A rose to community leaders in Columbus and Starkville for efforts to engage citizens as they consider options in the wake of recent shootings that have put both cities on edge. Shootings in both Columbus and Starkville in recent weeks have led to open and far-ranging discussions. In Columbus Thursday, the Crime Prevention Task Force met at the Trotter Center to share information from the group’s four committees — youth and recreation, community revitalization, community promotion and law enforcement enhancement. The same day, city officials in Starkville held a town hall at McKee Park, site of a drive-by shooting Tuesday that led to the arrests of five people. Crime — especially violent crime — creates a sense of understandable urgency, but we believe there is a danger of knee-jerk responses fueled primarily by emotions made before first making a real effort to understand the nature and scope of the problem. Now is the time for clear-eyed assessments, part of which means gathering input from the community. You have to understand a problem before you can solve it. We believe these meetings help serve that purpose.
A rose to the Columbus Municipal School District for its efforts to learn how its budget can be managed more efficiently by requesting an audit from the state auditor’s office in 2018. The results of that audit, conducted with analytics provided by Glimpse K12, a firm that specializes in education budgets, were released this week. Overall, CMSD was viewed favorably in the audit, but there were several areas identified in the report where the district could spend its money more efficiently in areas including maintenance, purchasing, technology and transportation that could save anywhere from $1.6 million to $3.2 million annually. It’s not always easy to cast a critical eye on yourself, so we applaud the CMSD board for its willingness to take a hard look at its finances by requesting an independent audit. We believe the results of that audit, when acted upon, will make the district — already one of the better fiscally-managed educational institutions in the area — stronger and better for all stakeholders.
A rose to STAR Student award winner Katelyn Smith, a senior at Golden Triangle Early College High School, for her choice of her former kindergarten teacher as her Star Teacher. As part of the STAR Student program, students chosen for the honor designated a teacher who has been key to their success. The STAR teacher can be from any grade, but most often the choices are high school teachers in advanced subjects. Not so with Smith’s choice. Instead, she selected Jean Ann Evans, her kindergarten teacher at Columbus Fairview Elementary School in 2008. In choosing Evans, Smith reminds us that any teacher and any level can have a profound impact on a child’s educational journey. Indeed, that first connection between a child and teacher in kindergarten can set the stage for a student’s entire education. We salute Smith for her choice as an expression of gratitude to all the kindergarten teachers whose contributions are often underestimated.