Meeting Minute Notes from September 26, 2017, Candidate Night

Erica G. Reaves – Welcomes attendees - and introduces Columbus City Schools Board of Education Candidates

Announcement of Daniel Richardson as the new PACE Treasurer

(Please note that all questions were asked from the audience)

Incumbent Board Member Ramona Reyes:                                                                                                                   Board member since 2009. Created Children’s Day Festival to provide access to schools and “good news” about our schools and students. Also helped with Kickin it with Columbus City Schools radio program that was started last year that goes to schools and helps high school students develop broadcasting and have a voice. The third project starts in the next month at the technical school at Fort Hayes. We have a group of student electricians that will work on the “Lighting up the night” which will change light bulbs for people who are elderly and disabled in an effort to help ensure safety. A licensed electrician will help, and the third phase will be to have electricians do free or low cost electrical repair along with technical electrician students. She is also the director of the Our Lady of Guadalupe community center on the West side of Columbus.

As far as gifted support, Ramona supports the principals in their initiatives, but most of the principals have autonomy to do their own thing.

Question on raises for teachers: On budget, we have made sales of any buildings we could, and make sure to use 80% of any budget for personnel.

Question: What about building improvements?

We decide these things as a board.

Question: When will the board make the plans if we can’t depend on the legislators to do it?

We have a plan but we need more help. Seven members is not enough to get legislators to listen.


Incumbent Board Member Michael Cole:                                                                                                                           17 year resident of Columbus. Has 2 children in CCS. I know Columbus as a parent and as a political advocate. Previously worked on levies and politics. Public education is a passion of his. His wife previously worked in communications in CCS. Originally ran for the board after feeling agitated and wanting better for students.

I have stumped on Accountability, curriculum, safety, transparency

Accountability: Hired Machelle Klein to help shore up how we report data to the state and are now a leading model statewide.

Curriculum: We have strengthened gifted and talented education. This has been a passion of mine because my children are on this spectrum. We saw the value and the need to identify and serve our gifted students and have unanimously worked to provide options.

Transparency: We use the secretary of state’s model for fiscal transparency, we also go through a private company and created a dashboard that gives you a day to day look at the statistics gang are available real time.

Safety: Failure is the first step to success. The relationship made the difference at Scioto high school. Safety is the first and foremost in our mind, which is why we invest over $2 million a year in police officers, in addition to our SROs. The training these people get is beyond what you would think they would to keep students safe, physical and relational.

Question Pizzuti tax abatement- what was the benefit?

This has recently been an interest that the school board has been involved in. We asked “what is the benefit to us”. Tax abatements are based on the speculative value of dirt. They offered money and internships for our students for ten years. OSU wanted to buy the old Indianola elementary. We solidified the deal by figuring out the benefit to our students. It is no longer about exchange value – if it is capital money we can only use it so far, so we need to look at what is the value we can add to help our students to be better prepared for their futures.

Public schools are big, and anybody is going to try to pillage us. Our legislature is not listening. No change came from policy, it came from the courts.

Question: Willingness to get a levy to attract the best teachers and fix problems.

Must be thoughtful, strategic, collaborative. The best interests of our children have to come first and foremost.


Abbey Vaile: Columbus teacher for 30 years and graduate of Columbus schools:                                                         I have a pretty good view of schools since the 1960s. We have some schools that are not equipped to handle heat so we need to look at those problems, those infrastructure problems. We are losing a lot of money, a lot of revenue and we have not seen a board really get up and yell about where the money is going. Over 60% of our property taxes are going to our schools and we are giving tax abatements. Our main tax abatement is at Easton and they can afford to pay them. If you couldn’t pay your property taxes that wouldn’t pass. We really have to get on this as a school board and as a city.

In 85 districts around Ohio there has been a push to get some of the millions of dollars back from charter schools. Some districts have gone to ODE and said they want their money back, which is revenue. Money has to go to the benefit of the students first.

I feel we have to expand community outreach. Every school board meeting should be able to be attended by the community. We need to advertise on social media, and people just don’t feel that there is an attachment to our school board. We have to get school board members out to our schools so they can see what is going on. There are 7 board members and we should see them.

Question: 5 year forecast has no raises for teachers. Are you willing to go with a levy to ask for recruitment and infrastructure.

Yes, absolutely. I also believe that there are places where we can look at budgets and say this kind of funding is ridiculous. This is not enough, this is wrong.

Question: Would you be willing to support parents saying that ODE needs to offer services on the gifted end of the spectrum.

Absolutely. Everybody should be able to follow their passion, especially in high school. We have to bring exposure about these programs to other families and be expanded.


Amy Harkins: Former secretary and Vice President of PACE:                                                                                          Son previously attended CCS in the Eclipse program and it was life changing for him. Unfortunately we failed in the lottery process for high school and we had to make a tough choice and he ended up going through NUMATS to a boarding school. I feel our children need to have the opportunity to get the education they deserve in every neighborhood, for every child.

Question: How will you work with the city to get money for schools that the city receives?

Schools are an investment in our community. I believe we have to work together with the city council and have proactive communication.

Question: How do you open up communication?

Getting community buy in and getting people to rally around to help hold people accountable.

Question: 5 year forecast has no raises for teachers. Are you willing to go with a levy to ask for recruitment and infrastructure.

I think teacher recruitment and retention is a huge issue for education. I would support a levy that would support paying teachers more. I think we would need to make sure we have a lot of input from the community to make sure it is worded correctly and get support.

Question: What is your position on lottery schools?

I think it would be good to find what is working about the lottery schools and try to duplicate those in other locations.

Erin Upchurch: Social worker, college teacher, community organizer, advocacy with different learners: Two students in CCS. Winterset was a great experience for my daughter and changed her life. My son had very different experiences, not all great and not all bad.

Teacher pay should reflect the ability of a teacher to change a student’s life. I know we have to invest in our city, and I don’t think that the only answer is a levy. We would have to look at investments and have hard conversations about funding.

Mold and air conditioning issues are important. The safety of our students need to be our priority.

Question Do you support keeping CGA at its current size?: I support manageable class sizes. I think CGA is a great school. I think students should have options.

Question: I have friends who are against gifted education taking resources and they think you three are the people who will deliver on removing some of the services. Why would they think that?

I don’t know, I have never addressed that.

Question: How would you address class sizes?

One of the great things about CCS is that we are so large that we are able to try different things in different places. I think when we talk about equity and equality that class sizes are part of the conversation.

We are challenged in a lot of ways, and there are a lot of really great things. I was able to choose where I lived. How do we get the message out about good things and get more public engagement? People telling their stories, the good, the bad, and everything in the middle.

The narrative of Columbus needs to include schools.

Ramona Reyes (was welcomed to answer as well): We are working on the facility master plan. It is a monster, the way you make a decision is done through what can we afford, what can people tolerate. Before we went to the levy the overwhelming impression was that people would support up to a point, based on the budget we had.