'I've given my entire life to this work': Dr. Dixon looking ahead to life after retirement

Dr. Talisa Dixon announced she would retire as the superintendent of CCS at the end of the school year.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — When Columbus City Schools Superintendent Dr. Talisa Dixon announced she would be leaving at the end of the school year, it was unexpected. She had recently signed a new three-year contract with the district.

Dixon had big plans when she returned to Columbus in 2019 after five years leading the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District in northeast Ohio. Before that, she spent nine years as an administrator in CCS schools. She served six years as a principal at both Brookhaven and Columbus Alternative high schools.

“I spent the majority of my career as a principal and I’ve always been passionate about students having unlimited opportunity to show their greatness,” Dixon said.

But in early 2020, Dixon was faced with unprecedented challenges. It began with the passing of her father. Then came the pandemic and remote and hybrid learning for students. There was no time to grieve her loss.

In the fall of 2022, there was the first teachers’ strike in Columbus since the 1970s. This academic year has also seen problems with bus transportation issues that forced the district to completely reconfigure bus routes.

“Those factors are really heavy when you’re trying to make the best decisions on behalf of the students and families that you serve,” Dixon said.

The heavy lift became too much. Dixon says retiring from CCS was her decision and no one forced her out.

“I’ve given my entire life to this work and the last three years have been the most difficult of my entire career,” she told 10TV. “You have to ask yourself; can you continue to lead in this way and not focus on yourself?”

For her, the answer was no.

“There are sacrifices when you are leaders of large urban districts. You sacrifice families and other activities to lead forward,” Dixon said.

The outgoing superintendent says she needs to step away for her own well-being. She says she’s not perfect, but she is proud of the accomplishments made during her tenure and she hopes the community remembers the good things as well as the challenges.

“I’m the only superintendent who had to lead during a pandemic. I returned to Columbus and that first year, schools were shut down. So, it hasn’t been a traditional journey,” Dixon says.

For the first time, Dixon says she doesn’t know what she wants to do next. But she’s excited about the prospects. Until she figures it out, she plans to spend more time with her family and focus on self-care.

You can watch 10TV’s full interview with Dixon below.

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