Archives for March 2013

"The Education Mayor"

“As a community, we should encourage, promote and replicate the best of what works in education. We must support success and replace failure.”

This is just one thing Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman said on Feb. 21, delivering his State of the City address at South HS.

Mayor Coleman does not want to run the school district. He does want to help us connect with community leaders, families and others who care about our kids, so we can work together to improve outcomes for them.

He talked about a number of city initiatives. But the impact of his report centered on education. You can read his speech at http://mayor.columbus.gov/.

Here are some sound bites:

About preschool: “We need the private sector, non-profits, faith-based organizations, along with the state and federal government to help us fund and deliver this essential foundation of a quality education.”

About technology: “Most Columbus schools have only three to five computers per classroom. This is clearly inadequate.”

About excellent schools: “Unfortunately, we don’t have enough good schools in Columbus. When you combine Columbus City Schools and charter schools, only 5 percent of schools earn an ‘A’ rating. That means only 2,800 of 65,000 students go to excellent schools. Meanwhile, five times as many students attend failing schools-both district and charter. This is unacceptable and needs to change.”

Here’s what he covered:

Operational efficiency: “We must use the Columbus City Schools operations review to find more efficient ways to deliver district services.”

Teacher and principal excellence: “We must make it a priority to attract and retain the best teachers and the best principals for our schools.”

Quality Pre-K: “We must make it a community priority for every child to have access to Pre-K education, regardless of income.”

Closing the digital divide: “We must give teachers and students direct, individual access to classroom technology, beginning at the middle-school level.”

Encouraging successful schools: “We must encourage and replicate good CCS schools and, ultimately, replace the ones that consistently fail; and we must embrace and recruit high-quality charter schools and find a way to close the bad ones.”

CEA applauds the mayor for speaking out on these important issues. He is concerned about the future of our city, and much of its success is tied to education. That is why he, along with Council Member Andrew Ginther, formed the Columbus Education Commission. This is a community-wide commission designed to provide feedback and recommendations. CEA President Rhonda Johnson sits on the CEC. Keep reading your Voice for reports from the commission’s meetings.

If it's bad news, tell us now

Would you want your doctor to give you the test results for a rare disease now or have you wait a few months while a cure is being discovered? Of course not. Yet our administration has been meeting since September to discuss cuts to next year’s school budget and won’t give us an answer on teacher staffing.

Should you look for other jobs? CEA says: Do what is best for you and your family.

A recent memo from Supt. Gene Harris outlined the problem: The school board has delayed a request for a tax increase until the fall, and with no additional revenue, cuts of $25 million or more will be necessary to balance the budget.

We are hoping that attrition due to retiring baby boomers will spare us. But this may not be possible. We have heard that the governor’s budget includes education increases, but now we learn that they are minimal. Harris writes, “CCS Treasurer (Penelope) Rucker advises that we have budget reductions in place beginning July 1, 2013.”

We appreciate that administrators and board members have been deliberating carefully. They have gotten feedback from teachers, classified staff and administrators. But it certainly seems that layoffs are imminent. Harris adds, “We are again looking at nearly every aspect of the district, including school and department budgets, curricular and extra-curricular programs, staffing, school schedules, facilities and maintenance, materials, supplies, services, etc…. We have no choice…failure to act now would potentially result in devastating consequences for our staff, our students and the district the following year.”

Administrators are set to decide by May 15. But we say, just give us the bad news now. Should I look for another job? Should I work this summer? Should I buy a house? Will I be able to pay for day care? Do what is in the best interest for yourself and for your family. Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst.

We will keep you informed of developments as they occur.