Not quite 80 days into her job, Columbus City Schools Superintendent Talisa Dixon dismantled the entire academics executive structure downtown and effectively reorganized the state’s largest school district into six smaller ones beginning next school year.
Without debate May 21, the school board approved both Dixon’s reorganization plan to reassign the entire Department of Academic Achievement and transferred almost $30 million in general-fund money for extensive renovations to schools in Clintonville, Northland and Old North Columbus.
Dixon informed the board she will transfer Alesia Gillison, the chief academic officer in charge of more than 5,000 teachers and building principals, to the newly created post of chief of engagement, where Gillison will be in charge of coordinating the donations and activities of the district’s many community partners and aligning them with district goals.
Then, Dixon essentially wiped out the entire seven-person executive staff under Gillison, reassigning them or eliminating their posts by restructuring the district into six regions. Each region will be led by a new position called an area superintendent.
Two of the affected employees already have left the district or retired; five will be reassigned, most becoming building principals.
Five of the former academic-achievement executives supervised groups of schools by grade level, three over elementary schools and one each over middle schools and high schools. The area superintendents each will be in charge of 17 to 20 schools and 6,000 to 8,000 students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.
“When you think about our feeder patterns, and as our students are matriculating to high school, there is some continuity (under the new system) with leadership as they matriculate up,” Dixon said. “The culminating event is high school, so we just want to make sure that alignment is there.
“Cincinnati is organized this way, Cleveland is organized this way, so I didn’t have to leave the state to look at this type of organization. It already exists.”
While the former executives may apply for the new posts, the district will conduct a national search to fill the new area superintendent jobs, Dixon said after the meeting. No new positions were created during the transformation, she said.
Also reassigned was Maria Stockard, former chief of staff to former Superintendent Dan Good. Stockard, who has been in charge of the district’s legal, human resources and communications divisions, will return to being a principal. Dixon has not yet announced her replacement.
In other action May 21, the board transferred almost $30 million from the general fund into a capital-improvement fund to pay for construction upgrades to the former Brookhaven and North high school buildings and Dominion Middle School.
While the extensive renovations will address windows, plumbing, walls, chimneys, floors, roofs, lighting, furnishings and other items, more than half of the money involves adding air conditioning to the buildings, including upgrading electrical systems to handle the increased power use.
The plan calls for $11 million for construction at the former Brookhaven High School in Northland; $14 million at the former North High School in Old North Columbus; and $4.8 million at Dominion Middle School in Clintonville.
The work, part of a school reorganization, will begin immediately on the Brookhaven building, followed by North and Dominion. All work should be completed in about a year and a half, district spokesman Scott Varner said.
The board also approved starting work on upgrades to the deteriorating Columbus Alternative High School in Linden, including the addition of two air-conditioned “cooling zones” in the building for use by students and staff on hot days.