Northwest News

Columbus Education Commission

Proposal includes city-level director of improvement

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A group charged with reviewing Columbus City Schools has a released a list of recommendations designed to improve the district.

The 25-member Columbus Education Commission, appointed by Mayor Michael B. Coleman and City Council President Andy Ginther in December, has suggested a slew of changes, from modernizing technology to luring strong charter schools to areas of the district that need them.

"The commission has developed a vision for education in Columbus, but it will be the mayor and council president who will lead our community in making that a reality and implementing strategies," said Rob Evans, spokesman for the commission.

"Certainly the school board is one of the close partners in this work," Evans said.

Of the more significant proposals unanimously approved April 26, the commission recommends Coleman appoint a director of educational improvement to ramp up the city's efforts on education.

Dan Williamson, the mayor's spokesman, said Coleman is fully behind creating the position.

"I think by recommending this, I think what the commission is saying is, 'We don't want the mayor to make these recommendations and walk away,' " Williamson said.

The timeline for creating the job and cost associated with it haven't been determined, Williamson said.

He said it will not be structured like the Department of Education, which Coleman established when he was elected to office.

At the time, the office worked with the schools on education initiatives.

When the last director, Tei Street, left the position in 2009, the city eliminated the office in light of budget constraints, Williamson said.

Also, the commission advocates the appointment of an independent auditor who would monitor the finances, performance and data of Columbus City Schools to strengthen public confidence in the system.

The auditor would be jointly chosen by five elected officials, including the mayor and school board president.

In addition, the commission calls for the creation of a public-private partnership, a new nonprofit group that would continue to work to implement the changes and report on the status of various issues, such as student achievement.

The commission held a dozen public meetings throughout the district since December to seek input from a variety sources, Evans said.

The statistics are sobering: Nearly half of Columbus City Schools students currently attend a D- or F-rated school. This proposal would set an ambitious goal that all schools in Columbus -- charter or district -- earn an A or B rating by 2025.

To accomplish that, the commission advocates expanding neighborhood school options, recruiting effective principals and attracting charter schools with a proven track record.

"I think this focus on having a high-performing school in every neighborhood is critical," said Eric Fingerhut, director of the commission and vice president of education for Battelle.

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