The search for the next city schools superintendent is finally gaining steam after a year of stops, starts and reversals.
The Columbus Municipal School District’s board members reviewed 20 resumes Thursday night and narrowed the pool to a select list of candidates. Public interviews are tentatively slated for May 21-25.
With the first round of names drawn, the board is now seeking 50 people to attend the interviews and offer feedback, Board President Tommy Prude announced Friday morning.
All interviews will be open to the public and people will be able to talk with the candidates after the interviews, Prude said.
Each of the five board members will choose five people from a cross-section of the community. The remaining 25 will be chosen by lottery, with the application period opening today and closing Friday at noon.
Application forms will be available at the Brandon Central Services Center, located at 2630 McArthur Drive, or online at columbuscityschools.org. To be eligible, participants must live within the city school district’s boundaries or must be a CMSD employee. Names and addresses will be verified by the board.
Prude declined to say how many candidates will be interviewed, but he said their names may be released today, if the Mississippi School Boards Association has made contact with them and established an arrival date. MSBA was hired last summer to conduct the search.
Neither the public nor the media will be granted access to candidates’ resumes. Prude said the names of all applicants, including those who did not make the initial cut, will not be released as it is a personnel matter and might threaten those applicants’ current positions.
Leonard Van Slyke, hotline attorney for the Mississippi Center for Freedom of Information, said the board is not required to release the names of all applicants or their resumes, as such information is exempt from state open records laws.
Community members selected for public input will be assigned a specific night to attend the public interviews, which will take place in the cafeteria at Brandon. They will not be allowed to ask questions during the interviews and they will only be allowed to give feedback on the candidates who appear on their designated night.
After the interviews, the 50 community members will fill out a survey ranking the candidates and offering input.
The board will then conduct private interviews, which Van Slyke said may be a violation of state sunshine laws.
Prude said the board initially disagreed on the best way to conduct the interviews, but after a lengthy discussion, they decided to compromise and use a similar method to the one used when former Superintendent Dr. Del Phillips was hired in 2007.
“I would think people would want to be a part of this,” Prude said Friday. “This is the best and most equitable way to get involved.”
The district’s top spot has been vacant since Phillips resigned last May to take a position as director of schools for the Sumner County School District in Gallatin, Tenn.
Dr. Martha Liddell, who was assistant superintendent at the time, has served as interim superintendent for the past year. She had initially expressed interest in applying for the full-time position, but the board has not confirmed whether she is among the applicants.
For more information about the community feedback portion of the interviews, please call Prude at 662-327-0587 or the Central Office at 662-241-7400.
Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.
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