Slimantics: At school board, it's business as unusual

June 11, 2014 10:21:22 AM

Slim Smith - [email protected]


Like many folks in Columbus, I read with strange fascination the account of Monday's Columbus Municipal School Board meeting, which shows there is no accounting for taste, I suppose. 


In this day of "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" and "Party Down South," I am amazed that no cable TV producer has descended on Columbus to pitch a reality show featuring our school board. 


These meetings have all the dramatic elements you would expect to find in a reality show. In fact, the only predictable parts of the every board meeting are the votes: Angela Verdell, Currie Fisher and Greg Lewis vote one way, Jason Spears and Glenn Lautzenhiser vote the other. Before the votes, however, the meetings feature plot twist after plot twist. You just never know what these folks are going to do. It's always edge-of-your-seat stuff with these people. 


Monday, the board considered the matter of whether or not it should just throw in the towel and resign. If you have followed the board's actions for any length of time, there is some merit to the idea, of course. Ultimately, the motion was withdrawn, mainly because there is much important business that is in need of being neglected. Our school kids may have to get along without a lot of things, but to deny them the collective wisdom of this body would be truly tragic, I suspect the thinking went. 


In other business, the board voted yet again to reject the recommendation of interim superintendent Edna McGill to fund an indoor practice facility for the Columbus High baseball program. The project, which carried a comparatively modest $125,000 price tag, is needed for the Falcons baseball team to remain competitive, supporters told the board. 


New board member Greg Lewis, who had previously told the baseball parents that he supported building the facility, has since voted against it. 


Let's say this: When Lewis was appointed to the school board in March, we hoped he would represent a much-needed independent voice on a board that was clearly split into warring factions. In his short time on the board, Lewis has proven himself to be even more than we asked for: He is so independent he doesn't even agree with himself.  


Mainly, though, I blame McGill for the failure to get the baseball facility built. 


It would have been a far more successful strategy on her part to tell the board: "Absolutely, under no circumstances, should this facility be provided. In fact, to build the baseball facility would seriously compromise the educational opportunities of our children!" 


I can see Verdell, Fisher and Lewis (maybe, you never know) falling all over themselves to build that facility. The V-F-L faction has an almost pathological aversion to anything McGill suggests. 


In other news, the board did manage to reduce, by three, the number of city school buses that are likely to spontaneously combust at any point during the school year, so that's something. 


The board also announced that it has agreed to meet with the city council to discuss what's going on in the district. The council has long been concerned about the board's conduct, although there are seldom concerned enough to, you know, show up for school board meetings. They aren't fanatics, after all. 


I had hoped that the board would meet publicly with the city council in a spirit of cooperation, a meeting that would signify a fresh start, where petty politics and past disputes were put aside as the board considers the vitally important matter of selecting a permanent superintendent. (For the record, I am not drunk, just sporadically optimistic). 


That meeting will be held July 8, which would be an odd choice if you didn't consider who we are dealing with here. That meeting will ostensibly come after a superintendent has been selected and the district's budget has been approved. What are they going to talk about on July 8? The weather? 


And so it goes with our school board. 


Someone suggested that the board really ought to participate in one of those team-building weekends at Plymouth Bluff. 


This might be a pretty good idea. 


How high is the bluff?

Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]