Columbus Education Commission Proposes Changes But No Takeover

The Columbus Education Commission is expected to hash out and vote on Friday recently released proposals that it says should improve the struggling Columbus City Schools.(Photo: File photos)
The Columbus Education Commission is expected to hash out and vote on Friday recently released proposals that it says should improve the struggling Columbus City Schools.(Photo: File photos)

Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman’s Columbus Education Commission has released proposals it said could help improve the struggling Columbus City Schools.

The extensive proposals range from district oversight to increased authority for schools principals.

The commission does not recommend a major shift in governance, neither in the form of mayoral control nor appointed school board, a move it was considering.

Commission director Eric Fingerhut said research was inconclusive, but he said studies have shown successful districts have, “alignment between the schools and the leadership of the city, and civic community and the business community.”

The commission has proposed such an alignment in the form of a panel that will oversee and manage up to $50 million in public and private funds of an “innovation fund” to be spent in the district.

Fingerhut said the public would have access to the panel’s processes.

“We would absolutely expect that it would be fully transparent to the use of all public funds,” he said.

Another key proposal would eliminate the district’s current Internal Auditor office to make way for an independent auditor who, among many responsibilities, would investigate cases of fraud and other abuses. The independent auditor also could advise the school board on levies.

The independent auditor would be selected by Mayor Coleman, the Columbus City Auditor, the Columbus Board of Education President, the Columbus City Council President and a county probate judge. Since this position would be part of a public office it would require a change in state law and approval by  Columbus voters.

The commission proposes hiring an education director in the mayor’s office. The director would sit on the board of education but would not vote. The position would, according to the draft proposal, “assist the mayor” in addressing the school district’s critical issues.

“And therefore we’ll never have a situation in our community, which frankly did exist in recent years, where the school board does not know what the mayor is thinking, where the mayor doesn’t know what’s happening at the school board, and when they are not coordinating their activities together for the benefit of the children,” Fingerhut said.

A new school superintendent was not overlooked by the commission. The next district leader will be expected to boost each of the district’s schools’ report card grade to a “B” or better.

Two weeks ago, the school board postponed its search for a new permanent leader and agreed to work with the mayor to search for the next superintendent.

Finally, the group also wants to give principals more authority and oversight of their schools, especially related to hiring teachers.

The commission is expected to hash out and vote on these and other proposals Friday.

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