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Our View: Despite struggles, Columbus schools can excel




Columbus Municipal School District officially began its search for a new superintendent on Tuesday. Applications will be accepted until May 30 and the CMSD Board of Trustees have stated they want to fill the position by July 1. 


In recent years, the performance of the district has been anything but promising. For three straight years, the district has been rated as an under-performing district. Former superintendent Martha Liddell's one-year tenure was mired in conflict and controversy and the school board has been bitterly divided ever since.  


For three years now, much of the news associated with the district has been of the bad variety. 


Yet for all that troubles the district, for all of the challenges it faces and all of its past missteps and failures, it should be noted that CMSD is a dynamic district that holds great potential. 


Contrary to some opinions, it is still possible to get an outstanding education in our city's public schools. 


We boast a state-of-the-art middle school and, with continued training and implementation, the magnet school concept used in our elementary schools could be great. 


We have found efficiencies through outsourcing some district services such as bus maintenance and operation. 


The district supports students outside of the classroom through promising sports programs, extracurricular activities and even summer food programs to help ensure children remain healthy. 


The evidence of this district's potential is all around us. This year, the top graduates from Columbus High School will find themselves able to compete with the best students from across the state. Columbus has always had its fair share of exceptional children. 


Surrounding this district is a city that has a fascinating history, an active and nourishing arts community and countless unique people doing unique things. 


The city also finds itself in the hub of an explosive economic revival; good jobs lie just around the corner. Opportunities abound to implement workforce training into our high school, giving our children yet another path to successful and fulfilling careers. 


And when it comes to continuing education, the successful and expanding programs at East Mississippi Community College, Mississippi University for Women and Mississippi State University provide a natural path toward a promising future. 


All of those conditions are not present throughout in the state or even the nation. Shame on us if we cannot harness them. These are advantages to be seized right here, untapped potential to be realized right now. 


To achieve that will require wise decisions and hard work. 


We need a school superintendent as dynamic as this community. 


The next candidate should be able to hire equally dynamic principals and teachers; be able to demonstrate a proven ability to overcome obstacles; be able to rally, encourage and inspire staff; be accountable to the highest standards of conduct and professionalism; be a fierce advocate for teachers, staff and students; be committed to the hard in-the-trenches work that the job will require and demand the same of all staff and teachers. 


The next superintendent should have a vision and an ability to articulate that vision in a way that allows it to be implemented at every level of the educational process. 


By putting aside its petty squabbles and choosing the right person for the superintendent position, the CMSD board can do much in putting the district on the path to making our schools places where getting an outstanding education is the rule, not the exception.



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