The Columbus Dispatch
CCS’ new schools chief unveils top priorities
Chapman aims to improve safety, literacy, attendance at Columbus City Schools
With just six days left in the school year, incoming Columbus City Schools Superintendent Angela Chapman highlighted her top priorities Tuesday, saying she remains committed to improving safety, early literacy and attendance.
Last week, the Columbus City Schools Board of Education voted to select then-interim superintendent Chapman as the district’s next chief executive. The state’s largest district of more than 45,000 students was searching for a new district leader after outgoing Superintendent Talisa Dixon announced in December that she would be retiring at the end of the current academic year.
Here’s takeaways from what she said to the media a week after being selected:
Safety ‘top of mind’ for district administration
Chapman said safety at Columbus City Schools was “top of mind” for her and the administration, and pointed to additional safety measures in the district like the Evolv weapons detectors.
“We certainly want to be mindful of the ways in which we can work with our local community, our elected officials, CPD, to expand those conversations and think about the ways that we can partner together,” Chapman said.
“Early literacy is our board goal, but really, early literacy is a goal for our entire Columbus community.”
Earlier this year, Columbus City Schools spent more than $3 million to lease 20 Evolv Express advanced weapons detection systems to have one in all of its high schools under a four-year agreement. Unlike standard metal detectors, the Evolv system features artificial intelligence and advanced sensor technology that uses magnetization in metal objects, allowing it to distinguish weapon threats such as guns and knives from laptops, cellphones or keys.
Chapman also said she had just spoken with Columbus Education Association President John Coneglio, the union head, about “safety and making sure that the voices of our educators across the district is a part of that conversation.”
Late last month, a Mifflin High School student was charged after stabbing another student and chasing him throughout the building during Friday dismissal. Following the incident, the district unveiled new security measures that included additional screenings of students’ bags before school. The increased security measures will include returning to daily random screenings and layering the use of hand-held metal detector wands with the district’s new detection scanners.
Student literacy a priority for Columbus
Chapman said Tuesday that she
remained committed to developing the district’s early literacy rates. She said community partnerships with United Way and the Columbus Metropolitan Library have been keys to addressing the district’s priorities.
“Early literacy is our board goal, but really, early literacy is a goal for our entire Columbus community,” Chapman said. “And we’re really appreciative of the support of our partners and community members that have joined forces with us and said, ‘How can we help you? We want to be a part of the solution.’”
Chapman has previously said the Board of Education identified several goals that the district should improve on in the wake of the pandemic: early literacy, graduation and attendance.
District addressing chronic absenteeism
Chapman said the district has been aggressively attacking the issue of absenteeism, and said the resources the district has invested in are paying off. Columbus City Schools saw nearly a 10 percentage-point drop in its chronic absenteeism rate from 74.6% to 65%, The Dispatch previously reported.
“We have seen some significant decreases in chronic absenteeism,” Chapman said. “And that is certainly paying off for us in a lot of different ways.”
At an upcoming Board of Education meeting, the district director of attendance will be providing an update on statistics, Chapman said.
Chapman seeks ‘authentic engagement’ with community
Chapman also said she doesn’t want just effective communication with district parents, she wants authentic engagement.
“Our families want to be authentically engaged, right? We can send emails, text messages, social media, but it’s the conversation in this through the dialogue that those relationships are built,” Chapman said.
New expanded ‘summer experience’ initiative
Chapman said the district was unveiling its new “summer experience,” which used to be the summer program. The summer experience will “will rely heavily on ensuring that our students have the necessary foundation that they need in reading and math.”
The district has also partnered with the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, COSI and the Franklin Park Conservatory to create programs that are also fun for the students.
“We certainly want it to be an enriching experience. We want it to be an experience that the students are looking forward to,” Chapman said.
Over 5,000 CCS students have enrolled in the program, and parents can register through the district’s parent portal.