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Future Columbus Education Czar Preparing for New Role

COLUMBUS (Lu Ann Stoia/Ken Hines) -- As she waits to begin work as the city's new Education Czar, Rhonda Johnson talked with ABC 6/FOX 28 about her hopes for her new job, which was created in response to a scandal within the state's largest school district.

Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman (D) announced the hiring of Johnson for the new position at his state of the city address in mid-February. The mayor began considering the need for an education czar as a scandal came to light that involved the doctoring of grade and attendance data by Columbus City Schools (CCS) officials.

Johnson, 59, will enter into the uncharted territory of her new office with a wealth of experience from which to draw. She taught in the city for 16 years and has held positions of leadership with the Columbus Education Association (CEA) union for a period of two decades, the latter half of which she has served as the organization's president.

Johnson will step down as CEA president before beginning work as the city's education czar. She will serve as a non-voting member of the Columbus Board of Education after assuming her new position, and will represent the city in that organization's meetings and discussions.

Critics have speculated that Johnson will function as Coleman's eyes and ears at board meetings -- a concern the new czar recognized during her discussion with ABC 6/FOX 28.

I am hoping [board members] dont see me as a mole, and I hope we can continue the type of relationship that we have now," Johnson said.

Columbus City Schools Superintendent Dan Good -- who was recently named to that position on a permanent basis -- is among Johnson's supporters, and looks forward to working with her to improve the district.

I have asked the board of education that she and I be permitted to sit together at board meetings so that we could consult with each other, so as to be certain we are in sync, or respectfully agree to maybe have a different perspective, Good said.

Johnson steps into the fold as the complete consequences of the much-publicized data-doctoring scandal have yet to be determined.

I think the taxpayers demand justice for the cheating, Johnson said. It is hurtful to all of us that this happened. So even though teachers werent involved, we are still part of the system, and the scandal hurt us all.

Johnson is expected to begin her new role at Columbus City Hall in June. Her salary is still under negotiation.
 
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