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Our View: CMSD: Let's get it right this time

 

 

 

Monday, the Columbus Municipal School District Board of Trustees voted for a change in leadership. 

 

Superintendent Dr. Philip Hickman's contract, which will expire at the end of June, will not be extended, and the board will immediately begin a search for his replacement. 

 

That decision came after two motions to extend Hickman's contract failed by a 3-2 vote. The board then voted by that same 3-2 margin to begin the search for a new superintendent. 

 

Almost from the start, Hickman's tenure as superintendent was plagued by self-inflicted wounds, poor communication, personal scandals, questionable decisions and, in the end, a circle-the-wagons mentality that damaged morale and undermined confidence among teachers, staff and community. 

 

Those instances are plentiful and well-documented, and there is nothing to be gained from revisiting those failures. 

 

Today, the task before the board is clear: Identify and hire the superintendent who can meet the challenges the district faces. 

 

The board's performance in making these choices has been poor: That the board is now seeking its fifth superintendent since April 2010 is all the evidence needed to confirm that fact. 

 

We commend the board for its action on Monday. It was, no doubt, a difficult, but necessary decision. Sometimes the only way forward is to go back to the starting line. 

 

There are two questions that the board would be wise to consider: 

 

What has been learned from previous hires for this position? 

 

How best to go about choosing the leadership this district so desperately needs? 

 

During the often-heated debate over Hickman's fate Monday, both those who supported the superintendent and those who advocated for a new superintendent touched one essential point. Community support is vital. 

 

The next superintendent must have all the conventional qualifications -- excellent communication and management skills, high moral character, enthusiasm, determination, confidence, creativity. 

 

But in a district that has consistently under-performed since the decade began, the new superintendent must be able to inspire and motivate administrators, teachers, staff, children, parents and the larger community. 

 

Community-support for the district has steadily waned over the years. 

 

The right choice will be a tireless advocate for the district. That person will accessible, approachable and visible. That person will be someone whose public and personal conduct is beyond reproach. That person will build support, not close ranks. 

 

The full weight of that choice is something the board should not bear alone. We encourage the board to honestly and actively engage the community in helping make this decision 

 

We need to get it right this time.

 

 

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