By Ronda Watson Barber
Columbus City Schools has an equity and inclusion program, but they don’t support it. The elected board continues to vote on legislation devoid of disadvantaged businesses and Black people. The district’s equity and inclusion goal is to spend 20 percent with certified disadvantaged businesses. Last school term, the predominately Black school district spent $8 million with Black LEDE vendors. Overall, CCS spent only five percent with disadvantaged companies with the approval of the administration and elected school board. The LEDE program, purchasing inclusion, and Black businesses are unimportant to CCS Board and administration.
Because of systemic and institutional racism, the district supports a restrictive vendor registration process. Columbus City Schools has more inactive vendors (293) than active vendors(254). Vendors are placed on inactive status, without receiving notification, for failure to submit general liability insurance and a yearly W-9.
Three current board members are running for reelection. I visited their official campaign websites. Jen Adair, Carol Beckerle, and Dr. Tina Pierce say nothing about actively engaging LEDE businesses or including Black-owned companies in the district’s purchasing scheme. They didn’t voice their support for Black-owned businesses in a predominately Black school district while promoting being advocates of educational diversity.
Sarah Ingles and Brandon Simmons are also running for a spot on the board. I sent a note asking for their thoughts on the district’s lack of commitment to the LEDE purchasing goals. Their website also didn’t support diversity and inclusion in CCS’s purchasing strategies either. I gave them the benefit of the doubt, as they are newcomers. I will post when I receive their comments.
Do Black businesses matter to Columbus City Schools’ administration and elected board? Candidates will be asking for your vote in November. They will be campaigning to get a seat on the board. It is a tremendous responsibility to be a public school board member. Board members make school policies, sanction hiring, and firings, and approve district expenditures. The Columbus Black community needs to elect a school board committed to empowering the Black community educationally and economically. The Columbus Black business community needs to hold the administration and elected board accountable for the failure to help create economic vitality in our community.
Just my thoughts…rwb