Monday Morning Water Cooler Talk For August 27, 2012

August 27, 2012

CMSD, Columbus, MS, Education

Dr. Liddell: In Her Own Words

Dr. Martha Liddell sits confidently in her office and displays the demeanor that all good leaders possess, the ability to stay calm under pressure.  After a summer of uncertainty in her position, she is comfortable in the fact that she is now the person truly accountable for the Columbus Municipal School District (CMSD.)  With a good spirit and great enthusiasm, Dr. Liddell talked to The Real Story about her goals and desires for the upcoming school year.

She discussed the budget, taxes, dropout rates and the future of the CMSD. What follows is Dr. Liddell in her own words.  It is a feature The Real Story will run from time to time to give our community leaders a chance to talk to the public without interruption or interpretation. Just the individual talking to you, the reader.

So without further fanfare, here are Dr. Liddell’s beliefs and projections for the upcoming school years:

Three simple words describe my focus as Superintendent of Education for Columbus School District for the 2012-2013 school year. They are positive, proactive and purposeful. I am positive about the future of Columbus Schools. The district’s budget is in good shape and we received $85,000 more in tax collections than expected. When I think about how far we came in a year with our budget, I count it a victory for our school system.

I also believe it is very important this school year for me to continue to be proactive. Columbus’ budget problems didn’t magically get solved. It took a lot of hard work and sacrifice. I describe this past year as the year my life changed for the better and giving up on the children of Columbus was not something I was willing to do.

When you’re trying to do what’s right because it’s the right thing to do, people won’t always understand it, but they will respect a person who is willing to stand on principles and conviction.  I’m not looking back, I’m looking forward. I forgive freely and I’m not holding any grudges against anyone for any reason. I appreciate the Columbus School Board for giving me this opportunity and I am truly blessed to have been named Superintendent of Education. I plan to represent all the students, staff and families of Columbus Schools well and unselfishly.

I am so happy our school district is out of the doom and gloom phase that budget problems cause. I am focused on the future success of the 4,700 students who come to Columbus schools everyday wanting a quality education.

In conclusion, my leadership is purposeful. My purpose is putting students first. My mission as Superintendent of Columbus Schools is to tackle the city’s dropout problem with community support through Project 2020. I ask for concerned citizens’ help with a problem that’s getting worse by the day. To learn more about Project 2020, visit the district’s website and click on Project 2020 (

To be very honest, as a school system we don’t need to raise taxes on citizens who are already over-taxed to educate the children of Columbus. We cannot tax our way out of a bigger problem. We have to admit we have a problem and ultimately it’s every taxpayer’s problem.

We already have what we need to succeed and that’s people who care about children and our community. We cannot allow 30% of Columbus students to drop out of school and then expect a prosperous community. Education (or the lack of) has a direct impact on the economy.

Many educators in the state will tell you we cannot do anything about the huge number of students dropping out of school each school year, but what they are really saying is that they are not willing to do anything about it. Columbus Schools receive $5,500 in state dollars per year to educate a child, yet according to the MS Department of Corrections it took $98 per day to incarcerate one maximum security prison inmate in 2009, which is approximately $36,000 per year. What’s wrong with this picture? (

This matters because 70% of prison inmates are high school dropouts. Kids who at least graduate from high school are much more likely to hold a job, and youth dropping out of school drains the economy in more ways than one. Instead of beating up on the public school system, it’s in every taxpayer’s best interest to support education for all.

The bigger problem, in my opinion, is the intentional perpetuation of a racial and economic divide in our community; because good people stand idly by while corrupt people teach us to mistrust one another.

Since I was named Superintendent, I am reminded that our community is making progress; but still has a long way to go in order to not judge people by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I face challenges every day that are not academic in nature, but are purely a reflection of the bigger problem.

The good news is though I’m not going to be deterred from helping children, respecting taxpayers and helping as many kids as I can stay in school or return to the educational setting in some way, by giving dropouts and potential dropouts more options to earn a high school diploma. I cannot do all of this alone. I need the help of good people. I admit it won’t be easy, but fighting for freedom never is. There is a bridge out here, folks, which we all need to cross together as citizens united to save Columbus.

Success and failure comes down to the choices we make. I chose to believe that the children and economy of Columbus, Mississippi are worth the effort.”




Joseph B. St. John


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About The Real Story

The Real Story for the Golden Triangle and North Mississippi. Always the truth... No Compromise. Changing the community one story at a time! You make the news... We keep it Real.

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2 Comments on “Monday Morning Water Cooler Talk For August 27, 2012”

  1. Raider Says:

    This is a really good idea. I hope that you will take it a step further and after six months to a year, you go back and interview the individual. Contrast what was said in their own words and what is actual reality.


  2. slack water Says:

    I like the idea, too, but I didn’t gather anything from what Dr. Liddell said.


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