Publisher’s Note: Important positions must be filled in Columbus City Schools ASAP

By Ronda Watson Barber

The Columbus City Schools and the elected board will fill important positions for the 2023-2024 school year.  One position needing immediate, swift change is that of the Chief Operation Officer. The present interim COO has repeatedly failed to provide an atmosphere for Black children to learn. Under his tenure, the district has failed to meet the purchasing equity goal.  I believe the current interim COO has negatively impacted the education of the district’s Black children and the economic opportunities for Black businesses.  This impact will be felt for years. Knowing his track record, I am still trying to understand why the elected board rehired him in January.   What new and novel programs and ideas have the interim COO brought to the district to improve the learning conditions for Black children? What has he done to improve the LEDE purchasing numbers in Operations?

The current interim COO has a legacy of FAILURE.

  • The district received national media attention for the dismal conditions of classrooms. It was a supposed issue during the teachers’ strike.
  • The district fails to get children to and from school on time. The district purchased a  software program to resolve the transportation issue.  The $1.25 million program isn’t being utilized. The transportation department wasted taxpayer funds, and no one is being held accountable.  Local media reported that a bus stop was located in front of the residence of a registered sex offender.
  • The district’s security program fosters a prison-pipeline mentality for poor and Black children. The random search of children who have committed no offense is unacceptable.

Ohio’s largest public school district has failed to meet its purchasing equity goal.  Last school term, five percent of the district’s $332 million was spent with disadvantaged businesses. The current interim COO practices a “race-neutral” approach to purchasing.  Do his staff who purchase goods and services practice this same neutrality because white men benefit from the disadvantaged business program in a predominately Black school district? Out of $332 million, only eight million was spent with Black  LEDE vendors.

What if the current interim COO was intentional in hiring Black people? What if he intentionally developed programs and strategies to include Black vendors in the purchasing scheme? What if he provided professional development for Black staff? He would be a hero. He would be respected. He would be a leader. Columbus City School would have a different district operationally.

I will continue to hold the elected board accountable for the failings in transportation, security, purchasing, capital improvements, and buildings and grounds.  Sources close to the situation have indicated that “we are very aware of the problems in Operations, but they voted to put him in the position.  Taxpayers, students, and vendors deserve better!

The incumbent board members running for reelection should not put their futures in the hands of the current interim COO. He has a record of failure. Hopefully, Black businesses and parents will demand accountability from the board at election time. Our votes and tax dollars have power. The education of Black children is too important to leave in the hands of someone not committed to excellence and Black achievement. A competent progressive leader needs to be installed as chief operating officer. It cannot continue to be business as usual.

Just my thoughts…rwb


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