By Ronda Watson Barber
Columbus City Schools and its leadership continue to disrespect Black vendors. The state’s largest public school district recently held an outreach session for vendors to meet with decision-makers. The goal was to introduce the community to officials within the district who make purchasing decisions. The district’s Outreach Coordinator did an outstanding job notifying LEDE businesses of this opportunity. Everything else surrounding the event was a major failure.
District leadership including the elected board didn’t take time out of their busy schedules to attend. Board president Jennifer Adair did attend, and she welcomed vendors to seek out opportunities. Superintendent Dixson sent a videotaped message. Key departments including the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Curriculum, and Legal were no-shows. The director of Capital Improvements sent staff members instead of attending.
The LEDE program and its Black vendors deserve better. The district fails to meet the board policy to spend 20 percent of purchases with LEDE vendors. The elected board continues to vote on legislation that excludes LEDE vendors. White men are the beneficiaries of the disadvantaged business program in a predominately Black school district, while Black vendors beg for crumbs.
The LEDE program is supposed to be race-neutral. Why didn’t white vendors attend the Meet the District session? White vendors were a minority in attendance but they receive over half of the yearly LEDE spend. I saw a handful of white companies. Are they accustomed to simply receiving procurement opportunities without having to work for them? Do they have the hookup? All LEDE vendors were sent the same invitation multiple times, so where were the white people? Did they know it was just another dog and pony show?
If key leadership wasn’t in attendance and the district didn’t appear to support the event, why waste Black companies’ time? Why host the event? I didn’t see any promotion of the event by the district’s communication office. I didn’t see anyone from the district taking photos of the event.
Whoever thought the Meet the District was a good idea without the backing and attendance of key leadership is out of touch with the Black business community. The event did not put itself in good light with Black LEDE vendors. Black vendors were AGAIN disrespected. The same voters and vendors, the district will be asking to support a future tax levy.
Just my thoughts…rwb
P.S. Yes, that was me booing the demoted COO. He should be ashamed of himself. Eight years and his legacies are trifling unsafe buildings and the inability to get kids to and from school.