Car trouble caused a mother to run seriously late last week in getting her two children to the first day of the new school year at Forest Park Elementary School.
But before she could hustle the boy and girl inside the building and apologize for their tardiness, the woman ran into an unexpected greeting committee: Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman.
"Your mayor loves you," he said to the children as he hugged them.
Coleman was at the Northland-area school as part of a whirlwind opening-day visit to seven Columbus City Schools buildings in the company of J. Daniel Good, the district's interim superintendent.
Around 50,000 youngsters in kindergarten through the 12th grade were anticipated to start classes Aug. 21, scant hours after district officials were forced to admit a shortage of bus drivers would delay getting some elementary students to class and some high school students home.
Coleman, who has made his the public face in seeking passage of the so-called "Columbus Plan" package of reforms in the fall, said the transportation snafu was an example of why voters should back the Nov. 5 ballot measure, not reject it.
Signed into law by Gov. John Kasich during a July 15 ceremony at Indianola Alternative K-8, the reform plan -- which raced through Ohio General Assembly in 39 days -- would enact three major reforms: Establish an independent auditor, empower the mayor to authorize charter schools and share local levy dollars with high-performing charter schools.
The reforms must be adopted, Coleman said last week, "so things like this don't happen again."
"How could you not be disappointed by this?" the mayor asked reporters as he waited for Good to catch up with him at the fourth of their seven stops. "I know it took everyone in the administration by surprise. It took me by surprise. They have to do better.
"You have to make sure these things don't happen in the future."
Coleman said he normally visits a city school or two on the first day of classes, but the seven visits last week, accompanied by the interim superintendent, were intended to raise his profile with voters in the district, the largest in the state.
"This is where I'm really stepping up and making myself visible," he said.
Good and Coleman also went to East High School, Columbus City Preparatory School for Boys, Monroe Middle School, Berwick Alternative Elementary School, Colerain Elementary School and Columbus North International School.
With Good trailing him by a good five minutes, Coleman headed into the 51-year-old Forest Park Elementary, where he was greeted by Principal Rhonna McKibbin.
"Welcome to Forest Park," she told him. "It's business as usual."
"The younger kids don't always understand what the mayor's role is," McKibbin said while Coleman shook hands with her office staff.
Still, she said, they were interested that the head of the city and head of the school district were going to drop by.
"I'm sorry, we got kind of lost," Good said when he finally arrived.
Like Coleman, he shook hands with the principal and her office staff before they visited some classrooms. At the first one, though, the students were just lining up to go to lunch.
"We don't want to stand in the way of lunch," Good said, stepping aside so the youngsters could leave the room.
A teacher in the next classroom the pair visited told students the mayor was like the president of the city and the superintendent was sort of the president of the school district.