LORAIN — Lorain Schools CEO David Hardy was escorted out of Thursday’s Town Hall by district security after receiving pointed questions from community members.
Hardy’s initial presentation to a packed cafeteria at Longfellow Middle School focused on a need to boost district ACT scores, create curriculum that prepares students for college and strategize educating Generation Z.
Lorain parents, teachers and local officials questioned him for at least a half-hour after the session’s scheduled end. Answering roughly three written-out questions from a stack of note cards collected during the meeting, some attendees attempted to talk to the CEO further after the meeting was dismissed, causing school safety officers to walk him away from the crowd and out of the building.
School board president Tony Dimacchia criticized the meeting, saying Hardy “intentionally controls the room” so people cannot ask the “tough questions.”
“He used the majority of the time to minimize the community’s opportunity to ask those questions and that is not effective engagement,” Dimacchia said. “Listening to him talk for an hour and 15 minutes is not engagement. … I’m not surprised but I am disappointed for all of the people that came tonight to get answers.”
Hardy did not return requests for comment on the meeting’s outcome. He also did not publicly address the possibility of closing buildings within the district as early as next year, which was announced in a newsletter Sunday evening.
One point of focus was on a statement made regarding teacher attendance within the district in Sunday’s “Titan Touchpoints.” Hardy had claimed teachers missed an average of 18.1 days in the 2017-18 school year, not including FMLA or professional development. According to information from the district, cited first by Lorain Education Association President Jay Pickering at Monday night’s school board meeting, that is not true.
Sumer Harvey, a parent and member of It Takes a Village district community group, questioned Hardy on the apparent fallacy. He did not respond to her question.
She also had asked about his characterization of teachers in public statements, specifically concerning comments about low response rates on a teacher survey sent out in November. Amy Valdez, speech language pathologist for the district, noted the surveys were not anonymous, as they asked identifying questions of teachers and had to be answered through their Google accounts.
“How do you expect our students to succeed when you are constantly berating the people who are presented to them, in front of them, all day, five days a week?” Harvey asked. “Can you address the fact that the information that you gave about the attendance rate for the teachers was inaccurate? That was proven, the data says it, who gave you that data?
Hardy replied, “It does bother me honestly that there’s a feeling of …”
Harvey interjected: “How does it bother you, when you constantly put out this same information over and over and you just put on there low response to the survey and it wasn’t to say you’re sorry? But when this lady brought it up, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry, we apologize profusely.’ Where? Because all you do is put out public publications about how bad our teachers are and how much they’re missing school and they’re not doing this, they’re not doing that. You’ve never apologized publicly. So don’t you think that that would be important? If you’re going to publicly chastise them, why would you not publicly apologize?”
Hardy replied that he needed to do a better job celebrating teachers and less time “narrating what is perceived as negativity.”
Later in the evening, parent Courtney Nazario questioned how teachers would be evaluated under shared attribution. Under that model, teachers not teaching a state-tested subject — such as English or math — have 25 percent of their evaluation determined by student attendance and another 25 percent based on student’s writing scores. She questioned how teachers could be evaluated on student attendance, when it is something largely out of their control.
“Do you in your administration have 100 percent attendance that you feel that the students, you feel that the teachers, should have 100 percent attendance rate and they should not be sick?” she asked.
Hardy said those are the student growth measures the district is using, with the goal of making sure students are ready to advance to the next grade is a “collective effort” and to give teachers the power to motivate kids to come to school every day.
As Hardy ended the meeting, with community members still trying to shout questions to him, he recognized the emotions rising in the room.
“I think what I take away, more than anything from tonight, is that we have a tremendously passionate community and we have a lot of work collectively to do. It is our job to keep our heads down and keep working forward and continue these conversations so that we can get the outcomes for kids.”
After the meeting, Dimacchia said Hardy’s responses will serve only to incite that passion further.
“The fact that he continues to insult this community by trying to talk in circles when answering questions will only rally this community further. I think tonight sent him a message that maybe he should look for another job way away from the Lorain community.”
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