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Columbus School Board Rejects Motion To Restart Superintendent Search

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The Columbus City School board on Tuesday night voted down a last-minute motion to restart its search process for a new superintendent.

The Columbus City School Board is facing an inquiry from State Auditor Dave Yost after a series of closed door meetings narrowing the field of candidates for district superintendent. And board member Mary Jo Hudson says some discussions in those so-called executive session may have gone too far.

“For myself, I feel like we did make decisions," Hudson said. "And we moved—we didn’t move fast enough to get them back to the board table to express them to the public.”

State law allows the board to discuss matters like personnel behind closed doors, but all decisions must be made in public. Hudson insists the board has been acting in good faith, and any violations were mistakes, but she made a motion at the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting to scrap the current search and start over.  

“Whereas," she read, "it would be in the best interest of the district to and its students to terminate the current search and begin a new search process for a superintendent... Be it resolved that the Board of Education for Columbus City Schools shall terminate its current search process."

Her motion, had it passed, would have brought in a mediator to make sure the board complies with all open meetings provisions.

But the board rejected Hudson’s motion, with Vice President Michael Cole and board member Shawna Gibbs pleading for more time to consider the measure.

The board has been looking for a new leader since September 2017. After narrowing the field to two finalists, one candidate backed out—leaving interim superintendent John Stanford as the last man standing. 

Officially, the board says it has not violated state sunshine provisions and it is cooperating with Auditor Yost’s investigation. When it comes to whether the superintendent search can continue amidst the investigation, Board President Gary Baker isn't optimistic.

"What I would say is, I believe it's advisable that we allow his investigation to conclude," Baker said after the meeting.

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.