May 14, 2014 10:14:36 AM
In a span of 48 hours this week, we learned all we need to know to confirm that the Columbus Municipal School District, as it presently exists, is damaged beyond repair.
It has lost support of those who might be expected to be among the district's greatest advocates. It has a board of trustees that has disintegrated into bickering body of bureaucrats incapable of conducting even the most routine district business. Most importantly, it has lost the support of the community.
On Monday morning, local pastors Darren Leach and Tony Montgomery Sr., visited with The Dispatch editorial board to discuss their plans to open a charter school in Columbus. Their proposed school, Inspire Charter School, is one of three planned charter schools awaiting approval from the state's charter school board on June 2.
By virtue of their status as leaders in the black community and as parents with a vested interest in the city's public schools, Leach and Montgomery might naturally be expected to be among the most devoted supporters of the district.
Yet it is clear that they have lost all confidence that the district can recover or, at least, recover in the foreseeable future.
Since no one can rightly be expected to have their child be a sacrificial lamb for a district whose future remains clouded, Leach and Montgomery have thrown their energies into starting over with a new school, one that can address the urgent issues that seem to have the CMSD firmly in a death grip.
Later Monday, the search firm that has been charged with finding a permanent superintendent for the district held the first of three scheduled public meetings. The meetings were arranged to allow parents and residents an opportunity to tell the search firm what they hoped to find in a new superintendent. Fewer than 10 people showed up for the Monday evening meeting. On Tuesday, not a single person showed up for the second of three planned meetings.
If there was ever an indicator of how little faith the community has in the district, this is it. It has been said that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. The community appears to have reached that point.
It has simply given up.
Attend a board meeting and you will understand why.
The board's meetings are theater of the absurd. It is often noted that every tragic tale has an element of comedy. The board meetings achieve that, if virtually nothing else.
In previous meetings, Angela Verdell set the tone by attempting to have the district's interim superintendent, Edna McGill, removed from the dais in a poorly-disguised show of contempt for the one administrator who has done an admirable job of creating order out of chaos. It should be noted that the district has some belief that it will improve its rating to a C this year after being rated as under-performing for the previous three school years.
Aside from the pathetic version of musical chairs, the board has also featured one board member, Jason Spears, angrily walking out of a board meeting. The board has argued ceaselessly over whether a page in the meeting agenda had been duplicated in its packet, bickered over minute and insignificant phrasing in the agenda and even argued as to whether or not the board had adjourned from a meeting.
During Monday's meeting, Verdell's penchant for petulance scaled new heights. Informing Spears that he was approaching a time limit for comments -- despite the fact that no time limit exists -- Spears responded that he had 15 seconds left. Verdell reacted by counting down -- "14, 13, come on, let's go!"
This kind of petty vindictiveness has no place on any board. In this climate it's a wonder the board is scarcely able to function at all.
The board couldn't even reach an agreement Monday on such routine business items such as the purchase of textbooks and approval of teacher/staff salary recommendations for the coming school year. Told that as many as 12 of the district's buses needed to be replaced, the board balked on that, too.
During April's meeting, Spears pushed through a motion to have the state department of education do an audit of the district.
We do not know the specifics of what that audit will reveal.
But we do know what the audit will find in general: Failure.
The last real hope for the district is that the state will take over.
It cannot come soon enough.
1. Our View: Not all government-subsidized housing is created equally DISPATCH EDITORIALS
2. Lynn Spruill: Community hospital? LOCAL COLUMNS
4. Mississippians' generosity on display yet again DISPATCH EDITORIALS