Black LEDE vendors must advocate for the program
By Ronda Watson Barber
In a recent column. “Who will advocate for LEDE vendors?” I questioned the commitment of the elected school board to its purchasing inclusion program. LEDE businesses will lose a champion next year, as board member James Ragland was unseated in the November election.
Mr. Ragland, during public board meetings, challenged the state’s largest public school district on its purchasing practices with disadvantaged businesses. He was a vocal advocate for Black businesses. In his absence who will advocate for LEDE and Black-owned businesses?
The board members of color don’t appear to take the twenty percent purchasing goal seriously. One board member, Tina Pierce, was a LEDE vendor and participated in a vendor fair in 2018. She asks no questions about purchasing legislation that is void of LEDE participation. At one point her company was aiming and struggling to get business with the district as a consultant.
Board member Reyes doesn’t ask questions on LEDE participation during the numerous meeting I have watched. She has no record of supporting the program.
Michael Cole is charged with assisting a majority company with meeting the State’s EDGE requirements on an Ohio State University construction project. (Didn’t his wife just get a district six figure job?) Why don’t his efforts and commitment to disadvantage and Black-owned businesses continue with his elected position?
Board member Carol Beckerle during a recent public meeting called the program by a different name. The inclusion program has been known for years as the L.E.D.E. program. She called it the lead program. For a minute or two, I thought she was referencing “lead pipes” until she mentioned the Outreach Coordinators’ name.
Who will advocate for Black-owned businesses in Mr. Ragland’s absence?
Mr. Ragland’s last board meeting is tomorrow, Tuesday, December 21. There is a reception prior to the public meeting. I am strongly encouraging LEDE vendors and Black-owned businesses to attend the meeting. We need to show our appreciation to James for supporting our businesses. We need to demonstrate to the elected board and administration our disdain for their continued failure to meet the mandated board inclusion policy. It cannot continue to be business as usual with Columbus City Schools and its catastrophic efforts to procure goods and services with Black people.
See you tomorrow! Just my thoughts, rwb