LORAIN — Charter schools are not coming to the Lorain school district.
At a town hall meeting Thursday night, Lorain schools CEO David Hardy was taking questions from members of the audience, one of whom asked if charter schools were in the district’s future if state report card scores did not improve.
“It’s a great question,” Hardy acknowledged, following it up with an emphatic “no.”
Turning “failing” buildings into charter schools during the second year of his tenure is just one of the powers granted to Hardy in House Bill 70, a piece of legislation from the Ohio General Assembly that gives him the powers of a superintendent and most of the powers of a school board.
However, state legislators in both Lorain and Youngstown have expressed concerns that the bill is simply a paved avenue to privatize education, especially in urban centers.
Youngstown is the only other district in Ohio under the purview of House Bill 70 and earlier this year, their CEO, Krish Mohip, was being quoted as saying that there was a “90 percent chance” the Youngstown district would be charter schools if they were not successful in improving.
At the town hall Thursday night, which took place at Longfellow Middle School, Hardy also addressed recent tension between himself and the school board and said he was “hopeful” the relationship could be repaired.
“I think there are fantastic individuals on the school board who care very deeply about their city and I respect them 110 percent for that,” he said. “I think the challenges are more adult issues than kid issues and when things aren’t about kids, I just don’t pay attention.”
Hardy, who was appointed to his position last summer by the district’s state Academic Distress Commission, said he doesn’t plan on attending school board meetings because the board’s responsibilities are “very different” from his.
According to House Bill 70, the school board’s only powers are to put levies and bond issues on the ballot in addition to handling tax abatements.
“My authority is on the operational, managerial and instructional side of things, so their meetings and my meetings are not the same meetings and there’s really no purpose for me to attend,” Hardy told the audience. “I do attend Academic Distress Commission meetings because that’s who I ultimately report to. But the school board, I do not report to.”
School board member Bill Sturgill, who attended the town hall, said he thinks at some point the two sides do need to sit down to have conversations about an impending renewal levy.
“We usually work off of a recommendation from the superintendent,” he said. “We don’t want to operate under the assumption that we need the money, but we probably do. We just don’t know. At some point we do need to come together.”
Sturgill said the board’s problem with the situation doesn’t land on Hardy but with the situation itself.
“This has always been about House Bill 70,” he said.
Hardy said he wants to have students at the center of every conversation that he has.
“There’s no need to have any other conversation because we realize that every day we wake up and we go to sleep thinking about our kids first,” he said. “That conversation is amongst us in the community. We’re just going to talk about what we’re going to do because I refused to talk about anything else. Let’s focus on the right things and move forward.”
At the town hall, Hardy also announced that he will be taking a bit of a pay cut — the average cost of property taxes in Lorain.
“I don’t live here and I’ve been fighting that personally as I feel very committed to living in this city,” he said. “I feel that if I don’t live in the city I should pay my portion of my property taxes. I think it’s important for me to say that I want to be a part of this community. I think we all need to contribute and pay our own property taxes to ensure we are getting our kids what they need.”
Hardy’s town hall meetings occur on the second Thursday of every month,
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