ELYRIA — Lorain County’s four philanthropic foundations are pledging a combined $100,000 to Lorain Schools to help the district develop a path forward under CEO David Hardy Jr.
The Community Foundation of Lorain County announced Wednesday the creation of the Lorain Schools-Road to Excellence Fund, a pass-through fund that Lorain Schools will use to craft the state-required turnaround plan. Nord Family Foundation, Stocker Foundation, and the Nordson Corp. Foundation have matched or pledged to match the $25,000 already contributed by the Community Foundation.
District spokeswoman Erin Gadd said the funds will be used to put together the district’s strategic plan with the support of The New Teacher Project. The strategic plan is required under House Bill 70, the legislation now guiding Lorain Schools.
Hardy brought TNTP on board to engage the community in the first 30 days of his contract. After that 30-day period, Hardy will have an additional 90 days to put together a strategic plan to map how the district will improve its academic standing. The Academic District Commission will have to approve Hardy’s plan.
Gadd said Lorain Academic Distress Commission chairman Tony Richardson and Hardy, who was hired one month ago, approached the local funders for support.
“I’m grateful to each foundation for their ongoing support of LCSD and our students,” Hardy said in a statement. “Because there is still a lot of heavy lifting yet to do, I value their collective commitment, making a better path forward for children in a very strategic and aligned way.”
Lorain Schools has a CEO because failing test scores and poor state report card grades caused it to be classified by the state as under academic distress in 2013.
State House Bill 70, passed in 2015, says that if a district is in academic distress and under the supervision of an academic distress commission for four years, the old commission will be disbanded and a new one will be appointed to hire a CEO.
Hardy’s role has all of the power of a superintendent as well as most of the power given to a school board with the exception of the right to put levies or bond issues on the ballot. After two years in power, Hardy can take “failing” buildings and turn them into charter schools.
The foundations’ decision to combine their support in this way is unprecedented. The gifts typically come from one group with a specific purpose.
Community Foundation President and CEO Brian Frederick, speaking on behalf of the foundations, said Hardy and the commission have the potential to transform the district.
“Fixing an educational system is like doing maintenance on a 747 while in flight,” he said. “This is a community problem and one that cannot be solved unless we work together. The focus must be on the needs of all students, not the wants of the adults. What we do know is that we are not currently preparing our youth for successful lives.”
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