LORAIN — None of Lorain Schools’ administrators have a superintendent’s license, according to the Ohio Department of Education’s website.
Former superintendent Jeff Graham was not replaced in a traditional sense. Graham, who left officially in February, was to be replaced by LaKimbre Brown, chief of schools, per previous reporting. Brown was hired in at the same annual salary as Graham, with CEO David Hardy Jr. saying she would be serving in a role similar to a superintendent and would be getting the state licensure as such.
Now, he has refused to answer directly if she, or anyone in the administration, plans to get that license.
The Ohio Department of Education does not show any credentials awarded to Brown, nor does it show any pending applications from her. The same goes for Hardy and Chief Family Officer Arliss Prass.
Chief Equity and Achievement Officer Kenan Bishop is the only member of Hardy’s administration to hold a valid Ohio educator’s license. Per the department’s website, he has a valid five-year professional license to teach elementary school, grades one through eight. His license expires in 2022.
When asked about Brown’s lack of ODE credentials, Hardy’s focus was on having “some of the best educational leaders in the country,” not their licensure.
“My comment is solely on, is it about performance? Yes,” he said. “The performance of our leaders solely depends on the ability of our leaders here to do great work, which they do. And that’s all I focus on.”
Listed in Brown’s application to the district, submitted Nov. 17, 2017, is an array of leadership and teaching positions in other states and countries, including two Fulbright awards — one to Japan in 2004 and another to Brazil in 2006.
She was instructional superintendent for the District of Columbia school district just prior to taking the job in Lorain. It is unclear what licensing she held in Washington, D.C.
Under certifications and licensure submitted to Lorain Schools, she lists holding a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification. The NBPTS certification is a voluntary, advanced teaching credential beyond minimums for state licensure. According to its online directory, Brown earned her certification in 2003, while working at Oakland Schools in California. Her certification expired in 2013 and was not renewed, based on self-reported directory information.
Brown did not return an email requesting comment on both certifications, and Hardy said she was not available for comment in person.
Hardy declined to comment directly on the NBPTS certification, reiterating his focus on “kids wanting to be educated” and the hardworking people in the district.
It is unclear if Lorain Schools is required to have a superintendent under House Bill 70. Per state takeover, Hardy has almost unlimited authority within the district — outside of placing a levy on the ballot, which must be done by the school board.
House Bill 70 does not require the CEO to have a superintendent’s license, just “high-level management experience in the public or private sector.” But it does list that the CEO can delegate duties and powers to the district superintendent and board of education. It goes on to list that if a district is able to transition out of the bill’s purview by earning the appropriate state report card grades, the CEO shall “work closely with the district board and district superintendent to increase their ability to resume control of the district …”
Youngstown Schools, the only other district this far into the state takeover process, interpreted House Bill 70 as needing a superintendent. Its superintendent is Joe Meranto, and he acts as a liaison between the CEO and school board.
That same relationship is not true for Lorain, with Hardy never having gone to a school board meeting, according to board member Bill Sturgill. He said he is annoyed at the whole situation, but isn’t surprised by the lack of credentials within the administration.
“I believe that everybody should be licensed,” he added. “That’s part of the state requirements. I really don’t think they should have been hired without being licensed, but when you get into a situation like this has been, I’m sure that this would have been expected to be licensed. If I were Hardy and I gave them a good-paying job, I would expect them to be licensed and competent in what they’re doing.”
It Takes a Village, a parent and community group, agreed. The group recently joined the pushback against HB 70, and released a statement criticizing the legislation and Lorain’s administration.
“Even with licensing, if they lack experience as district leaders, then how can we have confidence that they can rescue our district? When we questioned Mr. Hardy about the lack of licensing when some (administrators) were hired, at the last Academic Distress Commission meeting, Tony Richardson interjected to say that it was a normal practice in our district. That may be so, but not at such a large scale.”
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