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Board Vote Likely to Keep Commission Recommendations Off Shelf

The Columbus Education Commission, the group appointed by Mayor Michael Coleman, wants more city school district students to have access to internships, art education, and early childhood classes. And now it seems there's a better chance the commission's work won't be shelved. For months, Mayor Coleman and the Columbus school board have been at loggerheads about whether to hire a new superintendent while the mayor's 25 member commission finishes its work. The school board was scheduled to begin interviewing candidates later this week. But the board backed down, and voted 4 to 2 to suspend its search after president Carol Perkins met Mayor Coleman on Tuesday. "We talked about what we needed to do to move forward. And in addition to that, again, focusing on what's in the best interests of our students." Says Perkins. As part of the deal, Perkins and the mayor will co-chair a new search committee for the next superintendent. The school board was not unified in the decision. Board member Mike Wiles voted to continue the search. "You could have had the best candidate possible sitting right there, that's available today and we passed them up because we were afraid that we weren't going to get a good quality group or something. I don't know. It just bewilders me." Says Wiles. The board has spent about $30,000 searching for a permanent superintendent. The decision is a win for the mayor and his education commission. The director of the panel, Eric Fingerhut, says he has new confidence their recommendations be taken seriously. "Any report that we issue must include very specific steps to seek its implementation or it will certainly just be a report that sits on the shlef. We have had such reports in this community before. We are well aware of them. We have read them. And we know they have not been implemented. So, I can assure you that that's been on our mind from the beginning." Says Fingerhut. There is no timetable for the Coleman-Perkins led superintendent search committee. Current superintendent Gene Harris leaves in June. Coleman has pushed for an interim schools chief. Fingerhut says Columbus schools will be fine with an interim superintendent who has support of city hall and the education commission. The school district has a $1.3-billion budget, more than 50,000 students. It's also under investigation by state and federal authorities for alleged manipulation of attendance and test data.