Talisa Dixon will be the next superintendent of Columbus City Schools, provided that she clears a background check and can come to terms on a contract with the district’s school board.

After emerging from a nearly four-hour, closed-door meeting Sept. 20, the board voted unanimously for Dixon over two other finalists. Dixon, 49, who was a principal in Columbus City Schools for nine years, is superintendent of Cleveland Heights-University Heights City Schools in suburban Cleveland.

Dixon is “an incredibly talented educational leader and we’re excited about the opportunity to have someone like her here in our district,” board President Gary Baker said after the 7-0 vote.

“I’m looking forward to working with the new leader that we’re going to have a lot of expectations for,” board member Ramona Reyes said.

Dixon has 22 years of experience in education administration and is beginning her fifth year in her current post heading the 5,500-student district in suburban Cleveland, where she is paid $165,000 a year. She also served as an administrator in Saginaw, Michigan, and as a principal in Akron. 

Columbus City Schools has more than 51,000 students, making it the largest school district in Ohio.

Dixon has a bachelor’s degree in sociology, master’s degrees in secondary education, educational administration and sociology and a doctorate in educational administration from the University of Akron. She enjoys theater and traveling.

In selecting Dixon, the board passed over two other finalists, both of whom work just outside Washington, D.C.: Terry Dade, an assistant superintendent for Region 3 of the Fairfax County (Virginia) Public Schools, and Ava Tasker Mitchell, an elementary instructional director with Prince Georges County Public Schools in Maryland.

Board Vice President Michael Cole said the district is “looking at a timeline in the next couple of weeks” to negotiate a contract with Dixon with the help of the district’s outside legal counsel Taft Law. “She just is an outstanding candidate,” he said.

Assuming her contract is finalized, Dixon would become the 21st superintendent to lead Columbus City Schools since 1847.

Interim Superintendent John Stanford was one of six candidates named as semifinalists, but the deputy of former Superintendent Gene Harris did not make the final cut.

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