COLUMBIA – At Tuesday’s forum at West Junior High School, members of the community asked questions of superintendent candidate Skip Deming.
Deming applied late and directly to the Columbia School Board for the position, unlike the other 17 candidates who applied for the job. The public forum was intended as a way to involve Columbia residents in the selection process. Deming made an initial statement and then answered questions submitted in advance by those in attendance.
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Deming said his greatest weakness is a lack of experience in the superintendent position. But he said he has held many jobs throughout the district. He began his public school career as a night custodian in 1968 and retired in 2004 after a year as co-interim superintendent.
“It sounds like I couldn’t keep a job,” Deming joked.
Board President Michelle Gadbois said Deming's history with the district could be a double-edged sword. Board member Rosie Tippin agreed, saying that the public’s knowledge of him brings “some familiarity and some animosity.”
The public asked questions concerning such issues as the school district's budget, communication with the community, diversity and closing the achievement gap. Some community members in attendance felt Deming was unprepared for their questions.
“He needed to do his homework,” said Robin Hubbard, a parent activist. “I mean, just Google our district to see what is going on. If you don’t know about it, you don’t care. You may be passionate, but do your homework.”
Deming’s passion was matched by that of Tony Naylor, a former teacher for Columbia Public Schools. Naylor asked Deming about the lack of diversity in the administration.
“When is a black male going to be a principal in this district?” Naylor said.
He voiced his opinions and left the forum. In the hall, he shared additional concerns.
“It’s time for the kids, time to meet these problems head on,” said Naylor. “Resources are short, and we have to do better.”
He said the forum was not at all what he expected, and that he wished harder questions would have been asked.
Tippin said the forums provide a valuable opportunity to ask the community for its opinion before the board comes to a decision.
“The forums were very useful to give people a better feel for him,” Tippin said.
The other superintendent candidate, Chris Belcher, will participate in a similar public forum at 5 p.m. Thursday at Paxton Keeley Elementary School, 201 Park DeVille Drive.