View a previous report on the superintendent finalists in the video player above.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Columbus City Schools hosted a forum on Thursday night for community members to ask questions and learn more about the district’s finalists for superintendent.

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

The following three candidates answered questions by a district representative during the one hour and thirty minute forum on Thursday, as well as questions submitted by community members.

“For us it’s important that community feels like they are heard, and that they have a seat at the table,” said School Board Vice President Christina Vera.

Thomas emphasized strong leadership as an important aspect of the role, and discussed his views on utilizing data to inform decisions. He cited a population increase in Columbus, but a decrease in CCS enrollment.

“The data says that whatever we’re doing to attempt to create joy, care and value in the district, there’s many people in the community it doesn’t resonate with,” said Thomas.

McDonald was asked about reaching out to students who were struggling and his plan to combat violence.

“When you have students that are able to work with their peers to resolve issues, I think that’s far more powerful than any adult getting in the middle of that,” said McDonald.

Chapman discussed student attendance and how she has helped the district change to a more proactive and positive approach. She also addressed how to make up for lost time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Instructional time is always the x-factor. We have to do everything we can to make up for the lost time and prioritize instructional time,” said Chapman.

Who are the finalists?

Chapman was named interim superintendent the day after Dixon announced her retirement from the role. Then the district’s Chief of Transformation and Leadership, she assumed the position Jan. 1, a few months after Dixon signed an additional three-year superintendent contract.

Chapman’s background in education and administration spans decades, positions, school districts and countries. And she’s been with Columbus City Schools through some of the turbulence the district faced in recent history. Learn more about Chapman here.

Thomas is a frontrunner for Columbus’ superintendent position with nearly 30 years of experience in education. He spent nearly two decades at Cincinnati Public Schools, during which he developed a program for at-risk male students and launched a “district of choice” enrollment model. Afterward, he became chief support officer at the University of Virginia and oversaw a school improvement leadership program.

However, he left his administrative position with the Georgia Department of Education amid allegations of workplace discrimination, violating vendor contract policies and office mismanagement. Learn more about Thomas here.

McDonald has held various administrative positions at Pasadena Unified School District, in a city a ninth the size of Columbus and 10 miles northeast of Los Angeles. The former elementary and middle school principal in the Houston Independent School District has worked his way up the administrative ladder at Pasadena Schools since 2011, becoming superintendent in 2014 and setting his sights on improving academic achievement across the district’s minority populations. Learn more about McDonald here.

NAACP issues vote of ‘no confidence’

The forum came as the Columbus NAACP issued a notice of no confidence against the CCS Board of Education on Thursday, claiming a lack of transparency in the search for a new superintendent.

“Based upon the process conducted by the CCS Board of Education in the search for our Superintendent of Schools, a trusted leader who can provide leadership, guidance and direction for our 46,000 student body, the NAACP issues a vote of no confidence,” said President Nana Watson in a release.

Watson citied a lack of responsiveness to the NAACP’s inquiries, and a lack of transparency, integrity and honesty relating to the search and comprehensive vetting of the candidates. In addition, the NAACP criticized the “irresponsible utilization” of $250,000 allocated to the law, search and communications firms involved in the process.

The next step is a full day of final interviews with the candidates on Monday. Board Vice President Christina Vera said the decision could come as early as the end of that week, but there is no firm timeline.

The forum can be viewed in it’s entirety on the Columbus City Schools Facebook page.