Muscogee County School Board approves new system-wide athletics director, advances construction projects

The Muscogee County School Board on Monday night unanimously approved the promotion of Jeff Battles from Hardaway High School athletics director to AD for the entire district.

The position had been vacant for about six weeks, since Todd Stanfill replaced the retired Roger Couch as Harris County High School principal when the second semester started in January. Stanfill was the Muscogee County School District's AD for two years.

After the 8-0 vote (District 2 representative John Thomas was absent), Battles told superintendent David Lewis and the board, "Thank you for this opportunity to serve our school district in this role. I want to thank the leaders who have helped me throughout my career, including my current principal, Mr. Matt Bell. I'm lucky and blessed to have my family and friends here with me, including my wife, Jamie, who has been my No. 1 supporter throughout my career."

Lewis explained what stood out about Battles during his interview.

"He came in with a comprehensive plan that he laid out in front of me, talking about how to improve our system, how to improve the quality of our athletic programs and facilities," Lewis said. "I just really appreciate the thought he put into the plan. It was very impressive, and I look forward to working with Mr. Battles to improve our system and continue the great work that was provided to us by Todd Stanfill and others before him."

During the board's work session last Monday, MCSD human resources chief Kathy Tessin said 14 candidates applied for the position, including seven from within the district. Joining her on the selection committee were student services chief Melvin Blackwell, academics chief Keith Seifert, curriculum executive director Lorrie Watt and Kendrick High principal Alonzo James, Tessin said.

Battles has been an educator in Columbus for 16 years, half at St. Anne-Pacelli Catholic School and half at Hardaway.

His athletics director positions at St.-Anne-Pacelli were in middle school (2001-04), as an assistant for K-12 (2004-06) and as AD of the high school (2006-08).

His coaching positions at St. Anne-Pacelli were in football (assistant coach 1999-2002, offensive coordinator and offensive line 2003-04, defensive coordinator and linebackers 2005, head coach 2006-07), wrestling (head middle school coach 2001, head coach 2002-07), basketball (head middle school girls coach 2000, head middle school boys coach 2001), golf (head varsity coach 2003-04) and track and field (head coach 2002).

His teaching positions at St. Anne-Pacelli were fourth-grade teacher (2000-01), computer lab instructor (2001-04), media specialist (2004-06) and Advanced Placement microeconomics teacher (2007-08).

He has been athletics director at Hardaway since 2010. His coaching positions at Hardaway have been head football coach (2008-15) and head wrestling coach (2014-present). His teaching positions at Hardaway have been social studies teacher (2008-11) and physical education teacher (2011-present).

His honors include 2010 Ledger-Enquirer All-Bi-City Football Coach of the Year and 2014 Georgia Region 1-AAAAA Athletics Director of the Year.

Battles earned a bachelor's degree in early childhood education from Columbus State University in 2000 and a master's degree in social sciences education from CSU in 2007.

In other action, the board unanimously approved:

  • The guaranteed maximum price of $32,041,187 from construction contractor Brasfield Gorrie of Columbus to build the arts academy, a $36 million project funded by the current and previous 1 percent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Taxes. The groundbreaking ceremony will be 1 p.m. Feb. 27 at 1700 Midtown Drive. The academy, approximately 118,500 square feet, is designed by Hecht Burdeshaw of Columbus to accommodate 500 students in grades 6-12. It is scheduled to be completed by May 2017.
  • The final budget of $1,210,000 for the district's autism program for high school students, to be constructed in a wing of Jordan High School and funded by the SPLOST voters approved in 2015. In November, the board approved Sudhir Patel of Columbus as the architect. The construction contractor hasn't been selected. The project is expected to take 10 months, construction director Bobby Hecht told the L-E.
  • Pound Construction Co. as the contractor for a new gym at Fort Middle School. It was budgeted to be $2.9 million as one of the 24 projects totaling $192,185,000 in the SPLOST voters passed in 2015. But in December, the board approved expanding the scope to include new locker rooms, showers, toilets, concessions, coaches offices and storage. The estimated cost now is $5.1 million. The additional money will come from $1.3 million in capital outlay from the state, $600,000 from the SPLOST's general facilities project, $290,000 from the operating budget's general facilities fund and $100,000 from the SPLOST's refurbishing kitchens project. The superintendent has said the expanded scope is closer to the deferred project that was on the SPLOST list voters passed in 2009. The project is expected to take 13-14 months to complete, Hecht said.
  • Freeman & Associations of Columbus as the construction contractor for a $3,175,000 upgrade of Kinnett Stadium, funded by the SPLOST voters passed in 2015. The project comprises a $1,675,000 field house, including two locker rooms with showers and toilets for approximately 100 to 120 football players each, a dressing room for officials with showers and toilets, a medical training room and storage. The rest of the money, $1.5 million, will be spent on constructing a press box, concessions stand and restrooms on the west side, which is for visitors. The concessions stand and restrooms on the east side, for the home team, will be renovated. The expected completion date hasn't been announced. "The program needs a lot of refinement," Hecht said.
  • A contract of $3,087,598 to Trane Inc. for new HVAC and LED lighting systems at the Columbus Museum. Trane is headquartered in Ireland but has a supply branch in Columbus. The SPLOST voters passed in 2015 will fund the project, expected to start immediately and be finished in September, MCSD operations chief David Goldberg told the L-E.
  • The final budget of $157,521, awarded to Warr Grading of Phenix City, to repair the storm sewer at Britt David Magnet Academy. The project is expected to take 2-3 months, Hecht said.
  • Authorization to demolish 14 dilapidated structures at 4100 Cusseta Road, the Country Village Apartments. Last month, the board approved buying the 9.23-acre property for $525,000, part of the 79 acres that will become an $11 million athletics complex for system-wide use, comprising artificial turf football and soccer fields, two field houses, a track, seating for 4,000 and parking. It will be funded by the SPLOST voters approved in 2015. It will be adjacent to the new Spencer High, envisioned to open in 2018, a $56 million project also funded by the SPLOST.
  • A summer enrichment program at Hannan Academy, to run from May 31 to July 22, funding by registration and weekly participation fees.

Mark Rice, 706-576-6272. Follow him on Twitter@MarkRiceLE.