LORAIN — The school district’s CEO is seeking community feedback on his strategic plan to turn around the struggling district. A draft of the plan was released Sunday afternoon.
In the draft, David Hardy outlines five “commitments” to improving the district.
He said the first commitment — to support the child beginning at birth — would require working with various local organizations, including housing agencies and social services, to distribute early childhood resources.
“At Lorain City Schools, we must do a better job of partnership with families and the community to ensure that scholars are receiving health and educational services from the time they are born and that, once they are in school, we continue to provide them with these services both inside and outside of our buildings,” the plan said.
The second commitment, which builds on the first by investing in young students, would aim to improve prekindergarten options and to strengthen literacy and mathematics skills in kindergarten through second grade so students are on track by third grade.
According to the plan, Lorain’s third-grade reading proficiency is at 40 percent, 16 points lower than the state average and 33 percent and 23 percent lower than Amherst and Clearview school districts, respectively.
The third commitment would be to promote equity among the students by increasing access to resources like tutoring and internships as well as technology at home, revisiting districtwide discipline policies and implementing more culturally relevant teaching in the classrooms.
The fourth commitment would be to create buildings where students and adults can succeed. This goal would look at how the district spends its money in order to align it to the most appropriate resources, increase focus on instructional leaderships and include students in meetings about their learning.
“It means incorporating experiences as part of their classes where they can research and think about their school and offer suggestions for improvement,” the plan said. “All of this requires that as adults, we listen to and value the ideas and opinions of our young people. By engaging them in the creation of their own learning environment, we will create more relevant and appealing schools that scholars look forward to attending every day.”
The fifth and final commitment would be to prepare “scholars for the world of tomorrow” by focusing on their math and language arts skills and by offering more diverse classes at the high school to prepare students for college.
“Our high school lacks advanced language courses and honors courses that many colleges look for on applications — and only three percent of recent graduates earned an honors diploma,” the plan said. “We offer few opportunities for scholars to take college-credit bearing courses.”
The strategic plan, which must be submitted to the district’s Academic Distress Commission by Nov. 6, is mandated in state House Bill 70, the piece of legislation that stipulates the state takeover that put Hardy in place.
The district 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.
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.
The CEO is expected to have 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, and after two years in power, the CEO also can take “failing” buildings and turn them into charter schools.
In the draft plan, Hardy painted a bleak picture of where the district is academically — eight in 10 seniors graduate in five years, four of those who graduate continue their education at a two or four-year college and only two of those will complete college. Only 1.1 percent of the district’s juniors receive a remediation-free score on the ACT.
According to the plan, less than half of the district’s kindergartners attended a preschool program and only 40 percent of third-graders are reading at grade level.
“Our system is failing our students,” he said in the plan.
In the draft version of the plan, Hardy said 2,082 people were reached during the
60 days of engagement done since he was appointed through focus groups, one-on-one meetings, town hall events and survey responses. Hardy said in the draft proposal that he heard from students and families who want to have more interactive learning environments and to have more opportunities to engage the district.
Students and district employees also want more social and emotional supports for struggling students and teachers, and principals want more technology resources for students along with an emphasis on prekindergarten learning.
“I’ve learned that we all share a common hope: for all scholars in our schools to know their purpose and for the adults in our community to know their purpose to help them achieve it,” Hardy said in the plan. “The deep commitment to improvement is alive and well in the city of Lorain.”
The draft plan can be viewed in its entirety at lorainschools.org, where there is also a survey for community members to take regarding the plan.
“Just as we relied on the help of the community to develop this plan, we are depending on the community to help us improve it,” the draft said.
Hardy could not be reached for comment Sunday.
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