LORAIN — The Lorain Academic Distress Commission met Tuesday for the first time since the district announced an appointed CEO would take over the district by the beginning of next school year.
While discussing the district’s curriculum plan, the commission members expressed frustration about their lame-duck status, saying while progress had been made since the district was placed under academic distress in 2013, it wasn’t enough.
Listen to commission members speak in their own words HERE.
“We’ve been kind of like a triage because when we started almost four years ago, it was like ‘OK, we’ve got this massive thing that we’ve got to deal with that wasn’t made overnight,’” member Henry Patterson said. “The demographic trends, the academic trends weren’t made in three years. It was something that gradually occurred.”
The Lorain school district is subject to the provisions of state House Bill 70, which implements the CEO plan because the district was in academic distress and did not improve. The district CEO will have the power to hire and fire as he or she pleases, as well as dissolve portions of union contracts.
In the second year of his or her tenure, the CEO can also take “failing” buildings and turn them into charter schools.
In the coming months, the distress commission will be disbanded and appointments from state Superintendent Paolo DeMaria, school board President Tim Williams and Mayor Chase Ritenauer will form a new one. That new commission will appoint the CEO.
Commission member Raul Ramos said over the course of the last three years, he’s seen a lot of planning, but it hasn’t really gone anywhere and — with the commission being disbanded — he wonders if they’ll see any results during his tenure.
“We’re going to bring a new executive in from some damn where, and they’re going to say they don’t like our plan and start their own,” he said. “In a couple of months, this whole thing we’re discussing could be shredded.”
Ohio Department of Education Director of Academic Distress Commissions Clairie Huff-Franklin and commission member Frank Whitfield said it might be beneficial for the district to share its data from self-assessed tests, which have been consistent from year to year, as opposed to the state tests, which have changed three times in as many years.
“If we stay on this trajectory that we’re on right now, we’ll be an entirely different district,” Whitfield said. “We’re going to be stronger than the other districts. But if we basically get told, ‘You got an F, you’re grounded, go to your room, get out of here,’ why the hell did we even try?”
Patterson said while the district had come far in the last three years, the failing scores on the state report cards are holding them back.
“We’ve made some changes and then Dr. Graham got here, and we made some more changes and progress has been made,” he said. “The report card completely ignores the reality of life. We could have the best curriculum in the state and put it in Lorain. Would all of our other problems go away? The 92 percent poverty rate isn’t going to change overnight. I’m proud of my students, my district and what’s happening. But I look at the report card, and it’s demoralizing.”
The commission is expected to meet again Jan. 20.
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