CEA received a call from the news media last year about our academic progress. When we picked up the paper to look at the articles, we were pleasantly surprised. They cited Columbus’ achievements: “By disciplining itself and focusing its efforts, that city’s school district was able to improve its graduation rate from an anemic 59.9 percent in 2002–03 to 77.6 percent in 2009–10.”
The articles quoted board President Carol Perkins as saying, “We came together on goals, and everyone could see that we were not that far apart…Everyone saw the need to do it.”
That paper was not The Columbus Dispatch. It was The Buffalo News in New York.
The Buffalo News praised CEA’s partnership with the school district for helping to raise test scores and graduation rates. “One of the components of the dramatic improvement in the Columbus, Ohio, school district was its partnership with the Panasonic Foundation,” stated editorial columnists, referring to a third-party consultant brought in to help negotiate a solution to the district’s problems.
The Buffalo News quoted CEA President Rhonda Johnson commenting on the difference cooperation with the board and administration made in Columbus: “Before the Panasonic Foundation, we were killing each other.”
Our question is: Why aren’t we receiving these kudos from our own media? At every turn, they have focused on the negative. Even when we begin to make progress, reporters write that the changes are too little. We should be doing more. We spend too much money. Rarely do they look at the big picture or look behind the scenes.
The Buffalo News editorial capped a series about the Buffalo schools’ problems and praised the efforts of the Say Yes to Education Foundation, which is bringing to the district a plan to increase high school and college graduation rates. The series pointed to successes in other districts, including Columbus, and hoped for the same results.
We thank The Buffalo News. It acknowledges that our strategies are working, including “establishing a system of feeder schools (that) helps middle schools and high schools prepare for the students they will be receiving.” And “a system of ‘vision cards’ (that) not only helps the district to set goals, but to measure, monitor and adjust as needed.”
We deserve the credit. The reality is that working together—successfully—is no small feat. It took months of meetings and years of hammering on our mutual shortcomings until we found a way to agree. It’s monumental.
Columbus City is the largest school district in Ohio. We serve students from diverse economic backgrounds and from an array of personal circumstances. Our union is the largest. Yet we and the school board have achieved a unity of purpose rarely seen in districts a quarter of our size.
We commend The Buffalo News for holding us up as the model we truly are. At least someone from among the news media realizes it.