Brandon Simmons must resign. Public trust is impossible with him on the Columbus school board.

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Brandon Simmons has refused to earnestly and, by all indications, truthfully take responsibility for Taking Control of the Task Force Narrative” plan.

  • An investigation found he and he along responsible for the vengeful and racially divisive strategy.
  • If Brandon Simmons is truly remorseful, he would exit left.

The age-old adage says that “the cover-up is worse than the crime.”

In the case of Columbus Board of Education member Brandon Simmons’ “Taking Control of the Task Force Narrative” document scandal, the cover-up and the unethical, if not criminal, misdeeds are equally awful, offensive, bizarre, and proof he must resign.

Simmons has refused to earnestly and, by all indications, truthfully take responsibility for the memo despite the results of the investigation his six board colleagues voted to release Tuesday. Simmons abstained from voting to waive attorney-client privilege. 

The investigation report by James Barnes, the Columbus schools general counsel, found that Simmons and Simmons alone authored the leaked document, a vengeful and racially divisive strategy that what would have discredited and punished Columbus Education Association and other critics of a plan to close school buildings.

Barnes outlined how Simmons has been far from forthcoming.

Brandon Simmons creating a cloud over Columbus schools

While producing zero evidence—ssomething that would be easy if it existed—Simmons has repeatedly told the press, the public, and Barnes that “many people” were involved.

Not only has he failed to disclose who these many people are, according to Barnes’ 12-page investigation report, Simmons has “destroyed (or attempted to destroy) relevant evidence and possibly given other evidence to another individual or individuals to maintain.”

“Board Member Simmons has public records in his possession that are the property of Columbus City School District, and he has refused to produce them despite several requests,” Barnes’ report reads.

Independently and jointly, the Taking Control of the Task Force Narrative document and Simmons’ attempt to deflect blame from himself demonstrate why he is not fit to help lead the district of nearly 46,000 students with an annual budget of just south of a billion dollars.

Board President Christina Vera said that the board released the investigation to help rebuild trust in the district.

That trust will remain elusive with Simmons’ presence on the board. It creates a cloud of confusion that sends an unscrupulous message to students.

For the good of the students whose futures he professed to care so deeply about in an August guest column about the district’s ultimately approved $7.7 million levy, Simmons must exit stage left immediately.

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There are real-world consequences that may go beyond public trust.

The document laced with what Vera reportedly described as “crazy ideas” may derail the district’s plan to close schools — a necessary step for student success and taxpayer return on investment.

Board action not enough

June 4, 2024; Columbus, Ohio, USA; 
Superintendent of Columbus City Schools Dr. Angela Chapman is moved to tears during a prayer circle held by Community faith leaders before Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting.

Columbus school board members—Simmons included—voted to censure Simmons on May 29 for the document leaked to the Columbus Education Association, the union representing the district’s more than 4,500 teachers and other educational professionals, and disseminated by the media.

Vera announced that Simmons was being removed from his two board committee assignments: chair of the Community Engagement & Advocacy Committee and a member of the Equitable & Transparent Resource Management Committee.

The long list of questionable and unethical recommendations targeting CEA, the media and others opposing the closing plan included:

  • Not ignoring the “racial dynamic” between unions. “Laying those cards on the table.”
  • Rewarding “good media outlets” with “priority seating or camera location” and “priority interviews.”
  • Changing the location of meetings with the teacher’s union at the last minute, filling the room with staff and task force members without prior notice and interrupting union members when they try to speak.
  • Not discussing bad or “less than positive” news at certain school board meetings.
  • Driving a wedge between the district’s two unions by holding a hearing on the “disrespect of classified employees by ‘other employees’.”
  • “Stacking the public comment period with classified employees speaking out against mistreatment by teachers.”
  • Using loud mechanical equipment to disrupt opponents’ press conferences held on “our land.”

Simmons is not fit for the job

May 29, 2024; Columbus, Ohio, USA; The Columbus City Schools Board of Education gathers before going into executive session to discuss the leaked document connected to board member Brandon Simmons.

Ironically, CEA endorsed document leaker school board member Sarah Ingles and Simmons, now 23, over incumbent board member Carol Beckerle before last year’s election.

Simmons, a CCS grad, has issued “apology” statements about the document that have fallen short of what is truly needed to rectify the situation: both the evidence implicating the so-called many people and his resignation.

He has said he deeply regrets not standing by his values during the process and that he was sorry that an incomplete version of the document was leaked to the public.

If Brandon Simmons is truly remorseful, he would stand by the values we all want for Columbus school children and announce his resignation and tell the truth.

This piece was written by Dispatch Opinion Editor Amelia Robinson on behalf of the editorial board of The Columbus DispatchEditorials are fact-based assessments of issues of importance to the communities we serve. These are not the opinions of our reporting staff members, who strive for neutrality in their reporting.