May 4, 2012 6:29:08 AM
Singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett once said, "Indecision may or may not be my biggest problem." Of late, the Columbus Municipal School District seems to share the mayor of Margaritaville's affliction.
Two months ago, as a cost-cutting measure, the district cut 68 positions. Faculty, administrators and staff with less than two years' experience in the district were told their contracts would not be renewed next school year.
Curiously, among those receiving pink slips was just-hired Columbus High School Principal Scott Hallmark. We say curious because the district now has to now go out and again hire a new principal (as it did in Hallmark's case) or it has to find one within the system, something we assume it would have done already had that person been there.
Hallmark's disciplined approach rubbed some parents the wrong way, but we've heard good reports about his management of the school.
To muddy the waters even further, Liddell announced late Wednesday night that preliminary budgets indicate as many as 35 to 40 teachers could be rehired by the end of this school year. While this is good news, how many have already found positions in districts elsewhere?
If that's not enough, Columbus Middle School Principal Cindy Wamble made public her plans to leave the district and become principal at Heritage Elementary. Wamble will be difficult to replace. She was former Superintendent Del Phillips' hand-picked choice to guide the district's new almost $20-million school, and by all accounts it was an inspired decision.
"She really cared a lot about having a great school," one of Wamble's teachers said about her. "Our leadership has been consistent. Cindy had a great feel for what needed to be done."
The teacher went on to say Wamble's departure was due, in part, to her wish to move into a less stressful environment. "It's the uncertainty. If they would just tell her what we have to work with," the teacher said.
For more than a year the district has been in the care of Interim Superintendent Dr. Martha Liddell. Early on there was a lot of buzz about Liddell being the next superintendent, and for a time it looked as though she might be declared Phillips' successor. That hasn't happened.
A year has passed, a year in which neighboring districts -- Tupelo and Starkville -- have replaced their superintendents. Here in Columbus the board slogs on with what has become an interminable search. The board meets tonight to once again discuss the issue.
That and decisions on two principals await. Parents and the taxpaying public see these vacancies as huge question marks looming over the school district and its leadership. We urge the board to develop a sense of urgency in filling these positions. The indecision siphons confidence.
For inspiration, we direct the board to the words of the German writer, Goethe: "To think is easy. To act is hard. But the hardest thing in the world is to act in accordance with your thinking. ... Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace and power in it."
2. Slimantics: Beyond the pain, there is potential LOCAL COLUMNS