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Our View: Public involvement essential to successful superintendent search




Wednesday, the Columbus Municipal School District Board of Trustees took a major step in determining who will lead the district as superintendent of schools. 


During a special meeting, the board selected the Mississippi School Board Association from among six search firms. The MSBA is now charged with identifying a pool of candidates, from which the board will make its selection. 


The board ultimately chose the MSBA for its extensive experience in helping Mississippi school districts identify superintendent candidates. According the firm's director, Mike Waldrop, the firm has been used by 80 school districts in the state since its founding in 1971.  


Generally, the MSBA conducts the search over a three-month period, although the process can be expedited if a school board insists.  


During this "quiet time" as the MSBA does its job, our community should soberly reflect on the task at hand. 


For the board, that means giving serious thought about what qualities are necessary for the job. This should be a time when board members talk and listen to all of our stakeholders, especially parents and teachers. 


But the larger community should also carefully consider how the choice of a superintendent affects not only our children, but the larger community. 


Education is the fundamental building block of prosperity -- not only for the individual student, but for the entire community. 


Yet community involvement in our school has reached a point where it is virtually non-existent. 


In fact, the only time in recent memory that we really witnessed a genuine interest in the state of our public schools came more than a year ago, when the subject of a tax increase to fund schools emerged. 


The Golden Triangle Development LINK even called for an open forum, which was well attended by our business community and citizens, many of whom did not have children in the city's schools. 


But if our only interest in the schools is confined to how they affect our taxes, we are selfish and short-sighted. 


Board President Jason Spears says the search will be as open as possible, and there will be multiple opportunities for the public to hear from the candidates for this position. That, too, is a departure from the previous two searches where the public's access to the candidates was kept to a bare minimum. 


We applaud this new, more open approach. 


But if the general public does not have enough of a sense civil responsibility to attend these meeting, ask relevant questions, listen carefully and then express their preferences, those efforts will be in vain. 


We all have a vested interest in this important decision. 


If we fail to do our part, we have failed our children and our community.



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