The Columbus City Schools "State of the District" event last night was part showcase, part pep rally.
As Alison Holm reports students and staff showed off some of the schools successes, while the superintendent unveiled some plans for the future.
The two and a half hour extravaganza at East High School featured student performers, program displays and a lavish spread prepared by the students from the Downtown High Schools culinary program. The main stage kicked off with video tributes from students past and present, volunteers, elected officials and other supporters of the district. One tribute came from an unlikely booster - state auditor David Yost. It was Yost's investigation into data rigging at the district that led to criminal charges against district officials, changes in the state report card and the early retirement of then superintendent Gene Harris.
"But I'm here tonight because I really believe that for Columbus City Schools - after some tough years - the tide is finally starting to turn. And I truly believe that the best years for Columbus City Schools are still ahead."
Superintendent Dan Good returned to that idea over and over in his own remarks, saying the district is different than it was two years ago.
"We have transformed our operations, mitigated mistakes of the past, and rebuilt the integrity of our information systems. In the coming months we'll launch on online digital dashboard that will offer insight into our data. Our attendance figures, student testing outcomes, academic achievement benchmarks, financial records and more. No hiding."
The superintendent says the district has reason to be proud. Enrollment is 2-thousand students over projections, and there are now 17-hundred 4-year olds in the districts' pre-K program. Good lauded the success of the Marion-Franklin Opportunity Center, which offers job-readiness training in the former Beery Middle Schools, and announced the district is in the planning stages of a similar facility on the west side. And he announced the district is moving ahead with a long held dream of providing expanded medical services.
"Columbus City Schools over the next month will open the first phases of our Care Connection partnership with Nationwide Children's Hospital. Working with our brilliant licensed school nurses in our Southside schools, new nurse practitioners and behavioral health professionals from Nationwide Children's Hospital will be onsite to provide quality care in a friendly school setting."
Good says the district is continuing to expand efforts to match every student with a mentor, investing in a three person team to recruit mentors and coordinate programs. And he says those efforts are about to get a big boost.
"Columbus City Schools is one of just ten districts nationwide invited by President Obama to pilot a new effort under his 'My Brother's Keeper' initiative aimed at eliminating opportunity gaps. "
Good says details of the program will be released by the White House. While the district is moving ahead with these and other programs, including launching a new mobile app to provide district news and information, there is still no decision about whether voters will see a tax levy on the ballot this fall. Good says that decision will be made this summer by the board.