CMSD board votes to start capital improvements


Jason Spears

Jason Spears


Robyn Killebrew

Robyn Killebrew


Cherie Labat

Cherie Labat



Mary Pollitz



Moving forward with the district's capital improvement plan, Columbus Municipal School District board of trustees earmarked more than $2.3 million for new projects.


The board voted unanimously to begin four district projects during its regular board meeting Monday night. In January, the board listened to a capital improvement presentation by architect Major Andrews, of Columbus-based Major Design Studio, and engineer Kevin Stafford, of Neel-Schaffer, concerning safety improvements district-wide.


The board voted to tackle a new queuing line for Sale Elementary School, as well as multiple projects at Hunt Alternative School gymnasium, to include fixing the leaking skylight, creating a new entrance and filling in the door between it and the main building.



Board President Jason Spears said the board has been prioritizing the projects CMSD needed since Andrews and Stafford's presentation in January.


"I think it's just something we want to make certain we are putting every effort into," Spears said. "Putting dollars aside, it's going to help us secure our goals, which is safe learning environment and students having nice and clean facilities."


To prevent traffic from spilling onto the main road during student drop off and pick up at Sale, Stafford previously proposed a $17,000 cut through for parent pick up, which would have parents lined up in the football parking lot rather than backing up traffic on Warpath Road.


During the presentation in January, Andrews suggested the extensive renovations to Hunt. He estimated fixing the skylight would be $2,500, blocking the gymnasium from the main school building would be $1,000 and installing a new entrance would be $17,000.


Superintendent Cherie Labat said CMSD will move forward with each of these four projects starting in March or April.


Spears said in an effort to avoid raising taxes, the district is funding the four new projects with excess district funds. In January, the board approved a district "savings account."


Spears said the district policy mandates a reserve fund balance of at least 15 percent of the district maintenance fund. The board transferred approximately $2.3 million in excess of that fund to the new savings account.


Spears added that having a separate account also helps the district see exactly how much money is spent on each capital improvement.


"The board has been working very diligently with Dr. Labat not only with these project lists but making sure we are being good stewards of the taxpayers' dollars," Spears said. "We want to be able to tackle these projects."



Administrative hire


The board also approved a new assistant superintendent hire during Monday night's meeting. Robyn Killebrew, a principal at Pass Christian High School, will assume her role with CMSD in early June. Killebrew has been principal at the A-rated high school for the past five years. She previously served as assistant principal, coach and lead teacher. Under her leadership, Pass Christian High School has excelled on the ACT, a college admittance test, something Killebrew said she hopes to bring to Columbus.


"We have been fortunate enough to have some of the highest ACT scores in Pass Christian," Killebrew said. "We also have about a 95 percent attendance rate (in Pass Christian) and I am hoping to bring some strategies to get that percentage higher in Columbus."


Labat said that CMSD has improved its attendance at all levels since last year with an average of about 95 percent through January of this year. Labat added she hopes Killebrew can continue to increase the upward trend of student attendance.


Killebrew said she is excited about moving to Columbus and hopes to help CMSD improve along the way.


"In all honesty, I've always wanted to have an opportunity to grow," Killebrew said. "I've known Dr. Labat for a long time. She was actually a professor of mine and I knew I could learn a lot from her. I am so excited and humbled at the same time to join Falcon nation."


Killebrew will be replacing assistant superintendent Pamela Lenoir-Barr, who announced her retirement effective Oct. 31. Killebrew's salary will start at $116,000 as the assistant superintendent of student and special services. Labat said Killebrew will primarily focus on overseeing curriculum and principal leadership in her new role.


"Robyn is a proven leader that has been committed to student development and achievement," Labat said. "She exhibits the leadership needed to build relationships, to build capacity in principals, teachers and students. She has worked in an A-rated school district. She's a great fit for our leadership team. She exhibits integrity, character and most of all the work ethic needed to move the Columbus Municipal School District."





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