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Our View: An open and fair discussion? Don't count on it.




Today, the Columbus Municipal School Board will hold a specially called fist-fight to select a search firm to identify candidates for a permanent schools superintendent.  


The meeting at Brandon Central Services starts at 5, which means it should end sometime early Friday morning, depending on how much time the board elects to spend wandering off on some ridiculous tangent that has absolutely nothing to do with anything remotely meaningful to the operation of our schools.  


These board meetings have become great, grim spectacles, with board members conducting themselves in a manner that would never be tolerated in a second-grade classroom. Great examples, they are. 


When last we left the CMSD, the board was debating who is allowed to sit at the big table up front and whether or not one of the pages in the agenda had been duplicated, why it was duplicated and whether or not having two pages with the same information is something that should be taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court. 


Eventually, the board got around to hearing presentations from three search firm candidates. When it was proposed that the board choose one of the firms immediately after the presentations were made, board member and former board president Jason Spears objected. Spears suggested the appalling idea that the board take some time to think over the presentations before voting on the matter.  


The debate became so contentious that Spears walked out of the meeting. Reached the next morning, he said he was uncertain if he would remain on the board. After Spears left, the board decided to wait to vote on the firm after all, which made tonight's special meeting necessary. 


Spears has decided to stay on the board, a welcome decision. The last thing this board needs is another shake-up, and regardless of Spears' views on the issues, his presence on the board is valuable, mainly because like most of the other board members he is well-versed on the realities and challenges the board currently faces. 


His return isn't likely to have much impact on what the board decides tonight, however.  


It seems all but certain that the trio of board president Angela Verdell and members Currie Fisher and Greg Lewis have made up their minds on which firm to select. Discussion? Who needs discussion? 


Much as it was in the selection of the previous superintendent, the controlling faction on the board has made up its mind. Of the three firms who pitched the school board on handling the search process, only one has any real chance of getting the job. Hint: It's the firm whose representative alone was allowed to go over the allotted time.  


That firm's pitch focused heavily on a single distinguishing qualification: She is a black female. It's deja vu all over again, to quote the Yogi. 


We don't know which of the three firms is most qualified. 


Is it too much to ask for our city school board to hold a meeting tonight that is focused and fair? 


Increasingly, we are hearing calls in the community for this district to be taken over by the state. The fact that a town's citizens are throwing their hands up and advocating handing control over to the state illustrates how little faith they have in this board's ability to serve children effectively. 


Wouldn't it be refreshing to see Verdell, Spears, Fisher, Lewis and Glenn Lautzenhiser engage in meaningful discussion of the pros and cons of each firm and then vote based on qualifications? 


Don't hold your breath. 


So far, this board has shown they are more interested in power plays than responsible leadership.



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