Publisher’s Note: When will CSS begin the search for a new COO?

By Ronda Watson Barber
OhioMBE Publisher

The Columbus Dispatch reported yesterday that the Columbus City Schools Board of Education would begin a search for a new superintendent. They have contracted with an Iowa company to assist in the selection. The elected school board didn’t require LEDE participation. A local law firm picked the advertising firm to promote the hiring process to the community. Again, the elected school board didn’t require any LEDE participation. In a future column, I will write about the CCS’ lack of commitment to disadvantaged businesses and the LEDE program.

When will Ohio’s largest public school district begin a search for a new Chief Operating Officer? Sources close to the situation have indicated that “we are very aware of the problems in Operations. There will be a search for new COO.” The current interim COO was demoted and then promoted back to the position by retired superintendent Talisha Dixon. The elected board voted to put him in the position. Under his tenure as COO, what has Maurice Oldham brought to the district to improve the Operations division? How has he improved the climate for Black vendors to procure contracts? How has he improved customer service in the departments he supervises?

The Oldham Years:

  • During the teacher strike in the Summer of 2023, national media attention was brought to the trifling unsafe school buildings that lack air conditioning and heat.
  • Columbus Health Department has cited the district with unsafe and unsanitary building conditions, including peeling lead-based paint.
  • CCS spent $1.25 million on transportation software the district doesn’t use.  Will taxpayers get a refund from the company, or is that just wasted tax dollars?
  • Hardships caused to families unable to get children to and from school in a timely manner.
  • Local media reported that a bus stop was in front of the residence of a documented sex offender.
  • The former buildings and grounds director was hired with little experience. He was allowed to funnel contracts to his former employer.
  • District hasn’t met the inclusion purchasing goal of 20%.  Last school term, five percent of the district’s $332 million was spent with disadvantaged businesses.
  • Hired a purchasing director with no district managerial  experience who continues implementing a restrictive vendor registration process designed to keep “undesirables out”, according to sworn testimony in a federal deposition.
  • Most supervisors are white men.

I believe the current COO has negatively impacted the education of the district’s Black children and the economic opportunities for Black businesses. The teaching of Black children is too important to leave in the hands of someone not committed to Black excellence. He has not fostered a positive learning environment for CCS students. The next COO needs to be devoted to Black economic empowerment. Imagine the wealth that could be created in Columbus’ Black community if the district met the 20 percent inclusion goal every year during the Oldham years.

The next superintendent and the incumbent board members running for reelection should not put their futures in the hands of the current COO. Hopefully, Black businesses and parents will demand accountability at election time. Our votes and tax dollars have power. A competent leader needs to be installed in the position.

Just my thoughts….rwb


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