickman. 


Applicants from the pool hail from Mississippi as well as Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Illinois and Pennsylvania. Seven are female and 12 are male. Of the 19, three are superintendents, one a former superintendent, two are directors/coordinators, four are principals, one an educational consultant and five have alternative qualifications. 


Spears said he was particularly pleased to see 14 of the applicants have a doctorate degree -- something the board was hoping for. 


MSBA search consultant Tommye Henderson said the high number of candidates was particularly pleasing given a change in state law that increased the qualifications for school district superintendents. Before the law went into effect in 2017, all superintendent applicants had to have was an administrator's certificate, which only required them to have a master's degree in leadership or administration. 


Henderson said the new qualifications require superintendent applicants to have been a superintendent or assistant superintendent within the last five years, as well as have at least six years of experience in education, three of those years as principal of an A or B rated school or a school that improved its rating under the applicant's tenure.  


Alternatively, Henderson said, a candidate without an education background may apply if he or she has a master's degree and six years of documented leadership experience, either in the business sector, the military or higher education. For example, she said, a dean of a university or a CEO could apply. 


"You will notice that Columbus did have some applicants that are submitting in that particular area," she said. 


The next step is for the board to meet with Henderson to go over the candidates' qualifications and backgrounds at a meeting Aug. 25. Henderson said she will also go over reports from several stakeholder meetings she held over the last month with district teachers and staff, administrators, community business leaders and parents.  


"I think that there's some strong candidates in the pool and we're looking forward to presenting our report to them at next Wednesday's meeting," Henderson said.




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