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Lorain school superintendent braces for state meeting; is CEO at hand?

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ELYRIA — Lorain Schools Superintendent Jeff Graham will meet with the state superintendent at the end of October to determine the district’s future, but until then both the school board and academic distress commission are frustrated with this year’s state report cards.

At a meeting Wednesday afternoon at Lorain County Community College, the two groups met for the first time to hear a presentation on the scores, where Lorain pulled 13 F’s and three D’s out of 16 categories.

If state Superintendent Paolo DeMaria doesn’t decide to remove the district’s academic distress status and offer it the same safe harbor agreement other districts in the state have due to the recent changing of state tests, Graham could be out of a job.

A CEO would be named as his replacement who would have the ability to hire, fire and throw out any labor contract as he sees fit.

“I’m all kinds of frustrated by this situation,” school board Vice President Tony Dimacchia said. “They keep changing the game, and we’re just supposed to keep up. It isn’t fair. It’s hard for me to accept this evaluation, because I see that we have teachers doing great work and students turning in great work. I know what goes on in the classroom.”

The grade that seemed to bother everyone the most was the F in the value-added category, where students’ test scores are compared with their scores last year as well as all of the other students in the state from this year.

In 2015, Lorain lauded its A score in the value-added measure as proof it was heading in the right direction and away from needing the guidance of the academic distress commission and a potential state takeover.

While DeMaria is the only person in the state who could remove the district from academic distress, state Sen, Gayle Manning, R-North Ridgeville, is working on legislation that would accomplish the same thing.

However, it’s a question as to whether that can be completed before a CEO is appointed.

“I feel like we were set up to fail,” academic distress commission member Raul Ramos said. “I get that other districts are feeling what we’re feeling, but they’re not actually in the same position that we are. We are the only ones that have to face the possibility of a takeover, and unless the state gets us out of this, I’m still going to feel like we were set up.”

Director of school improvement Bill Ohle said 55 percent of the districts who received A’s in value-added scores last year received F’s this year, proving Lorain is not alone in the yo-yoing scores.

“The fact of the matter is, the community looks at our report card, and they see an F,” commission member Henry Patterson said. “We’re at the end of our rope. We were required to have C’s at this point and now we have an F. It’s a lot more difficult to negotiate with the state with that score.”

Graham said the district wasn’t trying to make excuses by comparing itself to other districts that aren’t facing a takeover, but they wanted to see how other schools were handling it.

“We know by any measure our scores were low and unacceptable,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is figure out what the scores from this year’s tests tell us. It’s tough to tell from this year to last year because it’s more rigorous, but we’re trying to paint a picture that we don’t totally understand.”

School board President Tim Williams said time is running out.

“Right now, we have no idea what to tell our teachers on how to make adjustments and that’s challenging,” he said. “What do we do to change this for next year? We don’t have any time to figure that out.”

Contact Katie Nix at 329-7129 or knix@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @KatieNix330.



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