One of my more recent goals is to get involved in the local and state level political process. So much focus and attention is given to the presidential elections, however your local and state governments will most likely have a much greater impact on you. As I thought more about this, I decided that getting involved in local government was a great place to start. I’ll try to write more about this soon, but for now, my focus is on my first engagement: the Columbus Municipal School District Board of Trustees Budget Public Hearing, which took place on June 30th, 2016.
I became aware of this meeting after contacting the city councilman for my Ward. (The only map I’ve been able to find is this small one, City of Columbus Voting Information). There was a lot of talk locally about this meeting prior to it because a possible tax increase was mentioned, such as in this article by The Dispatch.
Then Jason Spears (a Columbus Municipal School District Board of Trustees member) suggested using reserve funds instead of a tax increase in this article.
So my purpose of attending the meeting was to become familiar with how the board meetings go, learn more about the budget proposal, and become more informed so I can make informed decisions and opinions. I would say that I was mostly successful at this, however finding the information still isn’t easy. So I’m going to attempt to help you find such information so you can get involved and be informed as well.
Columbus Municipal School District website – http://www.columbuscityschools.org/ – This is where you can find some of the information, although I did have a bit of trouble finding what I was looking for. If you go to About Us > Board of Trustees, you will find links to the Schedule of Meetings, School Board Meeting videos (on Youtube), Board Meeting Agendas, Board Member Bios, etc.
- Schedule of Meetings – This is simple, it lists dates, times, and locations of upcoming meetings. I do not know the nature of the meetings, such as whether they’re all recorded, open to the public, etc. You can look at what’s discussed by looking at the Board Meeting Agendas.
- School Board Meeting videos – I’m told that they stream the meetings live via their Youtube channel. So if you’re not able to attend the meeting, you can watch it live OR you can catch it online later. The June 30th meeting was available online the following day.
- Board Meeting Agendas – This is where you will find the information they’re discussing and making decisions on during the meeting. You can find all sorts of information in these meetings, such as expenses needing approval, budgeting info, policy proposals, reports, etc.
Mississippi Department of Education – Data Reports – http://reports.mde.k12.ms.us/data/ – If you’re looking for attendance counts available in state/district/school levels, this is where to look. It also breaks things down by demographics, which you can look at based on any of the three levels of state/district/school. You can also look back through historical data for previous years. This site does not provide any financial data per district/school that I’m aware of. There’s other data available on the site by accessing the menu items at http://reports.mde.k12.ms.us/.
Mississippi Office of the State Auditor – http://www.osa.ms.gov/reports/education/ – If you’re looking for the financial audits of the school district, which gives you a look at the budget and numbers for a school year, this site has that info. Simply use the “Search All Reports For” search box and type in the school district you’re looking for. You can use the city or county names only for searches.
The Dispatch – http://www.cdispatch.com/news/index.asp?id=1 – The Dispatch is a local news organization that can be useful in learning more about upcoming issues. I don’t know how much coverage they give board meetings, but they posted a few articles on the meeting I attended.
This is what I’ve been able to find so far. If you know of other resources that are helpful, please contact me. I’ll update this article as I find more information, so feel free to bookmark it. Also, if you’d like to get involved and/or contribute information, please contact me.