Publisher’s Note: More tomfoolery in Columbus City Schools

By Ronda Watson Barber
OhioMBE Publisher

What in the world is going on in Columbus City Schools?  An Akron newspaper has reported that Dr. David James is leaving Columbus City Schools to serve as the new executive director of the Summit Education Initiative.  Dr. James was hired to oversee the Operations Division in the state’s largest public school district.  Operation is a very important component of the educational scheme within the district.  They are responsible for transporting students to and from school.  Operations are charged with feeding students.  Operations are responsible for maintaining safe and healthy school buildings.

The superintendent of Columbus City Schools recently announced that former demoted chief operations officer, Maurice Oldham will resume his former role until a permanent replacement is found. The tomfoolery in the district continues. 

I have been an advocate for Dr. Dixon.  As a professional educator, I trust her experience and ability to guide the district and the education of Black children.  This decision is very troubling to me.  The same people in charge will get you the same results.  Maurice Oldham repeatedly has failed in the role, so why give him back the reins to run Operations? In his tenure as COO:

  • The district has failed to meet the mandatory 20 percent purchasing goal with disadvantaged businesses. White men are the beneficiaries of the LEDE program in a predominately Black urban school district.  What new and novel ideas has Oldham brought to the table to resolve this issue?
  • The LEDE program didn’t have guidelines the entire time Oldham was COO. He never commissioned someone to create operational guidelines for the purchasing program, thus allowing majority companies to defraud the district and vendors without penalty. His standard line is I am reviewing policies and procedures. How do you review something that isn’t there?
  • As COO, Oldham allowed white companies to defraud the district and Black vendors. Companies are on record in the Columbus Dispatch proclaiming their deceitful actions of using Black companies as pass-throughs. Those companies are still allowed to contract with the district because there are no guidelines for the LEDE program.
  • The Columbus Dispatch and other Central Ohio media outlets have reported the trifling unsanitary school building conditions. The Columbus Department of Health continues to write up unhealthy conditions.  What new and novel ideas has Oldham brought to the table to resolve this issue?
  • The transportation department can’t get kids to and from school. It has been reported that poor Black women are losing their jobs because of unreliable transportation.  One charter school reports they haven’t gotten an afternoon bus pickup in all school term.
  • The former Building and Grounds Director was hired by Oldham, word in the hallways is because of a relationship with the sons of the B&G director and the former safety director. The former B&G director funneled over a million dollars to his old employer without penalty. (I am still waiting on the ethics policy regarding this practice) What skills did the B&G director bring to the table that resulted in Oldham hiring him?
  • The district commissioned an external investigation of the Purchasing Department which Oldham supervised. The report doesn’t reflect highly on the department.
  • I was a defendant in a lawsuit by the former purchasing director Dennis Carney. I am the ONLY defendant who didn’t sign a confidentiality clause.  The things I learned and the things I know.

In my opinion, Maurice Oldham has directly participated in the educational destruction of poor and Black children in Columbus City Schools.  To allow him to continue to serve in this critical role is malfeasance.  The education of Black children is too important to leave in the hands of someone who continues to fail in their role. 

Someone told me that Mr. Oldham is well connected and Dr. Dixon had no other option but to put him back at the helm of directing Operations.  Hogwash!  I don’t care if and to who he is connected. The elected board and Dr. Dixon are obligated to ensure that tax dollars are spent appropriately and that Black children receive a quality education. Maurice Oldham is hampering this goal.  A bunch of people is making a good lifestyle off the backs of poor Black children. They even brag about it.  If this is the reason for reappointing Maurice Oldham the lead of Operation, all involved should be ashamed of themselves. 

The district must practice excellence in all areas.  Where but in Columbus City Schools can you fail at your job repeatedly and get rewarded? Where is the accountability?  If Dr. Dixon isn’t going to demand that Operations be a center of excellence, the voting public must take it out on the elected board.

“To deny education to any people is one of the greatest crimes against human nature. It is to deny them of the means of freedom and the rightful pursuit of happiness and to defeat the very end of their being,” Frederick Douglass

Just my thoughts…rwb


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