Ahead of Columbus City Schools’ “Day in the District,” NBC4 is profiling the three finalists for superintendent on May 8-10, 2023.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – You wouldn’t be able to tell Angela Chapman is a finalist for Columbus City Schools superintendent by looking at her social media presence.

Online, it’s business as usual: Last Monday, the day she was announced as a semifinalist, she was at a district bus compound for School Bus Driver Appreciation Day. On Tuesday, elementary students met her with a handmade banner that read, “Welcome CCS Interim Superintendent Angela Chapman” (in all caps).

By Friday, Chapman was named one of three finalists – out of 31 applicants – for the district’s top administrative role, the role she currently holds. She spent the morning at Duxberry Parks Art Impact Elementary on the northeast side, where she watched literacy lessons and high-fived students.

“Mum” has been the word on Chapman’s interest in permanently taking over as superintendent. But she’s flexed her administrative muscle all over the district.

Chapman was named interim superintendent the day after Talisa 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.

Education and career

Chapman holds three degrees, including two graduate degrees she pursued while working at various school districts.

She graduated from the University of Akron in 1997 with a bachelor’s in elementary education. Her first post-graduate job was as an elementary teacher in Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District.

During her five-year career as a teacher, she worked toward her master’s in curriculum and instruction at Ashland University. She also spent three weeks in Japan as a Fulbright Memorial Fund Teacher Fellow, studying the country’s education system to apply what she learned to her home school district.

After receiving her master’s in 2002, Chapman had a brief stint as assistant principal of Euclid City Schools; seven months later, she returned to Cleveland Heights to become principal of Boulevard Elementary School. While principal, Chapman again pursued an international program for educators, this time participating in the Hungarian Educational Exchange Program in 2004.

Ahead of the 2005-06 school year, Chapman left Boulevard Elementary – and Ohio altogether – to be an elementary school principal in Metro Nashville Public Schools. She was there for eight years, during which time she earned her doctorate in curriculum and instruction from Tennessee State University and received the Emerging Leader Award from the Association for Supervision, Curriculum and Development.

Chapman’s dissertation was on the effects of pre-K enrollment on kindergarten reading readiness in Nashville schools. She found that students who attended pre-K programs scored higher on multiple measures of reading readiness and skills throughout the year. 

Armed with a doctorate degree and 10 years of principal experience under her belt, Chapman returned to Ohio in 2013 to serve one year as director of curriculum at Massillon City Schools.

Chapman then moved to the nation’s capital, serving first as instructional superintendent and then as the chief of elementary for District of Columbia Public Schools. There, according to her profile on Columbus City Schools’ website, she led the Early Childhood Education Division and focused on increasing college and career readiness resources.

Chapman in Columbus

Chapman will be the only familiar face before district families on Thursday, as the three finalists participate in a moderated, question-and-answer town hall.

The interim superintendent joined the district in 2019 as the Chief of Transformation and Leadership, focusing on improving the district, prioritizing leadership development and overseeing the administration of grant funds. Shortly after arriving, she led the district through its change to a regional model, dissecting the district into six regions with assigned superintendents.

With an $8 million grant from the Wallace Foundation in 2021, Chapman, partnered with local groups, Ohio State and Ashland universities, and the Ohio Department of Education to develop a “principal pipeline” focused on district-specific equity. Columbus was one of eight school districts – all identified as having at least five “high-needs” high schools, more than 48,000 students and “strong support for the effort,” according to the Wallace Foundation.

And since coming to Ohio’s largest school district, Chapman has weathered the sudden closures and scramble to implement remote learning during the spread of COVID-19. She’s also been an administrator during the district’s first strike in nearly 50 years, one borne out of concerns for building conditions, teacher salaries and workloads.