COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI)- After a four and a half hour meeting Monday night, the Columbus School Board of Trustees decided to fire School Superintendent Martha Liddell.
“Three trustees voted for the release of Dr. Liddell, two against. The three being Mr. Lautzenhiser, Mr. Spears and Ms. Turner. The two not supporting her release were Ms. Verdell and myself,” said School Board President Currie Fisher.
Two White board members and one Black voted for the termination, which came after weeks of negative stories about Liddell’s leadership. A series of media interviews she did last week didn’t quell the storm. Fisher wouldn’t tell us why Liddell was ousted.
“She was made aware last night why she was terminated. It will be presented to her in a letter and then she will have her opportunity along with an attorney to process that and review it and take the actions that she may need to take,” said Fisher.
Issues surrounding her use of district funds and personnel for a private party, an outside consulting business, visits from state auditors, and extensive traveling raised questions with the board and public. But some residents are not happy with the board’s decision.
“I heard her talking on the news and it kinda clicked when she said ‘Headlines are just headlines and a lot of times headlines can destroy you.’ But me personally, I don’t think she would do anything to harm anyone. I think she was a pretty good person to be in that position,” said Columbus resident Marvin Stevenson.
” She was our 1st Black female superintendent of our school system and I believe she should be given another chance. I like her and I support her 100%,” said Columbus resident Mary Weatherby.
Lavonne Harris is President of the Lowndes County NAACP and believes the school board is leaving out one important factor in this decision: the children.
” The focus needs to be put back on them, not all this politics stuff and what’s going on at the board. And think about it. Just actually think about it. You got senior and juniors about to go to school. They might be reading what’s going on in the media now. They’re probably thinking hmmm, the board don’t care about whether I get an education or not,” said Harris.
Fisher says the children remain the board’s first priority as it begins looking for a replacement.
“I’d just like the public to know that this is a shake up, but that the school board will work to make sure that our business is conducted fairly. That decisions are made in an informed way expeditiously and we will get an interim superintendent and the business will go on,” said Fisher.
Liddell was named superintendent last June after a year as interim superintendent. When she was named, she had been the odds-on favorite for the job.
WCBI reached out to Dr. Liddell. She would not go on camera but tells us she’s spending time with her family while still taking in the news about her termination.