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CMSD Discusses Security, Honors Teacher and Administrator of the Year

At their January 13 meeting, the Columbus Municipal School District discussed upgrades to its security plan and honored its teacher and administrator of the year.

Assistant Superintendent Craig Shannon went over changes to building security: “We have required our principals to review with our stakeholders all of the safety procedures,” Shannon said. “We want to make sure they know what to do when an emergency happens. One of the new things we have done is lock schools during the school day. Each site has a two-way intercom where they have to buzz in and identify themselves before they can come in. We put this into effect December 20. We felt in light of the tragic events immediate action had to be taken to ensure safety. We apologize to our parents and to anyone who may not have been informed in this process, but we felt like we couldn’t wait. In the future we’re going to install cameras at the buildings where you cannot see outside from the office. For example, if you’re familiar with Sale, their secretary’s office is to the right and she can’t see outside.

“Classroom doors are always locked during instruction,” he said. “Some teachers want to send kids to answer the door during classroom instruction, and that’s not going to be allowed. The teacher must identify the person who’s coming in. We also want to encourage a high attendance rate for our teachers and administrators. Familiarity brings about a level of comfort with all of our students. When teachers miss seven days of school, the quality of instruction goes down. With safety, it’s the first day. The teacher knows who picks that child up, if they get on the bus, if they walk home. Hand in hand with that is the administrator. We’re paying that person to be in control of that building, and we want that person to be on campus as much as possible.

“When students go outside for recess, they have to have at least two people outside with one person dedicated to watching the perimeter,” Shannon said. “We will not meet with upset or volatile parents on campus. If a principal knows a meeting may not go as well as it should, we have the meeting take place at the central office. Teachers should not have to take verbal or physical abuse. All forms of bullying must be investigated and resolved on campus. If something is reported, no matter how trivial, it must be documented and investigated and all parents of all children involved must be contacted.”

The district is looking at adding another security position, he said.

“As we’re building our budget, we’re looking at the cost of another officer,” he said. “We don’t want to add people and then have to cut them down the road so we’re trying to plan ahead. We want to make sure this position is built in for the long haul. The cost is about $30,000, and that does not include fringe benefits. All our officers are certified officers, and we need to find someone who is certified and who can get the [school resource officer] certification.”
The board unanimously approved the new security plan.

Franklin Academy Principal Patricia Overstreet was named district administrator of the year.

Mrs. Overstreet has worked in the Columbus schools for 10 years. After teaching seventh and eighth grade science at Choctaw Middle School in Philadelphia, Miss., she was dual employed with NASA and the Choctaw Tribal Schools. She served as the NASA Science Coordinator for eight schools in grades K-12. While in that capacity she led the school and individual students to multiple national robotic and science awards.

She previously served as an assistant principal at Hunt Intermediate for four years and principal of Mitchell Elementary for two years. She has been principal of Franklin for four years. She holds Bachelor of Science and Masters in Educational Leadership Degrees from Mississippi State University. She is also a graduate of the Millsaps Principals Institute.

The district also honored its teachers of the year. McKellar Technology Center’s Melanie Ford was named district teacher of the year. The honorees from other campuses included Sarah Oswalt, Columbus High School; Lucy McKellar, Columbus Middle School; Kandra Wilkins, Columbus Alternative School; Evans Dawson, Cook Elementary School; Tracey Agerton, Fairview Elementary School; Kimberly Musselman, Franklin Academy; Erica Lewis, Sale Elementary School; Talecia Scott, Stokes-Beard Elementary School.

In other business, the board scheduled a special meeting for Friday at 7:30 a.m. at the Brandon Central Services building.

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