The mayor and his wife choose the Wellington School for their only child.
(Photo:An old photograph of Mayor Andrew J. Gintherfrom his days at Whetsone High School is projected for the crowd at WhetstoneHigh School prior to the State of the City address on February 24, 2016. (Chris Russell/Dispatch Photo)
Columbus Mayor Andy Ginther is sending his 6-year-old daughter to the Wellington School, an elite private academy in Upper Arlington. Though not unprecedented for a Columbus mayor, the decision is awkward for Ginther, a longtime public education advocate and a graduate of Columbus public schools whose first elected office was as a member of the Columbus Board of Education.
"Every family must make decisions on what is best for their children to help them learn and grow," Ginther said in a statement provided to Columbus Monthly on Monday. "While Shannon and I have no doubt that our daughter could receive a high-quality education at a number of public and private schools, we believe Wellington is the best place for her."
No Columbus mayor since Buck Rinehart, who left office in 1991, has sent his children to Columbus public schools while in office. The school-age children of Ginther's two most recent predecessors, Mike Coleman and Greg Lashutka, attended Catholic schools in the Columbus diocese. "My strong feeling is that as mayor you can be a strong advocate for public education and still make different choices for your own children based on a wide variety of reasons," Lashutka says in an email to Columbus Monthly.
Unlike those previous mayors, however, Ginther is more closely associated with the Columbus school district and public education. In fact, he highlighted those personal ties in February, when he chose Whetstone High School, his alma mater, as the site for his first State-of-the-City speech. Raised on the North Side of Columbus, Ginther graduated from Whetstone in 1993 and then served as a member of the Columbus Board of Education from 2001 to 2007, when he left that position to join Columbus City Council. At City Hall, Ginther has continued to focus on public education. In 2012, the then City Council president co-created with Coleman the Columbus Education Commission, a panel of community leaders who explored ways to improve public education in the city following the district's data-scrubbing scandal.
Like other large urban school districts, Columbus City Schools has struggled in recent years, with many schools within the district receiving poor grades from the Ohio Department of Education. But as a resident of Clintonville, Ginther could have sent his daughter to Clinton Elementary School, one of the district's most highly rated schools, which Columbus Monthly rated as the best public elementary school in Central Ohio in a November 2015 cover story. (Through his spokeswoman, Robin Davis, Ginther declined to elaborate on why he and his wife chose Wellington.)
In the fall, Columbus City Schools officials will ask voters to approve an 18-percent hike over the current levy. Ginther supports the increase and praises the leadership of Dan Good, the district's superintendent. But Ginther's decision to send his daughter to a private school might affect his credibility as an advocate on behalf of the district and the levy.
Ginther's daughter will begin classes at Wellington next week. The highly regarded K-12 school on Reed Road is one of the most expensive in the city, costing $20,175 a year in tuition for students in kindergarten through fourth grade, according to the school's website.