CMSD removing 'For Sale' signs at central office

February 13, 2018 10:50:21 AM

Slim Smith - [email protected]


For sale or not for sale? That was the question during Monday's meeting of the Columbus Municipal School District Board of Trustees. 


After a motion and a second to remove the "For Sale" signs on the Brandon Central Service property, board member Angela Verdell asked for some clarification. 


"I don't remember if we ever made the decision that Brandon was not for sale," Verdell said. "Are we making the decision tonight that Brandon is no longer for sale? It's like we're being asked to remove the signs, however, the property is still for sale." 


The district has advertised the central office campus for sale since January 2012, when the signs were first placed on the property. 


Board president Jason Spears said Brandon is not listed among the district's surplus properties -- a step necessary to actually sell it. 


"Unless I overlooked it, the only property that has been declared as surplus property is the Lee Middle School property, oh, and the Magnolia Bowl," he said. "So, that's the main reason we want to take the signs down here. We have a fully-functioning operation here. It's been mentioned before that we have parents coming here and other people coming to this office, but we have 'for sale' signs out front." 


Verdell said she still did not remember the board ever making the decision to take the Brandon property off the market. 


"The last discussion I remember about this was that the services we have here could be moved to Hunt School and that this would be for sale," she said. "I don't remember the board ever taking action that said Brandon would not be for sale." 


Spears said that if someone wanted to purchase the Brandon property, the district could still entertain offers after the removal of the signs. 


Board attorney David Dunn agreed. 


"If somebody is willing to make an offer, I'm sure the property could become for sale," Dunn said. "At that point, you would have to declare it surplus property first. Taking the signs down won't affect that." 




Hickman status unclear 


After a two-hour executive session the board refused to disclose any specific action it took. 


At its last meeting, the board asked Dunn to put together a response to a letter from Hickman that claimed Spears and other board members had created a hostile work environment and had circumvented the superintendent by talking to staff and issuing orders without the superintendent's knowledge. Dunn had said he would have direction for the board on the subject in time for Monday's meeting. 


Hickman's complaint came amid a board investigation into financial irregularities, including the superintendent spending $15,000 with a California-based reputation management firm between June 2016 and June 2017. 


After the executive session ended and the regular session resumed, Spears announced the board had considered six personnel issues, voting unanimously on four of them and 3-1 on the other two. 


Spears did not say what those actions were at the board table, however, and declined to comment when The Dispatch contacted him this morning. 


Specifically, he would not confirm the board's response to Hickman's allegation or whether the board took any action to reprimand Hickman in light of the financial irregularities. 


The Dispatch could not reach Hickman for comment by press time. 


The vote and actions technically become public after the board publishes its minutes, which should occur within 30 days of the action. 




Teachers of the Year 


In other board action, the district recognized its Teachers of the Year and Administrator of the Year and announced the hiring of principals at Fairview and Cook Elementary schools. 


Teachers of the Year were Demetria Wilson (Columbus Success Academy), Jakeiro Dismuke (McKellar), Sarita O'Neal (Cook), Amy Smith-Clark (Fairview), Julia McDill (Franklin Academy), Takaia Burnett (Sale), Danah Robert (Stokes-Beard), Ashley McGregory (Columbus Middle) and Kimberly Cook (Columbus High School). 


McGregory was chosen as the district's overall Teacher of the Year while Columbus High principal Lori Cargile was chosen as Administrator of the Year. 


Alfred Brandon, the interim principal at Cook, was announced as the permanent principal at Cook while Ben Alexander, currently an assistant principal at Starkville High School, was announced as the new principal at Fairview Elementary.

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