BY BRIAN JONES
The Columbus Municipal School Board on Tuesday hired a new football coach at Columbus High School, discussed the impact of the magnet school program and took another step toward finding a permanent superintendent.
Randall Montgomery has been hired as the football coach at CHS. Montgomery will teach English, as well as coach varsity football and powerlifting. He will be paid a base salary of $41,610, plus a $30,000 coaching supplement and a $1,200 power lifting supplement.
His hiring is effective July 1.
Montgomery currently serves as the Head Football Coach and Physical Education Instructor at Hazlehurst High School. He started his teaching career in 2004 at Canton High School where he served as an English Teacher, Offensive Coordinator, Defensive Line Coach and Head Baseball.
After his three-year tenure at Canton High School, he served as an English teacher, offensive coordinator, linebackers coach, and power lifting coach at Velma Jackson High School. As power lifting coach, he captured multiple first place finishes, three consecutive division titles, back to back South State Championships, and two historical State Championships, the first two team championships in the school’s history. The first championship team set a 3A state record for points scored.
After four years at Velma Jackson, Montgomery landed his first head coaching position at Hazlehurst High School. In three years at the helm, his overall record stands at 43-4. During his three years at Hazlehurst, he has lead his team to capture three division titles, three South State Championships, two State Runner-Up finishes, one State Championship, one perfect 16-0 season, and a number 10 state ranking.
Deputy Superintendent Craig Shannon introduced Montgomery.
“He’s been a head coach for only three years,” Shannon said. “But in those three years he has a 43-4 record. He has been to the state championship game three straight times. That is what we want. That is what the kids deserve. We’re going to be the big ticket in this area. People are going to come from West Point, Starkville and Tupelo to see us play. South Panola is not there anymore, Tupelo is not there anymore. It’s time for the Falcons to rise up. We have championship caliber students in every area. We are going to present to you a championship coach.”
Shannon said the district had 60 inquiries about the vacancy, and 30 actually applied.
“We searched long and hard, and we got the best of the best,” Shannon said. “We watched him talk to students at the middle school and high school, and he is the real deal. He is committed to winning on the football field, and he is also committed to producing championship young men. He has a very good academic background. He is certified in English, and will teach English and ACT prep courses.”
Montgomery’s hiring was unanimously approved.
“I’ve had the opportunity to go across Columbus and stop and different venues and meet a lot of different people,” Montgomery said. “I’ve met with the kids, and the one message I strive to relate is we’re going to do it the right way. They are going to get it done in the classroom, and they are going to get it done on the football field. If you focus on the classroom, the football field will take care of itself.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to be a head football coach for three years,” he said. “I can’t promise you that we’re going to the state championship here. I can’t promise you that we’ll win a championship. But I can tell you nobody’s going to out play us, not on the football field and not in the classroom.
“We are going to win some football games,” he said.
Interim Superintendent Edna McGill presented a longitudinal study of the magnet school program in the CMSD.
[All of the district’s elementary schools use the magnet concept. The schools are: Cook Fine Arts, Fairview Aerospace and Science, Franklin Medical and Wellness, Sale International Studies, Stokes-Beard Technology and Communications. – Brian Jones] “We look at enrollment through 2000 through 2013/14,” McGill said. “We looked at enrollment at the beginning of the year for each of those years. Enrollment has declined from 5,098 in 2000 to 4,482 in 2013, a decrease of 616 students. From August 2000 to August 2007 enrollment decreased by 503 students. Magnet school themes were implemented in 2008-9 in K-5. Beginning then enrollment decreased from 4,520 in August 2008 to 4,482 in August 2013. That was only 38 students. Magnet schools seem to have had a stabilizing effect on enrollment in K-5.
“We also looked at achievement,” McGill continued. “Achievement has shown a relatively flat trend line. Over the five-year period there was no significant gain and no significant loss. That can also be looked at as a stabilizing effect.”
The gap between the district and state scores has decreased, she said.
“Schools with a magnet school theme integrating science and inquiry- or project-based learning showed the most consistent increases in achievement,” she said. “Those two schools are Sale and Franklin. We would like to consider infusing our current magnet schools with more science, technology, engineering and math. We are in the process of researching grants to support increasing STEM. We are working on a grant for early college at the high school.”
McGill said she would also like to implement programs that would help students to graduate with both an associate’s degree and a high school diploma, as well as graduating students with a manufacturing skill certification.
No action was taken.
Assistant Superintendent Anthony Brown reported on the Positive Behavior Intervention and Support program.
“Over the holiday (McGill) gave an interview to the news media,” Brown said. “Since then I’ve been inundated with phone calls. What is this new discipline program that you all have implemented? What is all this positive stuff? PBIS is mandated by state law. It is implemented in all of our schools, and has been for a number of years. We noticed that the fidelity across the system is not at the level we would like. We are trying to re-energize the process.
“We are trying to emphasize positive behavior in every area of the school,” Brown said. “The rules for behavior are posted in every school, and the consequences are also posted. Students are very aware of what will happen if the rules are broken. We also emphasize the consequences of following the rules. Research shows some areas can get up to 80 percent compliance just by emphasizing the positive. That leaves out 20 percent, and for them we have intervention and support. We try to deal with the issues that children have, because there is an underlying cause behind why children misbehave.”
The elementary schools who took that approach have been successful, he said.
“We make sure that parents and students understand what the expectations are,” he said.
The board briefly discussed the superintendent search.
The district has been without a permanent leader since last summer. The board agreed to move forward with the search process late last year, but have not offered any specifics.
Last night President Jason Spears presented the contract with the Mississippi School Board Association, who would like to handle the search.
“I know there are a couple of other companies who would like to participate,” Spears said. “I will reach out to them to get their information so we can evaluate them and decide who to utilize going forward.”
Angela Verdell made a motion to begin the selection process for a third-party search firm to conduct a nationwide search.
“After retaining a firm, the third-party search firm would handle all documents,” she said. “The CMSD would be involved only as agreed upon by the entire board of trustees.”
Aubra Turner seconded her motion, which passed unanimously.
Verdell also submitted a list of search firms to be considered.
[The board went into executive session at about 7:30 to discuss several items of litigation, as well as the Lee building. I did not stay for the executive session. – Brian Jones] 1