October 22, 2013 10:59:19 AM
Sarah Fowler - firstname.lastname@example.org
The Columbus Municipal School District has a new Chief Financial Officer, but there's still no resolution to who will serve as superintendent beyond October.
After a heated discussion, school board members voted 3-1 to hire Tammie McGarr as the new CFO. She will earn an annual salary of $86,100.
Board member Currie Fisher voiced her opposition to hiring a new CFO, saying she felt the position should not be filled until the board had named an interim superintendent. Temporary interim superintendent Edna McGill has been serving in the position since June, when former superintendent Dr. Martha Liddell was fired.
Fisher said she did not feel a temporary interim superintendent should have the authority to hire employees within the district.
Earlier in the evening, the board argued over McGill and the search for an interim superintendent. The discussion quickly became confrontational as board members accused each other of playing politics.
Board member Angela Verdell asked board president Jason Spears how many resumes the board has received from the Mississippi School Board Association.
"At this particular time I have not received any from MSBA that are wanting to take this particular position at Columbus Municipal School District," Spears said.
Spears said, according to Dr. Mike Waldrop with the MSBA, the applicants that had previously applied for the position was no longer interested. Spears added that it was Waldrop's belief that McGill is leading the district in the right direction.
"In his belief, we have a person that is working very diligently for us and working very tirelessly to move this district forward and that prevented a great deal of other candidates from wanting to come in and assume those responsibilities," Spears said.
Spears said he would continue to ask MSBA for resumes "if it suits the board."
Spears said the board should consider the staff's feelings on who should be hired as interim superintendent.
"One thing I should ask, if we're set on moving this district forward, is that we should hear from the people who are in the trenches every single day instead of us sitting up here in our pulpit trying to make those decisions for them and walking a very thin line of whether we're playing games or whether we're actually doing what's best for the schools district," he said.
Fisher responded by saying, "Mr. Spears, let me address two issues you just mentioned. I'm going to formally request that you stop making the kind of remarks that are very accusatory. First, we are governed to make decisions for the district and I think that the request that we establish a time line and share that time line with the public is a fair request. Now I could say, but I'm not going to accuse you, but I could say that the lack of action has been very deliberate. OK? You won't accuse us anymore, we wont accuse you. What we need to do is move forward."
Fisher continued by saying the district needed to advertise for an interim superintendent, going so far as telling McGill "adios" if she was not comfortable remaining as temporary interim on a month-to-month basis.
"We did not contract for two years," Fisher said. "We kept a short time line on the contract because it was our understanding that the intention was to search. I think we need to get that search on. If Mrs. McGill is willing to apply then so be it."
Spears responded to Fisher by saying, "One thing that I would certainly say...is that, while I agree we are here to serve the public, our first priority is the children. Our second priority is the staff and if we are certainly sitting here willing to serve the public's interest, we should certainly serve (the staff's) interest. I have no objection to moving forward on things, however, I say, let's quit playing games."
Fisher interrupted Spears and said, "That's what I'm asking you to stop doing."
Spears continued by saying, "In medicine, a lot of times it's found that the cure is the disease and right now, I'll say it in public and you can print it: This board is the disease."
Fisher interrupted Spears again and said, "I would agree but this is not medicine this is politics. This is politics. This is politics. If all of the motives were very clear,"
"Show me the facts," Spears said.
"No, you show me the evidence," Fisher responded.
Verdell asked the board members to come to order and Spears said he would make sure the application process would continue. Verdell reiterated that she would like to see a national advertisement nationwide by Monday.
McGill's contract with the district ends Oct. 31 at midnight. As of press time, a special meeting had not yet been announced to determine who will be in the charge of the district Nov. 1.
Sarah Fowler covers crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.