Our View: Search far and wide, not just close to home

May 25, 2011 12:11:00 PM



Change is afoot, and Columbus is facing some critical decisions that promise to shape the city, for better or worse, for years to come. 


At the top of our to-do list is hiring a new superintendent for the Columbus Municipal School District. Dr. Del Phillips is leaving the district after four years to take over the top schools post in Sumner County, Tenn. 


To say Phillips was a transformative force is an understatement. He led the charge for a bond issue that culminated in the opening of the new Columbus Middle School earlier this year. He consolidated and transformed the district''s elementary schools into magnet schools. He began the process to bring year-round learning to the district, now in place at some elementary schools. He introduced the prestigious International Baccalaureate program to Columbus High School. 


Phillips'' successor has big shoes to fill. And the district''s interim superintendent, Dr. Martha Liddell, wants to do just that -- she even jokingly compared Phillips'' shoe size to her own at a Monday reception in Phillips'' honor. 


Liddell has made no secret about her intentions to replace Phillips permanently. Despite her overtures, we urge the city school board to remain focused on a professionally run, nationwide search for a new superintendent. 


Likewise, the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau is in a state of transition. The board is yet to return to full speed -- only seven of the revamped board''s nine members have been appointed -- and the bureau is without an executive director, following the departure of James Tsismanakis to DeKalb County, Ga. 


In the interim, Nancy Carpenter is serving as director. She, like Liddell, is interested in the permanent job. (The board has yet to begin its search as it waits for all its new members to be seated by the city and county.) 


In a perfect world, these boards would have appointed interim leaders with no interest in the permanent jobs. That way, the field would remain level for all who apply.  


It very well may be that Liddell and Carpenter are the best candidates for these jobs. But we''d like to find that out after each board does its due diligence and searches far and wide for the best candidates out there. 


These boards owe it to all of us, including the interim directors, to conduct thorough searches. We want the best possible people to lead our schools and our tourism efforts into the future.