COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — With just over a week left in the school year, the new superintendent of Columbus City Schools has her eyes set on safety, scholarship and student success while school’s out for summer.
In her first media appearance since being selected for the top role, Angela Chapman highlighted her — and the district’s — priorities for the coming months. With the district focused on early literacy and teacher recruitment and development, Chapman will also have to deal with community concerns about safety and communication as she eases into her permanent position.
As the district continues its literacy improvement plan — including the distribution of 15,000 literacy kits for at-home use during the summer — Chapman acknowledged that the issue at the “top of mind” for her and other administrators is safety.
“I am as concerned as all of you are about the safety of our students, whether they’re in the community or in our schools,” Chapman said.
Chapman pointed to things the district has already done, including the permanent use of metal detectors in all high schools and an increase in safety and security personnel. As conversations around safety continue, she said it will be important for the district to consult with educators and other district staff about their security concerns.
The Columbus school board named Chapman superintendent last week after a two-month search for Talisa Dixon’s replacement. Chapman was one of three finalists out of 31 applicants.
Parents and community members criticized the district’s search from onset to completion, citing a lack of transparency and excessive spending for a process that produced the existing interim superintendent as the top candidate.
Chapman acknowledged parents’ general concerns about the district’s communication, emphasizing multiple times that the key to better communication starts with leading by example.
“It’s my expectation as the leader of the organization to model that, and then that becomes the standard and the norm across the district,” Chapman said. “It’s more than communication, it is true authentic engagement.”
Student academic achievement is on Chapman’s mind as summer programming is slated to begin in the coming weeks. Supporting student success in the few months off also means focusing on the district’s staffing needs.
The school district will continue to prioritize recruitment over the summer, Chapman said, as well as providing current teachers opportunities for professional development. In partnership with Ohio State University and Columbus State Community College, the district is sending teachers to the second STEAMM Rising Summer Institute, which offers courses to both current teachers and prospective educators.
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.
After working in several districts — including in Cleveland Heights, Nashville and the District of Columbia — Chapman joined Columbus City Schools in 2019. She led the implementation of an $8 million grant to improve the district’s “principal pipeline” and has served on administration during the sudden shift to remote learning during COVID-19.
Chapman’s contract is still being drafted, the board said last week. In the meantime, she’ll continue fulfilling the district’s superintendent duties.