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Akron Superintendent Could Be Next Head Of Columbus City Schools

Mark Urycki
David James, superintendent of Akron Public Schools.

Akron Public Schools Superintendent David James is a finalist to take over Columbus City Schools, the largest public school district in the state.

At his annual State of the Schools address on Tuesday, he told his Akron audience he is intrigued by the professional challenge that would come with taking over Columbus City Schools. Dan Good, who served as the district's superintendent until the end of 2017, helped guide the schools out of a data-rigging scandal.

After the address, James said he thinks Akron has already tackled some of the tough issues Columbus will face, including right-sizing the district and turning adult education over to other institutions so the district can focus resources on pre-kindergarten to 12th grades.

“I think they’re interested in doing the college and career academies,” James says. “That’s something that could potentially be done. And they haven’t completed their building program and we’re working on our last building.”

James noted that Columbus has not yet made its decision, but said he’d have to seriously consider it if Columbus made an offer.

At the address, James also let loose on the different financial and academic standards applied to traditional public schools and charter schools.

While James spoke, lawyers for the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow were in Columbus, arguing before the Ohio Supreme Court that it should not lose state funding just because most of its students were getting little actual instructional time.

James joked that state auditors spend a lot more time watching over traditional schools.

“You can’t rip off a roll of toilet paper. They’re going to find it,” James said. “How in the world $80- or $90 million just show up missing? And then when the state says, ‘We want our money back because maybe you had 30 percent of the students actually taking classes but you’re getting paid for the other 70 percent’ – again, taxpayer money – that’s just criminal.”

Akron had about 200 students enrolled in ECOT, which recently shut down. James said some of those returning to Akron schools have enrolled in its own on-line program. But he noted that Akron requires even the on-line students to come to schools regularly to meet with advisors and mentors.