People on strike

Now that Columbus City Schools (CCS) teachers are back in schools, they have a simple request of Superintendent Dr. Talisa Dixon and her allies on the Board: "Please come to my school, a football game, an orchestra concert, and get to know us and what we do for the district."

But from what the Free Press has heard repeatedly over the summer – as the paper has been speaking regularly with a dozen teachers or so – is that Dr. Dixon has been, in many ways, not accessible to teachers and seemingly disinterested in their day-to-day efforts.

True, the virus forced schools to go remote in 2020, but these long-time teachers say there’s a tangible difference between Dr. Dixon and one past Superintendent, in particular.

CCS teachers told the Free Press they like to reflect on how Superintendent Dr. Dan Good treated them. Dr. Good ran the district from 2013 to 2017.

“He came to your school, walked the hallways, and he wanted to know your name and he wouldn’t forget who you were,” said one teacher.

We are quoting all teachers anonymously as they fear retaliation.

“He would come to football games and sit with you in the stands,” said another teacher.

If there’s a takeaway from the most monumental labor victory in recent memory for Columbus, it is what the other recent local victories have proven. It’s not about a higher wage, it’s also about respect for those doing most of the work, those putting in the greatest effort.

And even the teachers the Free Press spoke with can’t make sense of why Dr. Dixon hired a surprising amount of extra administrators, while her 4,000-plus educators said the district was in desperate need of more teachers.

For example, there was one CCS art teacher who did not have her own classroom, instead was given a mobile cart, which she pushed around a grade school to teach scores of kids at a time. 

CCS teachers told us the number of admins under Dr. Good had decreased, as part of his effort to trim the district’s budget by $50 million in one year. Many teachers believe the extra admins hired by Dr. Dixon “were favors to friends” and to “micro-manage” teachers and other personnel who work in the schools even though many of these extra admins also were “MIA”.

The increasing number of admins was “killing teachers’ morale,” said another long-time CCS educator.

Puzzling is how Dr. Dixon is a veteran educator herself. A social studies teacher for Akron Public Schools, but then moving on to administration as an assistant principle. She then came to Columbus where she spent six years as the principle of Brookhaven (since shuttered by the district) and Columbus Alternative High School.

Another Dr. Good accomplishment was setting in motion millions to be spent on repairing and updating schools, such as a $125-million bond-supported infrastructure repair program. 

Yet again, many CCS teachers are bewildered over Dr. Dixon’s leadership. Because besides Dr. Good’s success in securing funding, the district reportedly also has $400 million in federal pandemic funds. But many needed repairs remain undonw.

Since March of this year the office of Columbus Public Health “found issues in 32 CCS schools,” as first reported by Channel 10 (WBNS) news.

CCS admins responded by saying $125 million has been spent on upgrades since 2017 (Dr. Good’s last year) as part of its “Operation Fix It”. CCS also claimed federal stimulus will be used to add 16 HVAC units to schools without them.

CCS football teams are scheduled to take the field later this week, but at Beechcroft HS on the northside, where this City League team has struggled over the previous five or so years to put both players and bandmembers on the field, an upper portion of the aging stands has been yellow-taped off for several years now. The section is in disrepair and too dangerous for fans.

“That part of the stands has been roped off for years, but nothing has been done even though (the football team) has asked and asked for it to be fixed,” said a teacher who would love to see Dr. Dixon attend a football game.