Does Bexley City Schools really care about inclusion?

By Ronda Watson Barber
OhioMBE Publisher

Does the Bexley City School district care about diversity and inclusion? The district and its current school board president have not prioritized inclusion until the spotlight was recently placed on the affluent school district. A racist image was displayed behind two students as they gave morning announcements during Black History Month. According to the Ohio Department of Education only 5% of the district’s 24,00 are Black.

The Columbus Dispatch reported School Board President Alissha Mitchell, saying, “the February incident has prompted us to rethink our institutional and cultural shifts.”

Really…Bexley City Schools needs a supplier diversity program. I suggested to President Mitchell that she establish one in 2016. She didn’t. Including Black people in the district purchasing scheme apparently wasn’t a priority in 2016. It isn’t a priority in 2023. How diverse is the Bexley City School supplier base? Does the district actively engage in good-faith efforts to procure goods and services from Black people? Why doesn’t the Bexley City School District have a policy on purchasing inclusion?

As publisher of OhioMBE, I have been advocating for area public school districts to establish supplier diversity policies. My Sept, 8, 2014 column asked if suburban school districts are inclusive in their purchasing practices? When planning for the OhioMBE Procurement Fairs, I extend invitations to entities that receive tax funds. Many express no interest in participating. Many administrators simply don’t return phone calls or emails. The Aug. 14, 2016 column stated that taxation without participation must end. “Even with Black people in leadership positions, suburban governments appear to not care that Black businesses are not included in procurement opportunities. It is nothing short of taxation without participation. Inclusion should be the standard in purchasing. Our taxes are good enough to collect, but most suburban government entities still won’t do business with us.  Is it okay for local entities to take your sales taxes, income taxes and property taxes without including Black-owned businesses into their daily purchasing practices?  I strongly suggest you help me, help you.”

I was prompted to write that column after my interaction with then school board member Alissha Mitchell. I wrote Mitchell, to complain about my unprofessional encounter with then superintendent Mike Johnson.

I thanked her for her response and suggested that she institute a policy pertaining to supplier diversity. 

She accused my email of being presumptuous and would consider my suggestion of creating a supplier diversity policy. 

My penned response was that I take issues of diversity and inclusion seriously.  “It appears Black folks tax dollars are welcomed but they businesses aren’t.”

I recently inquired on the status of a supplier diversity program now that issues of inclusion appear to be important to the Bexley BOE President.  She responded by providing links to purchasing policies. None included language about supplier diversity.

Area suburban school districts are receptive to accepting the tax dollars generated from Black families in their communities. For some reason, district administrators find it challenging to embrace Black-owned businesses even when Black people are in leadership positions.  Why does it take the spotlight of a disgusting racial incident for Bexley  City Schools to consider to do the right thing?

I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.’~ Frederick Douglass

Just my thoughts…rwb


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