Time for Change: Advocating for New Leadership at Columbus City School Board

By Ronda Watson Barber
OhioMBE Publisher

As an advocate for Black businesses, I’m compelled to address the pressing need for a change in the leadership of the Columbus City School Board. Jenn Adair’s tenure on the Columbus City Schools Board of Education has been marked by significant challenges, most notably the district’s first teacher strike in fifty years due to unsafe and unhealthy classroom conditions. Her tenure is marked with failures.

Adair’s public interactions often come across as dismissive, undermining the value of community voices. Her communication seems inconsistent, creating an impression that she tailors her messages to what she thinks the community wants to hear, rather than providing transparent and straightforward information.

Under her leadership, the district has faced logistical issues, including failing to transport children to and from school in a timely manner, resulting in a state-issued fine. The district has also received health department citations for violations. A stark contrast exists between the deplorable conditions faced by students and teachers and the modern facilities used by administrators.

Academically, the district’s performance has been underwhelming, receiving low ratings from the state board of education. the staff composition of the district, predominantly white, seems disconnected from the Black community it serves. These staff members, not residing in the district, don’t participate in the open enrollment policy for their children, creating a situation where Columbus City School taxpayers are essentially supporting lifestyles in the suburbs. The financial resources meant to uplift the education of  Black children are being redirected, a situation exacerbated by voter misconceptions about school levies and their impact on school quality. Despite being the highest-funded district in Ohio, surpassing areas like Upper Arlington, Pickerington, and New Albany, Columbus City Schools’ quality doesn’t reflect this financial superiority, pointing to deeper systemic issues.

A concerning pattern has emerged in the board’s decision-making process. Vital information presented to the board has often been inaccurate, particularly regarding supplier diversity and the LEDE program, echoing the district’s past issues with data integrity. Alarmingly, since July 2023, no supplier diversity expert has been actively involved in contracting activities, despite contrary claims in legislation presented to the board. The board’s failure to meet its spending commitments to disadvantaged businesses, particularly in a district with a predominantly Black student body, is glaring. Only a minimal portion of the budget is allocated to Black vendors, showcasing a disparity in overall spending. Adair’s lack of responsiveness and a voting pattern that frequently excludes Black vendors have negatively impacted the board’s reputation and economic opportunities for Black taxpayers.

In light of these issues, it’s evident that the Columbus School Board desperately needs a new direction in leadership, one that truly aligns with and respects the community it serves.

just my thoughts…rwb


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