Northland News

Some on NCC criticize Columbus school board

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After learning more about the Columbus Education Commission last week, some Northland Community Council members said they think the Columbus Board of Education should be taught a lesson.

"It sounds like they simply need to be gotten rid of," Karmel-Woodward Park Civic Association President William Logan said following a presentation from Ashley Senn, Mayor Michael B. Coleman's community affairs coordinator, and some equally blunt comments from other council representatives.

That's not the goal of the commission, which Coleman and City Council President Andrew J. Ginther inaugurated Dec. 12, Senn said during last week's NCC meeting.

"We are not taking over the schools, I promise," she said. "We're just trying to help."

Senn, who has been making the rounds among civic groups around the city the past month offering updates on the work of the Columbus Education Commission, said she hears that accusation all the time and does her best to refute it.

Her appearance before the NCC came in the wake of a flurry of publicity over Coleman's demand that Columbus City Schools Board of Education members hold off on hiring a permanent replacement for retiring Superintendent Gene T. Harris until the commission issues a report, the district conducts a self-assessment and investigations are completed at the state and federal levels into possible grade changes and attendance data "scrubbing."

The mayor is suggesting naming an interim superintendent, Senn said, "to make sure that we're all on the same page, that we're all looking for the same person."

"Right now, I don't think there's that alignment that we're hoping to achieve in the future," she added.

"We have a broken process," NCC Secretary Brandon L. Boos said. "We have a broken culture."

For his part, NCC President Emmanuel V. Remy said he was more than happy to be interviewed for a Columbus Dispatch story March 26 in which Coleman announced his position on the hiring of a permanent successor to Harris.

Remy said he did so out of frustration.

As president of the coalition of Northland-area civic associations and organizations, he said he enjoys a good relationship with members of city council and meets with them regularly, as did his predecessor, Dave Paul.

Attempts at opening similar lines of communication with school board members have not met with the same success, according to Remy.

On four separate occasions, he said, after encountering a board member at one event or another, he inquired about having a meeting. Follow-up emails and telephone calls were not returned, Remy said.

"I would get zero response back," he added.

Remy pointed out that the ongoing attendance and grade data investigations at CCS make it unlikely a top candidate for superintendent would be willing to come on board.

"No one in their right mind would put their credentials on the line until we know how it's all going to come out," Remy said.

In her opening remarks, Senn said Coleman believes students graduating from high school in Columbus should be prepared to get a job, go to college, join the military or start a business.

"Right now, too many of our kids aren't prepared to do any of these things," she said.

Senn noted that the school district is ranked 824th out of 832 in the state, and that 82 percent of students come from economically disadvantaged families.

The education commission's report is supposed to be issued later this month, Senn said, although it might not come out until May.

U.S. District Court Judge Algenon L. Marbley, Cardinal Health Chairman and CEO George Barrett and Kathy Ransier, a partner with Vorys, Sate, Seymour and Pease, are co-chairs of the commission.

Members include a variety of community leaders, such as Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee, United Way of Central Ohio President and CEO Janet E. Jackson and Carol Perkins, president of the Columbus Board of Education.

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