The search for our new school superintendent begins in earnest this week. Tuesday night at 5:30, the search firm of McPherson & Jacobson will host simultaneous public forums at G. W. Carver High School and Northside High School to gather public input about skills and talents we believe the next superintendent should bring to the table as well as what the community believes should be MCSD's priorities going forward.
Gathering public input is useful, however, only if the public shows up.
As much as many of us voice our opinions about what MCSD should or shouldn't do to our friends in the beauty salon or the guys we meet for lunch every week, how many of us will make time on Tuesday to attend one of these forums and express our opinions? Both rooms should be filled to capacity, but will they be?
We all agree a strong system of public education is critically important to the growth and well-being of Columbus. The economic development of our community rises and falls on the number of well-educated citizens who can fill the jobs that companies seek to bring to the area. The proper functioning of our local government requires citizens who have been educated on how to participate in a democracy. The community's ability to meet its goal of breaking cycles of persistent poverty depends heavily on public education's ability to successfully graduate students from high school and send them on to greater learning opportunities whether college, technical school or armed service.
Simply stated, our public schools are important to the community's future. And, who leads our public schools is equally important if not more so.
I applaud the school board for engaging a process to seek public input on a matter of such great importance to our community. The decision to host these forums on Tuesday shows that the members of the board truly want MCSD to be a system that acts on behalf of its citizens, not in spite of them.
Now, the citizens need to show up. If there are more representatives of MCSD than private citizens at these gatherings, then we the people will have squandered an opportunity. If parents and pastors and business leaders and neighborhood associations do not show up at these meetings, then we need not comment after the decision is made about who the board should have selected or what MCSD should have done.
The application period for our new school superintendent closes on October 31. In the time between now and then, we can have a great deal to say about the type of leader we want for our public schools. The school board is asking for your opinion. On Tuesday, give it.
Karl Douglass, Columbus native and resident, is a frequent commenter on local, state and federal politics. Follow him on Twitter@KarlDouglass or facebook.com/karldouglass.