COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Parents are skeptical Columbus City Schools has prioritized transparency in the search for a new superintendent.

The district hosted a forum on Thursday for community members to ask questions and learn more about the finalists for superintendent. One parent told NBC4 they feel the district has done a good job of informing parents and this forum helped to build trust. However, a second parent said the forum was surface level and said the district is not handling the search correctly.

“I think that having the right leader is the most important thing,” said Liv Gjestving.

The district is searching for a new superintendent after Dr. Talisa Dixon announced in December she would retire. Now, the district has named three finalists as the last-standing candidates for the district’s highest position:

  • Angela Chapman, interim superintendent of Columbus City Schools
  • Brian McDonald, superintendent of Pasadena Unified School District
  • George “Eric” Thomas, a former administrator at Cincinnati Public Schools and current associate superintendent of Minneapolis Public Schools

Liv Gjestving has two kids in Columbus Schools, and thinks the search has been handled well by the district.

“What I’ve seen is a lot of really proactive outreach as a parent to say these are the candidates give us feedback,” Gjestving said.

Monica Gabreil has three kids in the district, and she feels the opposite.

“I don’t like how it is being handled. I think we deserve truth and transparency,” Gabriel said.

One of the biggest discrepancies among parents is the amount of money spent by the district to conduct this search.

“It’s $250,000, that’s a quarter of $1 million on a search committee and if this is the best they can find, there’s a problem,” Gabriel said.

Gabriel is also concerned about the district withholding information about the candidates, which is supposed to be public record. Gjestving feels the district’s spending is justified if this will bring in a leader capable of taking on this huge job.

“I think that investment if it brings a leader that can actually drive these schools forward is absolutely worth it,” Gjestving said. “It’s the largest district in Ohio. And to really be an incredibly strong leader who can get in there assess the situation and build a skilled team and partnerships to be able to make the changes we need.”

Both parents said they are looking for a leader who will tackle the big issues. For Gjestving, that’s transportation and equity. Gabriel’s top issues involve safety and building quality.

“We deserve a leader, someone who is going to implement action and not just talk about it, someone who is going to be there for the students, someone who is going to handle the issues that are needed across the board,” Gabriel said.