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CMSD Rescinds Early Release Wednesday, Will Seek Community Input

Savely, Dismukes tapped as principals

The Columbus Municipal School District held a special meeting June 21 to discuss personnel issues, including the hiring of two new principals, and to reconsider their decision to move to an early release Wednesday schedule.

The CMSD filled two vacant principal positions. Jill Savely was hired as the principal at Columbus High School and Freda Dismukes as the principal at Columbus Middle School. Former Columbus High School Principal Scott Hallmark took at job in the Pike school district after being non-renewed as part of a district reduction in force, and former Lee Middle School Principal Cindy Wamble left to take over Heritage Elementary School.

Savely has served seven years as assistant principal at CHS. Before moving into administration she was a biology teacher at the school for two years. She was district administrator of the year in 2009. Dismukes was previously assistant principal at CMS, and taught for several years at Hunt Intermediate School.

Deputy Superintendent Craig Shannon answered the board’s questions about the selection process.
“We went through the interview process with a committee that was chaired by myself and that included Assistant Superintendent Anthony Brown, [Personnel Director] Myra Gillis and one administrator from the district,” Shannon said. “We had five people to apply. All applicants were asked the same questions, and we used a score rubric. These two applicants had the highest score, and both have a proven track record. Test scores have improved at both the middle school and the high school.”

“Please explain the process that you went through and how many applicants there were per position,” said Currie Fisher. “I know you said five, but I didn’t know if that was total or per position.”

“We had one applicant for the high school position and four for the middle school position,” Shannon said. “All were internal applicants. We posted the job description to all the certified personnel in the district, and these were the applications we received.”

After Shannon recommended Savely and Dismukes, the board went into a 15-minute executive session. Upon returning to open session, they unanimously approved the recommendations on a motion from Jason Spears and a second from Fisher.

The board unanimously rescinded their decision to go to an early release Wednesday schedule for the 2012-13 school year.

At their June 11 regular meeting the CMSD trustees considered Superintendent Martha Liddell’s request to release children at 12:15 p.m. at the middle and high schools and 12:45 p.m. at the elementary schools on Wednesdays so teachers could use the remainder of the day for staff development. Liddell’s proposal died for lack of a second. The board then went into executive session, and the vast majority of the teachers and parents present, believing the meeting to be over, left. Upon returning to open session, the board took the early release proposal up again and, this time, passed it 3-2, with Spears and Glenn Lautzenhiser voting no.

Following a great deal of public outcry over the lack of parental input, Liddell issued a press release on June 19 apologizing for the way the issue was handled and asking the board to revisit the issue.

Thursday morning Liddell again apologized, and said that she would be seeking community input next month.
“I’m pleased to announce that I have been getting feedback from our parents and teachers that they want to be involved in this issue,” Liddell said. “I sent out a press release this week about this. Now I have to do what any leader does when they make a mistake, which is pull your bootstraps together and do what’s right. I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback from that. We have to do what’s best for our school district. The bottom line is that when a school district is taken over by the state, the first thing that happens is the board is dissolved and the superintendent is fired. Our responsibility is to make sure that our kids have everything they need, and sometimes in our zeal to do what’s best and make sure our district doesn’t become a train wreck…you may have a tendency to skip a step, and I want to apologize for that. We will have some meetings in July, and they will be open. We invite the public and the media to come. We don’t have a firm date on that yet, but as soon as I know I will let you know.”

“Based on the recommendation of the superintendent I feel it would be in the best interests of the board and the community to rescind the previous action until we can get more input,” said Aubra Turner. Spears seconded her motion.
“I believe that our number one goal is student achievement,” said Tommy Prude. “We have placed our faith and our hope behind [Liddell]. When we realize that we have not gone the proper course, we must have the graciousness to back up and start over. The media has just eaten us alive, and we don’t want to fight the media. We are in this together. If there is anything we have done to offend you, we encourage you to work with us. We are in this community together, and where we have good schools we have good communities.”

“I would also like to thank Dr. Liddell to take this courageous step,” Fisher said. “I also applaud you for recognizing the public and the stakeholders are important and saying let’s take another look at this. We support the concept, but as some people have said it was the process that was in question.”

In other business, the board unanimously approved the salary scales and coaching supplements for the next school year.


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