The district receives its first report card under Talisa Dixon.

Last Thursday, the Ohio Department of Education released the annual report cards for all 608 school districts statewide, and there was good news for Columbus City Schools and new superintendent Talisa Dixon. After receiving an F for the previous school year, the district improved its overall grade to a D, warding off a state takeover.

That threat loomed over Dixon’s hiring following a tumultuous executive search by the Columbus Board of Education, featured in the January edition of Columbus Monthly. The board selected Dixon as the next leader almost exactly one year ago, shortly after the city’s public schools were issued an F for 2017-18, placing the district at risk of a state takeover if it received two more consecutive failing grades.

John Stanford, who was the interim superintendent before Dixon and now serves as deputy superintendent, allocated $2 million last October toward improving the state grade through additional teacher training, hiring more assistants, a weekend reading academy and other strategies. After prolonged contract negotiations, Dixon began working in Columbus part time last January—while maintaining her role as superintendent of the Cleveland Heights-University Heights district—before taking on the top job in Columbus full time in March.

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In an interview last fall, Dixon acknowledged the pressure of the state grade but said she didn’t want the district to focus on it. The law allowing the state to take control of failing schools has been controversial since inception, and in July state lawmakers issued a one-year moratorium on any takeovers while legislators seek a long-term solution. The improved grade for Columbus removes the short-term threat of a state takeover even if new legislation leaves that system intact. No Central Ohio districts received an F for the 2018-19 year.

For more on Dixon and the challenge she faces in leading the state’s largest school public school system, read the full story about her hiring from the January issue.


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