LORAIN — The district’s Academic Distress Commission meeting was canceled, leaving some members with questions and sparking an impromptu forum organized by a parent.
The district’s Academic Distress Commission had scheduled a special meeting for 2 p.m. Monday at the Lorain High School auditorium. Chairman Tony Richardson canceled it, notifying commission members and media roughly two hours before it was scheduled to start, citing “inclement weather.”
When Barbie Washington, a parent and founding member of It Takes a Village, got to the high school Monday, she said there were no signs or public notice that the meeting had been canceled. After first directing arriving cars to turn back, she said as more people showed up, she decided to organize a meeting on her own at the Starbucks on Leavitt Road.
From there, she invited commission members Steve Cawthon and Diane Conibear-Xander, who had been just as surprised at the original meeting’s cancellation. There was some confusion as to the cause, too. Conibear-Xander said an email commission members received cited not only the winter weather, but a lack of legal representation through the state Attorney General’s office. She said the commission knew days prior that the ADC’s legal representation would not be at Monday’s meeting, and wasn’t sure why it was a factor in the last-minute decision.
“They haven’t (been at meetings before),” she said. “So I know that’s a big question for me, why? And I sent that question out, I said they weren’t going to be here five days ago, what did it matter tonight? So that’s a big question I have for them, and I’m waiting for an answer on that.”
Academic Distress Chairman Tony Richardson could not be reached for comment Monday.
With roughly two dozen in attendance, the pair fielded comments and questions including concerns student’s Individualized Education Plans not being met, the removal of Title I services, and teacher moral. They also discussed the takeover process and the politics it has thrown the district into.
For Conibear-Xander, on her 11th day with the commission, one concern was a pushback on her attempts to have a meeting sooner than the next regularly scheduled forum slated for March 26.
“I’ve reached out to all the other commissioners,” she said. “It was really important for me to bring everyone together in February or as early as we could so I could get to know them and we could work as a collaborative team together, but I felt that there was pushback from that and I don’t know why.”
She cited part of the schools’ difficulties stems from a “revolving door” in the central office. When compared with Elyria, which she said values longevity in leadership and growing their leaders within the district, “these are the reasons we are where we are today, versus why Elyria’s not there,” she said.
Montay Lind, a parent, said the district’s performance isn’t the teacher’s fault.
“Everybody wants to point their fingers at the teachers … It’s not the teachers,” she said. “It starts with us parents being parents and bringing the kids to school and having the respect (for) teachers.”
She added, “I’ve seen too many kids gone, because senseless stuff. And these teachers got enough to deal with, with all the kids in the classroom. Then if a kid don’t tell you ‘hey, I’m being bullied,’ how is a teacher going to help you if they can’t get to you and talk to you and find out what’s going on, why you got your head on a desk.”
Similar to recent forums with CEO David Hardy, teachers and parents expressed concern on the figures displayed regarding teacher attendance, as well as moral among district staff.
A 25-year veteran of the district said the moral is as bad as he’s ever seen it.
Cawthon addressed the “false narrative” that teachers call off all the time.
“It’s very much bothersome to me when a false narrative is continuing to be run with when that narrative’s been addressed publically and privately but it still gets out there because what is the motivation behind the narrative?” he said.
Kyriece Brooks, an employee in the district, said one of the problems is cliques — from the administration to It Takes A
Village. He said sometimes parents need to “just be humble and walk the line,” and stop blaming one another for the problems in the district.
“Every time I turn on the news somebody on there talking about Hardy, somebody on there talking about the school board, and my god, aren’t you all on the same team here?” he said.
Conibear-Xander said there needs to be a dialogue and civilized discussions – something Washington said parents have tried to have.
“We have requested meetings with Mr. Richardson, he’s canceled meetings with our parents, we’ve spoken at every meeting, we have sent emails, we’ve asked questions, we talk to teachers, we talk to parents, administrators, board members, commission members. We care about our kids. About all of our kids, all of the community,” she said. “This isn’t about Mr. Hardy or anyone else — that sounds nice, right? But he’s the one making all these decisions.”
Brooks later addressed those attempted meetings.
“Where (were) all these people at before Dr. Hardy (came here) … Where was this much drive when the district was going down the mountain at Oakwood Park 15 to 10 years ago? Where was this drive when Dr. Graham was here and this district was going downhill? … But now that (Hardy’s) in office and he’s so un-transparent and he’s just so mean and rude that everybody thinks it’s his fault? But it’s kind of a coincidence because he answers my phone calls.”
Another parent, Sumer Harvey, interjected, “That’s because you agree with him.”
Brooks, disagreed, “I don’t always agree with him.”
Washington hopes with more parents coming to meetings and getting involved, that residents continue to fight for their children and ask questions — and wants commission members to take those statements to heart.
“I hope the commission members really dig in and see what’s going on and to know that even though some of us might be more outspoken than others, that we really have some true concerns and that they will dig into that and they will start to really out our kids first and stop using it as the punch line.”
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