Mayor Coleman Calls for Community to Unite Behind the Cause of Quality Education
Mayor Michael B. Coleman delivers his 14th State of the City Address tonight at South High School, calling for residents to come together united in the struggle for quality education for all Columbus children. Mayor Coleman and City Council President Andrew J. Ginther late last year created the Columbus Education Commission, which is working to identify areas of need and will produce recommendations for change. In tonight’s speech, Coleman will highlight five specific areas of education where he believes change is needed:
• Operations and efficiencies;
• Recruitment and retention of excellent teachers and principals;
• Quality preschool for four-year-olds, regardless of income;
• Closing the digital divide;
• Growing and replicating good district schools, and encouraging and recruiting high-performing charter schools.
Additional announcements included in the mayor’s remarks include:
• Columbus Global Connect, an effort to increase exports in Columbus;
• A partnership with Mount Carmel Health Systems to revitalize West Franklinton
• An targeted effort to increase recycling along High Street and in bars and restaurants.
The text of Mayor Coleman’s State of the City Address is below.
Welcome to the South Side of Columbus.
This is a proud, historic neighborhood in the City of Columbus, one that reminds us of our challenges and our character.
When the South Side Settlement House closed its doors, many believed this neighborhood was without help and without hope.
Already suffering greater health, economic and infrastructure problems than most other areas of the city, it seemed the South Side was facing a permanent and irreversible decline.
To bring this neighborhood back required much more than the city could provide. So we issued a call for new champions, new resources and a new vision.
Our call was answered.
John Edgar and Community Development for All People stepped up along with South Side champions like the Grote, Crane, Kelly, Williams, Yoakum and Weiler families and many others.
Together, we are rebuilding the Southern Gateway neighborhood with millions in new investments, new housing, new services and a renewed sense of community purpose.
And I want to thank Councilmember Hearcel Craig for his support of this effort.
This sense of purpose is contagious.
New champions have emerged to take back this neighborhood. They call themselves Southside Stay: Standing Together to Advance Youth on the Southside. They are an inspiring grassroots organization dedicated to improving the schools, the business climate and the overall quality of life for children and families on the South Side.
Rather than allow this neighborhood to float into oblivion, Southside Stay has decided to control its own destiny. Rather than parents moving to another community once their children reach school age, their message is to stay.
Stay because they believe parental engagement in schools can make a difference. Stay because they are committed to creating a safer neighborhood. Stay right here on the South Side where kids can learn, grow and prosper.
This is a noble effort that can be a model for neighborhoods around our entire community.
Members of Southside Stay are here tonight.
The South Side is on its way back.
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This is my 14th State of the City Address. Last year was our city’s 200th anniversary, and it was a year to remember. History will show that our bicentennial marked not just the end of 200 years, but the beginning of a renaissance. We are no longer a good city that aspires to be great, or even a great city that aspires to be recognized.
We are the best city for jobs in the Midwest.
We are the only city of our size in America that owns a Triple A credit rating from all three credit rating agencies.
And I want to thank Councilmember Priscilla Tyson and Auditor Hugh Dorrian for their leadership on this.
Crime is down in almost every category even as our population grows. Homicides have dropped for a third year in a row. We’ve seen a huge decrease in assaults. Robberies, burglaries and thefts are all down as well.
And I want to thank Councilmember Michelle Mills for her leadership on public safety.
So I am here to report to you that the state of our city is strong and getting stronger. We are vibrant, open and smart. And the rest of the country has taken notice.
As our Congress took us to the brink of a fiscal cliff late last year, our city stood as a national model for solving problems and creating jobs.
A New York Times Magazine cover story said much of the credit for the economic turnaround in the entire State of Ohio belongs to the City of Columbus.
Time Magazine said that leaders in Washington should look to the example of Columbus on how to build diverse coalitions to address big problems with big solutions.
As our unemployment rate dropped, national attention continued to pour in.
Praxis Strategy Group said we’re eighth in the nation for tech jobs.
American City Business Journals ranked Columbus seventh in the country for economic strength.
Forbes named Columbus the best city in the nation for working mothers and the only city in Ohio among the 25 Best Places for Business and Careers.
Fiscal Times named us the No. 4 city with the biggest bang for your buck.
And Columbus was included just last month as the only city in the nation among the Intelligent Community Forum’s top 7 cities. In other words, Columbus is not only the smartest city in the country but also among the seven smartest cities in the world.
Last year I said we needed to get some swagger. This year I say we got it.
But we cannot use our success as an excuse to puff out our chests and lay back. Success can create a hidden trap of arrogance and complacency, which can lead to failure.
To me, a renaissance means no rest. We’ve got more to do. We’ve got more challenges to overcome, more problems to solve.
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Our renaissance begins with our undisputed status as a great city to find a job. Since I’ve been mayor, we’ve created almost 40,000 jobs while securing almost $7 billion in private investment to our city.
And I want to thank Councilmembers Zach Klein and Troy Miller for their support of our efforts.
Since last year Columbus has created almost 3,300 new jobs, generating more than $1 billion in private investment.
We’re extremely proud of our progress. Yet we still need more jobs for our residents.
And many of those jobs can be created by doing business beyond our borders.
Globalization is the next great business opportunity in Columbus.
When we export products made in Columbus to countries around the globe, we create jobs and investment right here. In fact, 4,200 jobs are created for every $1 billion in exports.
Unfortunately, Columbus lags among major American cities in this area. Only 8 percent of our market value comes from exports. But in peer cities like Indianapolis, it’s 17 percent. And even smaller cities like Cleveland, Cincinnati, Akron, Dayton and Toledo are better at exporting their products than Columbus. In fact, this is one area where we’re even worse than Detroit.
Columbus small businesses are not exposed to enough international markets. They do not have the time, expertise and capacity to achieve that exposure.
That’s why I am proud to announce a new initiative called Columbus Global Connect.
Columbus Global Connect will help our small businesses find international markets. And in three years, we will double the number of businesses exporting from Columbus and increase export jobs by 33 percent.
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While Columbus is the undisputed champion of job creation in the State of Ohio, the hardest work we do is the transformation of our neighborhoods. It’s also the work I’m most proud of.
One year ago we began the VAP initiative to demolish 900 of the worst vacant and abandoned properties in Columbus. We started the mow-to-own program, which grants vacant lots to neighboring residents who agree to care for them. We renovated some of the properties that can be saved. And we cast a light on the worst property owners by listing their names in the newspaper.
By the end of this year, we will have demolished almost 300 vacant and abandoned properties—one third of our ultimate goal. And in the past six years, we have renovated more than 300 homes with federal funds and our own neighborhood revitalization money.
I want you to know that in three years, the worst vacant and abandoned properties that are here today will no longer plague our neighborhoods.
And I want to thank City Attorney Rick Pfeiffer for his leadership on this effort.
We are transforming neighborhoods all over this great city.
- Like right here in the Southern Gateway
- The neighborhood around Children’s Hospital
- The King Lincoln District
- The neighborhood around University Hospital East.
- Weinland Park
- Morse Road and Northland Mall
- The four corners in Linden
- The Far West Side
- American Addition
- And East Franklinton
We are transforming East Franklinton into a vibrant new neighborhood of young, creative and talented residents and businesses.
I am proud to announce a new anchor in Franklinton which will take our efforts to a new level, the Columbus Idea Foundry. This is an innovative community workshop that recently was recognized by Popular Science Magazine as one of the largest and best in the nation.
The Columbus Idea Foundry is an incubator of innovation, creativity and ideas to develop products. And it provides access to equipment and technology to produce goods right there in the shop.
Alex Bandar, founder of the Columbus Idea Foundry, is here tonight.
We are excited about progress in all of these neighborhoods, but we must not stop to rest. We must go west.
Mount Carmel West Hospital sits as an island in rough waters. This area is losing population as evidenced by its 27 percent housing vacancy rate. The unemployment rate is 28 percent—more than five times that of the entire Columbus metropolitan region. Almost half of the adult population lacks a high school diploma, and 46 percent of households are below the poverty line.
We must transform this area too. So today I announce a new effort with Mount Carmel Health System.
Mount Carmel has agreed to work with the city and with Franklinton to develop a vision for a stronger, healthier and more sustainable neighborhood. This effort will stabilize the neighborhood and encourage residential and commercial investment.
Our partnership with hospitals is not new. We’ve partnered with Children’s Hospital and with University Hospital East to improve their surrounding neighborhoods. I am confident we will transform this neighborhood too.
Sean McKibben, Matt Habash and Kathy Espy from Mount Carmel Health System are all here tonight.
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Columbus has become one of the greenest cities in the nation.
But this past year may have been our greenest ever.
We announced the Scioto Greenways project, which will create 33 acres of new green space Downtown by removing the Main Street Dam and return the river back to its natural state. And we also removed the Fifth Avenue Dam on the Olentangy.
Both of these efforts will open these rivers to greater recreational activities on the banks and in the water.
Our fleet has been been recognized as the greenest in North America, and we opened our first compressed natural gas fueling station—the largest of its kind in the Midwest—with more to come.
We’re launching our new bike share program, an affordable, 24-hour network of 300 bikes at 30 Downtown stations. Users can borrow a bike, ride for any amount of time and return it with ease.
But what I’m most proud of in this area is bringing curbside recycling to every single-family household in Columbus. We’ve done so with an astounding recycling cart adoption rate of 98 percent.
Our residents diverted over 26,000 tons of recyclables from the landfill in 2012. That’s about 25 percent more than the year before.
And I want to thank Councilmember Eileen Paley for her strong support of this program.
Everyone should recycle, so we are making it even easier.
This spring we will install 130 new recycling containers on High Street from Broad Street to Lane Avenue. And we are also working with Ohio EPA to recycle at restaurants and bars on High Street.
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We are improving our economy by creating jobs.
We are improving our neighborhoods by investing in them.
We are improving the environment by getting green.
But the most important thing we can do is to support our children by guaranteeing them a good education in Columbus.
When our kids graduate from high school, they should be able to do one of four things:
- Get a good job
- Go to college
- Join the military or
- Start a business
Too many of our young people are not prepared to do any of the above. I do not fault them for their lack of skills and preparation when it is our responsibility to get them ready—as parents, as civic leaders, as business leaders.
We need to fight to give our kids the best education they can receive.
For this is a fight for the very soul of our city as educating our kids is nothing less than the next civil rights movement of our time.
Education should not depend upon the color of your skin, the size of your parents’ bank accounts, or the neighborhood in which you live.
Education is a fundamental right for every child in Columbus, and it is up to us to protect that right.
Let me take you around the world for a minute, to Pakistan. Malala Yousafzai, a 15-year-old Pakistani girl, stood up to the Taliban to say that every girl has a right to an education. The Taliban tracked her down in a school van and shot her in the head for merely wanting to be educated.
Malala survived, and she continues to this day to advocate for educating girls—even after the Taliban said they will kill her for her beliefs.
If Malala can risk her life for an education, what are we here in Columbus willing to do to ensure our kids get one too.
Gene Harris has dedicated her life to education. Educated in this district as a child, Gene has spent her entire adult life giving back to our kids, especially these last dozen years as superintendent.
Dr. Harris’ accomplishments are too many to count. Gene led an effort to build new, renovate and modernize 35 Columbus schools after decades of neglect before her. She reduced the size of early elementary school classes and increased graduation rates. She has won more awards than I can count tonight, including just last year when she was named Ohio Superintendent of the year by the Buckeye Association of School Administrators.
Thank you Dr. Harris.
When South High School opened in 1900, it was one of only four high schools in the city of Columbus. Its first graduating class had 10 students.
Over the years its graduates include mega diva Angela Pace. Also
- Mayor Tom Moody
- County Sheriff Earl Smith
- Columbus schools superintendent Joseph Davis
- Major League Baseball player Frank Howard
- Legendary publisher Amos Lynch Sr.
- M/I Homes Founder Irving Schottenstein
Much has changed over the years.
Today more than a quarter of South High School students struggle with disabilities, and more than 91 percent are economically disadvantaged. South High is designated as an at-risk school on academic watch. Less than 56 percent graduate after four years and only 58 percent graduate after five.
So this neighborhood which is fighting so hard to come back from such daunting challenges is home to this high school whose challenges are equally formidable.
It is the kids of this school we fight for and the thousands more kids in Columbus just like them.
In the past decade, Columbus City Schools has seen an increase in students
- with special needs
- living with one parent,
- for whom English is their second language
- and living in poverty.
In fact, 82 percent of Columbus City Schools children are economically disadvantaged.
But our children’s economic status should not predetermine the quality of their education.
Many of our students deal with tough family situations, violence in their neighborhoods and bullying in their schools. But to our students: You can’t let your current circumstance dictate your future success.
And there are great examples of success in the Columbus City Schools.
This district has 12 high schools recognized by U.S. News and World Report’s “America’s Best High Schools.” The district offers 18 different advanced placement courses and international baccalaureate offerings. And it boasts award-winning programs in music, arts, sports, robotics, public service and STEM education as well. Some of its students are among the best in the country and many go on to prosperous and productive careers.
We must build upon these successes.
So tonight, let us set a new goal: for Columbus to become the best city in the nation for every child to receive a quality education.
This goal requires significant changes in how we educate our kids, and it will not be easy. Big cities around the nation, including Columbus, have struggled to make the changes needed for quality education. Financial, demographic, labor, administrative and political challenges have stood in the way of change.
There are more pulls and tugs in education than in the Roman Senate at the time of Caesar.
Change means doing things differently, and that brings both fear and hope. I believe hope is stronger than fear.
And hope will lead us to a new community will, united in purpose and focused in mission, summoning an unprecedented political will to do what may not be comfortable, but what is right for our kids.
As leaders, we cannot allow the wedge of rumor and innuendo to sidetrack us. It makes us small.
Because we will be tackling thorny issues, and there will be smart, decent, passionate people arguing on all sides.
Transition always causes tensions. But let us not allow those tensions to divide us. Instead let us have the courage to unite behind the cause of education. Let us rise above division, because we are better than that.
This challenge led City Council President Andy Ginther and I to bring together extraordinary people from every sector of our community—education, business, labor, nonprofit, the faith community, the school board and City Council to make Columbus the best big city in the nation for educating kids.
And I want to thank Andy for his great leadership and partnership on this effort.
The Columbus Education Commission is already developing a pathway for change. The Commission is executing the most extensive community outreach ever. Thousands of residents have generated good ideas online, through postcards and neighborhood forums.
At the conclusion of this process, the Commission will make recommendations outlining roles for the school district, city government, the private sector and the civic leadership, all of whom need to do more.
Members of the Columbus Education Commission are here tonight.
As the Commission works, we learn more, our focus sharpens and our aspirations take shape. But tonight I’d like to talk about some of my aspirations for education in Columbus.
First: Our school district’s business practices must be efficient and sound.
While the core mission of schools is to educate children, it is also a big business faced with big business issues.
It manages hundreds of buildings. It maintains a fleet of buses transporting thousands of students. It serves thousands of meals. It operates scores of libraries, provides health care and manages complex technology. It’s a $1 billion enterprise with almost 7,000 employees.
So as we undertake an operational review, I ask that we challenge ourselves to think differently and seriously consider whether some of these services can be streamlined, shared or delivered in a smarter way.
Second: We need to recruit the best teachers and principals in America, keep them here and empower them to teach and to lead.
The teacher is the most honorable and most important profession in our society. They are key to everything we do in education. Columbus schools have many good teachers now, and we need many more in the future.
We must make sure that teachers feel supported and have the authority to make decisions to improve their classrooms.
We need to provide our teachers with resources to extend their professional development, with reliable technology in the classroom and with strong incentives for good performance.
And our teachers need the support of a good principal.
The best principals thrive in districts that give them authority over the schools and are held accountable for their decisions. Principals must be empowered and have the freedom to develop a culture of excellence.
And no one is better equipped to recruit great talent than the leaders of our business community. So we will need the private sector’s skills and resources to help us bring and keep the best teachers and principals in Columbus.
Third: Columbus must aspire to provide access to quality preschool for every four-year-old child, regardless of income.
We know that children with a quality pre-K education are much better prepared to succeed in grade school, in high school, in college and in life. We also know that preschool education costs more than many families can afford. The average full-day quality pre-K is as pricey as tuition at an Ohio public college.
We heard President Obama last week set a goal of quality pre-K for every child in the nation. He pledged to work with the states to make this a reality. We welcome and need that support from our federal and state government.
Columbus City Schools now offers preschool for some kids, but the district cannot do it alone. The city can help, but we can’t do it alone either. We need the private sector, nonprofits, faith-based organizations along with the state and federal government to help us fund and deliver this essential foundation of a quality education.
This is an expensive proposition, but it would be the best money we ever spent. I believe we can reach this aspiration—not overnight, but over time.
Fourth: Technology is revolutionizing education. Without access to it, too many of our kids are falling behind. So we must tech up in the classroom.
Computers, tablets, smart phones and the internet are allowing teachers and students to benefit from the best courses from schools throughout the world.
Digital education works best when each teacher and student has direct access to technology throughout the school day.
Despite the great promise of technology, most Columbus schools have only three to five computers per classroom. This is clearly inadequate.
We cannot solve this all at once. But we can phase it in. So let’s start at one grade level and add additional grades as appropriate.
And finally: Every child deserves to go to a good school, and the schools that consistently fail our children must be replaced.
Unfortunately we don’t have enough good schools in Columbus. When you combine Columbus City Schools and charter schools, only five percent of schools earn an A rating. That means only 2,800 of 65,000 students go to excellent schools. Meanwhile, five times as many students attend failing schools—both district and charter. This is unacceptable and needs to change.
As a community, we should encourage, promote, and replicate the best of what works in education. We must support success and replace failure.
Public charter schools are here to stay, and we must view them as part of our overall public education system. A quarter of all our kids are enrolled in these schools. They’re just as likely to be poor or disadvantaged as those in the Columbus City Schools.
I applaud Dr. Harris for proposing the Columbus Innovation Fund, which would provide additional public funding for the best district and charter schools. This is a first step in the right direction.
Not only should we embrace our high-performing charters, we should also recruit the best charter schools from around the country, just like we recruit businesses to expand and locate to Columbus.
We have too many failed charter schools in Columbus. We must find a way to close them.
I believe that as we embrace the good and shed the bad, we will strengthen public education in Columbus.
In order to achieve these goals, we will have to do things differently. We will need a new public-private partnership for education. This partnership should be focused on:
- Attracting and keeping the best teachers and principals;
- Providing access to quality pre-K regardless of income;
- Closing the digital divide;
- And encouraging the growth of both good traditional public and charter schools while closing those that have failed our kids.
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As hard as we are working to change the way we educate our kids, it is all for nothing if parents do not make a commitment too.
Most parents are good people and want to be good parents. Many of them work hard—maybe with more than one job—to feed their families and keep a roof over their heads. Many of them, when they get home, are bone-tired and in need of a good rest. Some parents experience extraordinary challenges: unemployment, poverty, bad relationships and a lack of education for themselves.
Unfortunately, not all parents keep the promise of parenthood to their kids. So my message to parents is: No matter how hard you work, how little money you make or what life throws your way, when your child was born, you signed up to be a parent.
This is the most important role of all, and it carries with it an obligation to raise children to be the best they can be.
I have seen parents in this community facing the most daunting challenges rise above their own situations to ensure the success of their kids.
Parents like Natasha Wilson, a single mother of five.
She was a teenage mother. She was in an abusive relationship that ended with a two-month stay in the hospital. She was homeless for a short time. She was carjacked. She lost her job, was evicted from her apartment and struggled to find affordable housing.
Through it all, Natasha kept her kids focused: homework every day after school, church twice a week, and she required the family to eat together every evening at the dinner table.
Natasha’s perseverance and focus has paid off for her and her children. Today Natasha has a good job supervising 75 service workers at the Hyatt Regency.
And her five kids are thriving.
Michael, Honesty, and Tia are A students in school. Ariana graduated from the Downtown High School with a 3.7 GPA and will attend Franklin University in the fall. And Gabby graduated from the Ohio School for the Deaf, where she is continuing her education. Both hearing impaired and blind in one eye, Gabby was the homecoming queen for the basketball team and is doing great.
I have seen parents like Terrella Stephens, a single mother of two.
She is a high school dropout.
She has no income outside of food stamps and heating assistance.
She has struggled to keep a job because she has so little education.
Terrella and her family were homeless, too.
She has had health problems making it difficult for her to function day to day.
But even with all these very difficult challenges, Terrella has put education first in her children’s lives.
Terrella has said, “Without an education, you have nothing. I can’t always help my kids myself, but I have found a way.”
Yes, Terrella has indeed found a way. She found a way for her daughter, Jerrica, a Brookhaven High School student. Jerrica proudly holds a 4.0 GPA. She is on the drill team and works a part-time job.
Terrella has found a way for her daughter, Elizabeth, who attends South High School. Just last week, Elizabeth made the Super Honor Roll.
Terrella has found a way.
Terrella, Natasha and their families are here tonight.
If Terrella has found a way, if Natasha has found a way, then this community can find a way, too. We have no excuse.
We can find a way for Jerrica and Elizabeth, for Gabby, Ariana, Michael, Honesty and Tia.
We can find a way for every kid in Columbus. But we must first stack hands and become the best city in the nation for every child to receive a quality education.
Thank you. God bless you, and God bless the City of Columbus.