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WATCH: Dr. Dixon's Superintendent's Report

Dr. Talisa Dixon provided her regular Superintendent's Report at the Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, October 20, addressing the District's recently announced updated Second Quarter Learning Model. You can watch her presentation above and view the slides below. A full transcript of her remarks follows the slides.

Tonight I would like to discuss my decision to stay the course with remote learning. I have my Executive Team and our Columbus health commissioner joining me tonight to answer any questions after my report’s conclusion. By now, all of you have received my message to the community outlining the decision and the next steps to bring our students back to blended to learning at a later date. Now I would like to talk a little bit more about why.

First, this decision to stay the course was not made overnight. There was a lot of thought, data reviewed, speaking to staff and stakeholders, but there was one non-negotiable set for all of these discussions;  we must keep our students the priority. We are the largest Pre K-12 school district in Ohio. With that, we are responsible for educating almost 50,000 students, transporting an additional 13,000 students from charter and non-public schools, and a staff of nearly 10,000 adults. That’s 72,000 people that we are responsible for in some way during a global pandemic. That’s a huge responsibility that we’ve been tasked with.

We have had this responsibility before, but we did not have a global health crisis to manage. This layer adds complexities that are not within our control.

I hear you. I know you are frustrated. There have been many changes. I hear you. I’ve read your emails good and bad. We’ve received your messages from customer service, good and bad. Your voices have not fallen on deaf ears.

There are many complexities. We have stated that over and over again. Have we not communicated to the best of our abilities in many cases? We have not. There are many complexities. There are things that are changing as we speak. Please, as I have asked before, be patient. There is no excuse. I’m not here to say there are excuses. I just want you to know I hear you.

As I stated earlier, educating our students will continue to be our priority. That will not change.  However, the way we educate our students has, and while we’re in this global crisis, it will continue to change. It is not the way we want to educate our students, as I stated before. We want to be flexible. We know some of our students can come to our buildings while some students remain at home. We want to be able to be flexible.

Unfortunately, and in our reality, we can not bring all of our students in our buildings and teach them face to face as we have normally done. Our reality now is how do we continue to do this, educate our students for the next ten weeks? In the next ten weeks, what does that look like? How can we be more creative, more innovative, provide more resources for our students and families for the next ten weeks?

I believe there is something that we can do, and that is bringing our students back in smaller cohorts. Students need us. All of our students need us. Some of our students need us more than others. We talk about equity giving our students what they need. We can provide some of that in smaller cohorts. We can enhance our student supports. Those supports that we are providing our students and families.

And finally, each of us plays a critical role in making sure our students get what they need. It’s the equity agenda that we are currently designing. How do we ensure the barriers to student success are removed? These health disparities, policy reform, mental health issues, and reforms to standardized testing? It will take all of us working together to remove those barriers, and we can do that safely.

To our community, again, I hear you. I am here to lead this district in an unprecedented time. I’m the leader, and I take full responsibility. You are entrusting your student in our care, and know we are doing the very best to make sure that we are planning to keep our students safe, and we have plans to keep our staff safe.

We have to have our teachers. Our student and teacher relationships are what makes our students thrive. It is those relationships that help create and make those students the leaders they are today. Our teachers challenge our students, they care for our students. I know our teachers want to be in the presence of their students and so do our students want to be in the presence of their teachers, but I recognize that we have to do that safely.

And yes, to those who say we keep changing the course. There have been some changes. I agree, but do we want to consistently change and consistently upset our parents and stakeholders? No. 

We want to provide the best educational opportunity for the students and families we serve. That is a non-negotiable. We are working with various partners to ensure our teachers and other support staff have the right environment to come to work in a  safe environment with PPE and training; we have to provide the resources for a district our size. We are not like our other suburban districts. We are different. We are larger. We have more complexities. We have more challenges. We are not going to shy away from those challenges. 

Understand this is not a perfect time for a perfect solution, but now we are working passionately with a lot of energy to get this right during this time. We are not going to compromise the health of a child, the health of our family members, and our staff. We are getting expert advice. We are looking at federal, state, and local guidelines. We are doing our research. 

We are being very thoughtful about providing a safe environment for our students. Our students need us. But I also need you. And in these unprecedented times, we have to think outside the box. We have to use these opportunities to be more creative, more innovative, and provide more resources. And we have teachers and administrators who are doing that, and to those, I applaud you. 

This virus has no manual. We could all rest on our laurels and say we are going to continue with remote and not bring any students in, but that is not the best for our students. You will hear me speak about increasing the capacity to provide a better food service model for our students. I hear you families. You have taken pictures, sent me emails. I hear you. We are addressing that.

Thank you to our community partners, running our learning extension centers (LECs). I hear you. You wanted our community partners to be involved. During this time we have had so many community members who have come together who have said we are going to wrap ourselves around you, Columbus City Schools. They are going to provide the resources we need for our families. This is happening in an unprecedented way.

Thank you to the City of Columbus and City Council. They have provided 20,000 computers. They provided those to our students, so we can remove yet another barrier. Thank you to those partners who provided access to those hot spots. Again, we removed another barrier. There are more barriers to remove. Our board is going to fight for legislation and policy reform. We are challenged with bringing more mental health services not only for our students but for our staff. We want our staff to have people to talk to. We know it is critical that we come together as a student community but a community of adults to provide resources for all of us.

During this crisis, I think there are also opportunities and privileges. That one privilege I have is to set the best course for our students. It is a crisis,  but it’s a moment to do something unprecedented and do it right. We are improving and are continuing to improve. We are going to challenge ourselves and make sure our students with the greatest need come to us as safely as possible during this pandemic.

That is what we can offer to our families. We will continue to communicate more to our families and provide more feedback during this global pandemic. When we can’t be in person as we want, we can figure out how to do that and do it better. We are committed to doing that.