September 20, 2019 10:22:23 AM
Zack Plair - [email protected]
Columbus Municipal School District leaders will host a stakeholders meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday in Cook Elementary School Auditorium.
Superintendent Cherie Labat and the CMSD's board of trustees will be on-hand to field questions from any audience members wishing to express concerns about the district and its future. The town hall style meeting is expected to last 60 to 90 minutes.
"If we have a large turnout, we will obviously stay until all the questions are answered," board president Jason Spears said. "We want participation from across the city, whether it's students, parents or other stakeholders, to help us have a better school system with higher achievement."
The board held several such stakeholders meetings in spring 2018 during the superintendent search that resulted in Labat's hire. During those, Spears said, the board asked participants to fill out surveys explaining not only what they would like to see in a new superintendent but also their overall concerns for the district.
Now that Labat has been at the helm for a little more than a year, Spears said Tuesday is an opportune time for both her and the board to report their progress on actionable priorities listed in those surveys, as well as identify other areas where the district can improve.
"This is an ongoing effort to expand the conversation," Spears said. "I see (the stakeholders meeting) as an annual thing."
Over the past year, Spears pointed to strengthening policies related to student and staff safety. Metal detectors have been installed at district campuses, for example, and some schools have enacted a voluntary drug testing policy -- where parents can sign a waiver to allow their child to be randomly drug tested even if they're not an athlete.
Also, Labat added, the culture is gradually improving at CMSD, leading to higher student proficiency and lower teacher turnover rates.
"The reason we are progressing as a district is because culture has improved," Labat said. "We see meetings like (Tuesday's) as a positive part of that process. We want to hear from our community partners."
Hearing from stakeholders also will prove a critical part in moving CMSD from the D accountability grade it maintains in the Mississippi Department of Education's rating system, Spears said.
"If you can support CMSD in any way, please come out and participate," he said. "If we are going to get this district to a B or an A, it's going to take everyone working together and shouldering the load."
Zack Plair is the managing editor for The Dispatch.