MCPEC is Nice, but Not Opulent

Dr. Philip Schley, MCSD Chairman of the Board

When I approached the Muscogee County Public Education Center building, Dr. Philip Schley had just walked outside for a little fresh air before he participated in the dedication ceremonies in the lobby.  I looked up at the entrance to the lobby and said, “It doesn’t look like the Taj Mahal to me.”

He laughed and replied, “No. There is not a foot of marble in this building.”

Muscogee County Public Education Center, Columbus, GA

He’s a retired urologist – he still holds his license and does some pro bono medical work -and the chairman of the Muscogee County School Board.   Public education in Columbus is his passion.

“Why is the building sitting so close to the road?” I asked.

“You can blame me for that. I wanted it on the road so people would see it.”  He wanted them to see it and think about the school system when they rode by on Macon Road. He added, “And I got a lot of grief for it.”

He is in a controversial position.  All school board members are. It goes with the territory. Tax dollars are involved, a lot of them.  It cost a little more than $15 million to build MCPEC.  Add furniture, etc. and it tops $22 million. That’s just about half of what those opposed to the building projected it would cost, he told me.

Northside High School Singers

Also, the future of this area is involved. What can be more important to the future of Columbus than its public education system?  It is a system that now has about 32,000 students, and that is about to increase as BRAC brings more troops, support personnel and their families to Columbus.

Fort Middle School Ballet

School Board member, and supporter of building MCPEC, John Wells said, “This is the face of public education in Columbus, and it will be for at least the next fifty years.”

Dr. Susan Andrews, Superintendent, MCSD

Dr. Schley, in his remarks to those gathered for the dedication ceremonies,  had praise for recently appointed MCSD Superintendent Dr. Susan Andrews’ leadership, and he said he thought the new administrative headquarters would help her in her quest for excellence for the system.

All of the former living superintendents were there for the dedication, and they were all enthusiastic and pleased with the new building.  Guy Simms pointed out that it makes it easier for the public because now all administrative services are in one building and not spread out over different areas of the city.

Along with others on hand for the open house, I checked out some of the building. It’s nice, but certainly not opulent.  I asked former Superintendent John Phillips, a big player in getting the building built, where the tomb of the third wife of the Shah Jahan, who had the Taj Mahal built in 1632, was located, referring to the complaints that Columbus didn’t need a Taj Mahal.  He smiled and said, “And where are the gold faucets?”  Some opponents had warned that the building would be furnished that opulently.   It’s not.

Superintendent Dr. Susan Andrews' Office

The building does have some architectural style.  Dr. Schley and Dr. Susan Andrews both remarked that some people think it looks like a building in Washington, D.C. , and they were both pleased with that comparison.

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