LORAIN — Offers were extended to the top finalists for the Lorain school district’s new turnaround principal positions Thursday, but school district CEO David Hardy said the external candidates’ names aren’t being released because he wants to protect their identities.
At his monthly town hall meeting Thursday night, Hardy said since the candidates are “going out on a limb” in applying for these new positions and the narrative from media coverage offers “mixed reviews” of the district, the candidates were in a “risky” spot.
“I mean, if you read our headlines and read our papers and the mixture of communication, I probably wouldn’t tell my boss either,” he said. “I’d be very cautious. We respect that in a candidate because we want to protect their identity and make sure that as a person they’re cared for first.”
Hardy said he had concerns for the candidates if they ultimately weren’t selected as a principal.
“Then where do they go?” he said. “They’ve been outed by the paper. They’ve been outed by the Lorain community and they’ve been left hung to dry. I didn’t want that to happen to them so more importantly, we wanted to go through the interview process and then do a reference check from there.”
Hardy released the names of the internal finalists for the turnaround principals — a new position that would focus on a school building’s instructional needs rather than day-to-day managerial ones — last week.
Of the 22 finalists, 11 were internal candidates from schools across the district. Only two of the internal candidates were not currently principals in the district.
At the town hall, Hardy said eight of the finalists who were offered a position were internal candidates and five were external.
The Lorain High School turnaround principal will be selected at a later date.
Hardy said once the district has heard back from the top choices regarding their offer letters, the list of turnaround principals will be released, likely within the next week. From there, the principals will begin selecting the two deans that will be in each building — one for academics and another for student and family engagement.
The six current building principals who were not turnaround principal finalists could have applied for these deans positions, Hardy said, or depending on the tenure they have, could go back to teaching in the classroom.
“We want to make sure we’re doing right by our people,” he said.
Hardy said making these administrative changes is exactly what the first year of his tenure in Lorain was supposed to be about.
“This first year was not going to be about instruction,” he said. “I wanted teachers to be able to great things for kids and coming in and changing their curriculum would not have been fair so that was untouched intentionally.”
Hardy said he wanted to get his team right and next year will be very focused on instruction.
At the town hall meeting, Hardy also touched on transparency, producing a large stack of papers indicating it was only one public records request, which he showed because he wants the town hall to be how people communicate with him, rather than through records requests if at all possible.
“It takes not only time to produce this but it takes a lot of time for people to go through it,” he said. “On top of that I have a great lawyer, a very expensive one, that has to go through each and every one of these pages so you can imagine that this public records request is easily $1,000 to $2,000 of taxpayer money.”
The stack of papers, which Hardy said was a records request from the Board of Education, drew comments from the audience, including school board member Yvonne Johnson.
“You’re spending that much money on one request and there might be two or three dozen of those?” she said. “And so you’re going to spend our money that way when (the school board) can look some of that information up on their iPads?”
Johnson said she was concerned because if the school board files 20 or 30 requests, it could cost the district as much as $40,000 or $50,000.
“That could bring us a teacher instead of all of that paper,” she said.
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