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Community panels to meet with Lorain Schools principal candidates


LORAIN — Lorain Schools will be looking for its building leaders a little bit differently this year as CEO David Hardy moves away from traditional building principals.

Hardy said instead of a principal and assistant principal, next year each school will have two deans — one for school culture and another for academics — as well as a turnaround principal.

“I want the principals to have less of a managerial role,” he said. “For example, we’ve found that they can spend on average two or three hours supervising the cafeterias when that can really be left up to someone like the dean of school culture. I want the principals to be able to shift their focus from day-to-day items to instructional learning.”

The turnaround principal selection process is in full swing as finalist candidates for elementary and middle schools are expected to meet with community panels throughout the day today.

The panels will be made up of six or seven individuals, including union representatives from each building, a teacher, parents, a support staff member, a community member and a student, who will interview the candidates 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Lorain High School. A panel for the Lorain High School turnaround principal position will take place at another date.

“The candidates will arrive in the morning and there will be a brief meet and greet before the panels start,” Hardy said. “The candidates will move from panel to panel and afterwards the panel members will be given a survey, and we’ll be looking at that data.”

Of the 22 turnaround principal candidates for the district’s 15 schools, 11 of the finalists are internal candidates:

  •  Stephanie Alexander-Johnson, principal at Hawthorne Elementary School
  •  Paula Baldwin, assistant principal at Helen Steiner Rice Elementary School
  •  Rae Bastock, principal at Southview Middle School
  •  Supriya Culliton, assistant principal at Stevan Dohanos Elementary School
  •  Nikole Davis, principal of New Beginnings Academy
  •  Marie Deshuk, principal of Washington Elementary School
  •  Brandon Easton, principal of Helen Steiner Rice Elementary School
  •  Bryan Hilko, principal of General Johnnie Wilson Middle School
  •  Robin Hopkins, principal of Lorain High School
  •  Chantelle Lewis, principal of Larkmoor Elementary School
  •  Megan Young, principal of Toni Morrison Elementary School

Hardy said the names of the other candidates would not be released until they had notified their employers, which is not one of the valid exceptions for withholding information under Ohio’s public record laws.

Lewis is the running mate of a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill.

The remaining six current building principals were not selected as finalists, including Jay Keefer of Admiral King Elementary School, Michelle Spotts-Hayes of Garfield Elementary School, Leila Flores of Frank Jacinto Elementary School, Debbie Fustulka of Palm Elementary School, Sean Wolanin of Stevan Dohanos Elementary School and Christine Miller of Longfellow Middle School.

Keefer said he did apply to be a turnaround principal in the district, citing his more than 30 years of experience in education and years as a principal both in Lorain and elsewhere, but he was not selected.

He declined to comment further, and the other five principals were not available for comment.

Of the six principals not selected, only Wolanin’s contract was set to expire at the end of this school year. The other five were slated to expire in 2019 or 2020.

Hardy did not return requests for comment about what would be required of the district to break those contracts and possibly those of the finalists if they are not selected to return to the district.

Of the internal candidates who are finalists, Hilko’s contract is the only one set to expire at the end of this school year.

According to state House Bill 70, the legislation that put Hardy in power after years of academic distress took their toll on Lorain’s state report card scores, the CEO of the district can “limit, suspend, or alter any contract with an administrator that is entered into, modified, renewed, or extended by the district board.”

Hardy said he didn’t receive any resistance from building administration about the changes but instead there was “excitement about opening up the selection to members of the community.”

“I think there’s an appreciation that something different is finally happening,” he said. “This is the final stage, and we want to make sure that we’re getting the absolute right people for the jobs.”

Hardy said he is expecting to have the final decisions made “with a quick turnaround,” with the announcement coming at the end of the month.

School board President Tony Dimacchia filed a public records request with Hardy and Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer Josh Hill regarding the search, seeking:

  •  All copies of evaluations of all non-renewed/released/fired principals being replaced
  •  Any and all communications to principals, central office administrators, selection committee members and all others involved with the firing, non-renewal or release of principals
  •  Any and all procedural criteria used in the selection process
  •  Copies of the turnaround principal job descriptions and minimum requirements
  •  Copies of all the names, resumes and credentials of all the applicants for the turnaround principal positions
  •  A list of all names of the people on the interview and selection committees and their credentials
  •  A completely list of the names of all individuals being considered for a turnaround principal positions
  •  Copies of all contracts for any turnaround principal positions that have been filled

Dimacchia said board members “have been kept in the dark about the new hires, fires and changes in the district” and they “apparently are unfortunately going to have to rely on receiving information pursuant to our state public records law.”

Contact Katie Nix at 440-329-7129 or Follow her on Twitter at @KatieHNix.

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