The Columbus City School Board has hired a search firm to help find candidates to replace retiring Superintendent Dr. Gene Harris. This is a fairly typical practice that can be witnessed all over Ohio, especially in Central Ohio, as school superintendents in the area are retiring en masse. In Columbus, however, the Columbus Education Commission‘s director plans on stopping the Board’s process and has his own plans for the School district.
Director Eric Fingerhut is less than pleased that the Board of Education is proceeding with the hiring process and ignoring the work of the Commission that he believes will be managing the schools in the near future, and he wants to meet with the Board’s consultants to put the brakes on hiring and instead appoint an interim superintendent for the next year until the Commission is able to get legislation for the Ohio General Assembly that will put the Mayor, City Council and, most likely, the Columbus Education Commission with Fingerhut at the helm in charge of managing the Columbus City School District.
Fingerhut initially requested that he and the Commission’s co-chairs be given an audience with the School Board’s consultants. School Board President and Commission member Carol Perkins declined the request and intended to invite the full commission to meet with the consulting firm, but in the role of interested community members providing feedback, not in any official capacity. Perkins reminded Fingerhut that the Board is still in charge of the school district and is moving full speed ahead in the search for a new superintendent.
When Perkins sought to bring this up for discussion last Friday, intending to invite the Commission to meet, Fingerhut instead shut her down, refusing to allow her to speak at the meeting. Upon being reminded that the Board is still in charge, Fingerhut’s response was along the lines of “not for long…”
This power struggle between Fingerhut and the current school board is likely to continue, though the writing may be on the wall for the dismantling of the school board. Fingerhut and others on the commission wield tremendous political power and we would not be surprised to see Fingerhut end up as the interim, if not the permanent, superintendent for the Columbus City Schools before the year is out.
The commission is heating up now, and while the Governor’s budget bill will stay in the headlines, expect major changes in education legislation to fly under the radar that will significantly impact the structure of the Columbus City School District.