LORAIN — Following a series of incidents near the school, Lorain Schools CEO David Hardy said he felt it was necessary to have a new dialogue with the community Monday evening.
Hardy invited parents, teachers, elected officials, community members as well as city and county leaders to the Lorain High School auditorium. There, the audience could listen and voice their ideas for solutions to the problems involving the school. Last week, the school had a false alarm Level III lockdown Sept. 25 and had a Level II lockdown the next day after shots were fired near the school involving a boy running from three people in a small black car at about the time school ended. On Thursday, the school faced a possible Snapchat threat that was vague and did not mention a particular school, just that the person planned to disrupt class that day.
Hardy also addressed a string of fights in the school earlier in September. He said the number of suspensions is actually down from previous years.
Hardy first addressed the audience of several dozen about the ways the district plans to change and improve students’ experiences and safety. There are multiple measures the district is taking, he said, like regularly testing the safety plans and keeping communications open with the city’s law enforcement and city leaders. Hardy mentioned a meeting he had with Lorain Police Chief Cel Rivera last week, who he also invited to the forum.
Hardy said the district’s safety and success are a shared responsibility between the community and the school. Another aspect of making safety the main priority is focusing on connecting with students.
“We need to spend more time understanding our kids,” he said. “There is no denying that the conversations that we have with adults are important, there’s no denying that understanding the relationships that adults need to have with their kids and learning how to do that is important, but our kids have so many answers to so many of our problems.”
The reason that they haven’t been able to help with these solutions, he said, is that they never had the chance to speak up or have adults listen to their ideas. On that note of keeping an open mind, Hardy spent the rest of the evening opening the floor to the audience to speak their minds, asking what solutions they could give to improving the school’s safety and success.
The audience spoke to him about having parents and teachers having more of a connection to the students when they have problems. The community also became the subject of the forum discussion, which some people agreed with Hardy needed to make an effort to support the district.
The crowd also raised the issue of negative media coverage and the solution of finding a way to highlight the good the district accomplished. Lorain County El Centro De Servicios Sociales Executive Director Victor Leandry brought up the need for services for families of bilingual and Spanish-speaking students. He also spoke about the idea of trying to sit down with local news outlets to have better control of the positive narrative of the school in the media. Other parents and community leaders criticized the local media coverage of Hardy and the administration, which Hardy later addressed.
Although he has spoken to reporters every week, he has felt more reluctant to speak openly to them, for the fear of how they will show up in the news the next day.
“I want to make sure the community understands it is never my intent, of all things, not to put in the newspapers all the wonderful things our kids do every single day,” he said. “However, they take sound bites, they get to choose, and they get to select the sound bite that they want to put as the headline. They get to take all the messages that are put out through the 20 to 30 minutes that we speak every single day and put what they think are going to get people to click on an article to sell it.”
Abby Romero, a Lorain resident, Lorain High School graduate and a mother of three students in the district, spoke to Hardy and the crowd that she wasn’t on the side of the media, the new administration or the old school board. The only thing that mattered to her was her children. To her, she said, the greatest tool is the organization of the parents of the students who have the ability to fix the problems at the school.
“When (students) are getting in trouble, the school’s calling us, when they’re not doing their work, the school’s calling us, so ultimately the parents, as a community, we are the ones that indicate the control and the power of what decisions are going to happen in our schools and what we want to see happen.”
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