Columbus School District launches community meeting series to listen to public’s education concerns

COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) – Monday night, the Columbus Municipal School District launched its new Ward Tour, where education and city leaders will hold a series of community meetings throughout the month of March.

“There weren’t any questions that I felt there were out of the box of things that we weren’t addressing,” says school district superintendent Dr. Cherie Labat. “It was just great to be around family and community and just talking in an intimate setting about how to move Columbus forward.”

Dr. Labat says the meetings are the result of collaboration between the Columbus City Council and Mayor Keith Gaskin, where citizens of Columbus can gather to share their education concerns first-hand.

Sim Scott Park in Ward 5 was the site of the first meeting.

“They can talk with her one-on-one, they can see her interactions,” says Ward 5 city councilman Stephen Jones. “When you go to a board meeting, you may not be able to ask a question.”

Jones and Mayor Gaskin stood with Dr. Labat as she shared an update on the latest news in the school district before opening a question and answer session.

“We welcome all community members to come out and communicate with us what we can do to better serve our families,” Dr. Labat says.

The school district plans to hold meetings with members from two different wards each week.

Dr. Labat says many of the questions Monday revolved around rebuilding the Hunt facility.

“We’re bringing workforce development, entrepreneurship, a blended learning academy for sixth-grade students and other endeavors to the community,” she says.

Some also asked about how the school district tracks COVID-19 cases.

“How do we report? How do we get our numbers?” Dr. Labat says. “And I explained that we’re completely transparent.”

There were also inquiries about volunteering with the school system.

“As long as they have a background check, or they’re working directly with somebody who’s certified. You’re welcome to come in our school district we need you here.”

Mayor Gaskin says he plans on attending nearly every meeting.

“I’m very supportive of Dr. Labat and her team and the teachers and those kids,” he says. “I want them to know that they’re a top priority.”

Dr. Labat believes these meetings are just the first step.

“It’s about the students and our future,” she says. “The solution is working together, and we’re ready for that. And this community is ready for that. They’re tired of the finger-pointing and they just want to move forward to make this a healthy community.”

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