February 18, 2021 10:26:32 AM
The Columbus City Council will appoint one of three applicants for an upcoming vacancy on Columbus Municipal School District Board of Trustees.
Jo Shumake's five-year position on the board expires on March 1. She, Cynthia Brown and Ronny DeLoach have all applied for the five-year position. CMSD's board has four other members.
Shumake, 68, is a retired public affairs officer with the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Information Agency who was first appointed to the board in 2016. In that time, the school district has undergone major changes, including a tornado that destroyed the Hunt school building in February 2019 and the hiring of Superintendent Cherie Labat.
The latter of those, Shumake said, is the achievement she is most proud of.
"I think what ... our biggest success was, was getting Dr. Labat hired," Shumake said. "She's a very good leader for our district. I think that going through the tornado and now the pandemic, she has worked really well with her staff, her team, and our team works well with her, so it's a good match."
The biggest challenge for the district going forward is dealing with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has negatively affected students' learning, and Shumake said she wants to continue working with the board and Labat to help guide the district through that challenge.
"I really enjoy working with this board, and I think we've got a very good team," she said. "Everybody's extremely serious about the future of our students and the district as a whole. We're all working together. We may be coming at it from different angles, different specialties, but I think we all bring something ... positive to the board when we make our final decisions on things. I just want to be part of that. I want to be part of the success of the Columbus Municipal School District."
Brown, 63, is an educator with 40 years of experience working with multiple area school districts, including 17 years at CMSD where she taught kindergarten and first grade at Fairview Elementary. She retired as principal from West Lowndes High School in Lowndes County School District in 2017, and currently works as a teacher in the Pickens County School District in Alabama.
She said as a lifelong Columbus resident with family and business connections in the city, she knows many residents and wants to use that to influence CMSD.
"I'd like to be able to be out there in the community because I know most of the people in the community and they know me, and any way that I can help support them and their children and their needs in the education area, I'd like to be able to do that," she said.
Like Shumake, she said she wants to be involved in shepherding the district through the pandemic and emphasized that students need to go back to traditional in-person classes as soon as possible. CMSD is currently on a hybrid model, in which some students go to in-person classes on certain days of the week and attend classes virtually other days.
"I just want to be able to weigh in and have input that would be related to our children and virtual learning right now," Brown said.
DeLoach, 52, is a therapist with Community Counseling Services in Columbus who has a son who graduated from Columbus High School. He said he has been a volunteer with the school district for several years, helping sell concessions at CHS basketball games and serving at other events.
"Whatever the school needs, we still work with them and try to give them our support," he said.
DeLoach also has school board experience, having served on the board for Columbus Christian Academy from 2014-2017.
He said his goal is for more people to be engaged with the school districts and its students.
"I think they have a balance of community diversity, but I basically think that I want to get the community more involved in the school district," he said.
Columbus Chief Officer of Operations David Armstrong said the deadline to apply for the vacant position is March 1, but urged anyone considering applying to do so as soon as possible.
The council is set to appoint the board member at its next regular meeting on March 2.
Other council action
The council will also make one appointment each to the Zoning Board of Adjustments and Appeals and the Board of Adjustments and Appeals of Development Codes. City Engineer Kevin Stafford has applied for both those positions, the latter of which requires an engineering degree. Stafford is the only applicant to apply for those positions.
At its meeting Wednesday, the council unanimously appointed Bo Harrison to fill outgoing Gregory Jefferson's three-year position on the zoning board. Harrison was the only applicant for the position.
In other business, the council allocated $15,000 to Main Street Columbus to put on the annual Market Street Festival. Council members also unanimously voted to declare a local state of emergency due to the winter storm, per a request from Lowndes County Emergency Management Agency Director Cindy Lawrence. The Mississippi Governor's Office declared a state emergency Saturday.
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