Our view: Superintendent search should be priority for school board

September 18, 2013 10:01:11 AM

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It's been three months since the Columbus Municipal School Board of Trustees voted to fire superintendent Dr. Martha Liddell. 

 

Since then, the board had hired long-time area school administrator Edna McGill as interim superintendent. By all accounts, McGill has performed the duties as superintendent competently.  

 

Given that, it would seem the board would devote its full attention to what should be its greatest priority -- the search for a new permanent superintendent. 

 

Based on what the board has shared with the public, we see little evidence of concerted effort toward that goal. What we have seen, by contrast, is a board that has met twice as often as scheduled, often retreating to executive sessions that last for up to five hours.  

 

Executive sessions are confined, generally, to matters involving personnel, current or potential litigation and sale/lease of school property. While we are not privy to what has been discussed during the executive sessions over the past three months, it seems more than obvious that the marathon duration of these closed-door meetings have been contentious and unproductive. It suggests a board that is bitterly divided, where every idea, proposal and suggestion is battled out between two factions that emerged in the firing of Liddell. 

 

While it is entirely reasonable to expect that differences of opinions will emerge from time to time, it is obvious that the infighting has become the rule rather than the exception. It is an unhealthy atmosphere and, more importantly, an unproductive one as well in the sense that it inhibits progress and distracts the board from what should be its most important objective ­ -- hiring a new leader for the district. 

 

In its previous search for a superintendent, the board held a series of meetings with teachers, key administrators and personnel, parents and members of the community to develop a 12-point list of criteria it would use in its search.  

 

No one is likely to hold that search up as the ideal model for this search: The process was so badly managed that three of its four finalist took themselves out of consideration and the superintendent it chose, by default, lasted just a year before being fired. But in that search, the board did keep the public informed and engaged in the process. 

 

By contrast, we have seen or heard little on the subject from this board, which seems to be too distracted with its twice-monthly sparring matches to make finding a new superintendent a real priority and outline a definite plan for how it will proceed. 

 

The time for bickering is over. 

 

The CMSD board should move on, aggressively and expeditiously, in finding a new superintendent and informing the public of its plan to achieve that important goal.