“I would urge you to be bold. … You have a moment. Take it, take it — seize it,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told Mayor Michael Coleman and an audience that included members of the Columbus school board and Columbus Education Commission.
During an appearance at Fort Hayes Arts and Academic High School, Duncan said the community should face head-on the challenges facing Columbus City Schools.
“For all the distress, for all the angst, for all the challenges, you could do something that could be not just great for the children here, you could do something that’s a model for the country. Think big,” Duncan said.
“There’s a huge sense of urgency. If it doesn’t happen now, I don’t know when it happens for this city and these these kids.”
Duncan discussed urban education in a 45-minute conversation with the mayor and KidsOhio.org President and CEO Mark Real. Here are other highlights of the visit:
What the mayor wants
Coleman laid out the five principles that he wants to see in a recommendations coming from the Columbus Education Commission:
- The entire community should provide a sustained effort to improve education. “It’s not just the school board’s responsibility. It’s everyone’s responsibility,” he said.
- All the school, civic, government and family efforts will need to be aligned to get the best results.
- Innovation must be a focus. “We need a driver of education in this city, to drive innovation for our kids,” he said.
- The school district needs checks and balances like other types of government.
- Education policies must be student-centered, not jurisdiction-centered. The question, Coleman said, should not be about district vs. charter schools.
Coleman reiterated that he does not intend to take over the school district. Instead, Coleman said, his role is to focus the entire community on the kids.
“This whole discussion about mayoral control is divisive rather than uniting, and I think it’s distracting instead of getting to the real issues,” Coleman said.
In response to a question from the neighborhood group Southside STAY about the mayor’s role, Duncan said that control is a red herring but involvement is vital.
“If a mayor’s not putting the full weight of his office and all the city agencies behind this, I honestly don’t think urban school systems can do this by themselves,” Duncan said. But he said involvement doesn’t have to mean control, adding that all elements of the community have to help improve urban education.
“No one gets a pass. Everybody has to step up and play a bigger role.”
‘Hungry for change’
School board President Carol Perkins, who is also a member of the education commission, opened the evening by talking about the community’s willingness to help the district face its challenges.
“Our community is hungry for change and stakeholders through the community are well-positioned to make sure it happens,” she said. “I am confident that through hard work and collaboration, we will be able to transform our educational system and make Columbus a leading example.”
“The bottom line to all of this is this: Our children deserve better than what has been given, and it is our jobs to make sure that we do.”
Watch the video
The entire conversation can be seen here.
On Friday, the commission will finalize recommendations on six areas and lay out a plan for implementing these changes.
The first four recommendations were reviewed by the commission on April 10. We’ll post the revisions when they are complete, but here are the initial drafts:
- Students with a purpose
- State-of-the-art teaching tools, materials and data
- Every Columbus child is kindergarten ready
- Community ownership/engagement serving the whole child
For a recap of the changes coming to these recommendations, check out our overview of the April 10 meeting. The other topics to be addressed Friday are:
- Effective teachers and principals
- High-performing neighborhood schools and more school choices
- Implementation of all recommendations
For details of those proposals and other news, stay tuned here and to our Twitter feed,@ReimagineCbusEd.