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Lorain Schools CEO declines joint meeting

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LORAIN — School district CEO David Hardy will not attend a joint meeting of the district’s Academic Distress Commission, School Board and Mayor.

Less than four hours after Mayor Chase Ritenauer sent out a letter scheduling the Feb. 26 meeting, Hardy released a statement that he would not be in attendance.

“With respectful understanding that Mayor Chase Ritenauer has submitted a request to bring all parties together, I am thankful for his leadership in doing so,” he wrote in a statement released through the district’s communications team. “But as Chief Executive Officer of the district, I am confident that the communication between myself and School Board President Mark Ballard has become the strongest and most consistent communication — between myself and any sitting board member — that has occurred during my tenure. It is with that confidence I believe we can, and will continue to, move this district forward.”

Ritenauer called the joint meeting after a unanimous vote at the Jan. 28 School Board meeting requesting he do so.

“I didn’t ask about David’s relationship with Mark,” Ritenauer said after Hardy’s letter. “I asked for a meeting of all parties after School Board approval.”

Hardy went on to write any discussions should be heard by a full Academic Distress Commission. Currently, the Commission is short a chairperson, following Tony Richardson’s resignation Jan. 21. The meeting is after the state’s 30-day deadline to appoint a new chairperson after Richardson’s resignation. He also states he looks forward to continued collaboration with the school board, through Ballard, and plans to bring their conversations to the entire board to discuss.

Ritenauer said he is disappointed but not surprised at Hardy’s refusal to attend, as it’s “how he’s approached things from the very beginning.”

“His behavior continues to exhibit the worst aspects of House Bill 70,” Ritenuaer said. “He says he intends to go to the full board soon. It has been a year and a half. What is he waiting for? The meeting on the 26th will go on without him.”

In the letter, he writes, “Frankly, had this meeting occurred in 2017 as discussed, perhaps we would not be in the present situation.”

While Ritenauer admits he does not control the agenda of the upcoming meeting, his letter requests updates on the status of public records requests made by the board and Academic Distress Commission member Diane Conibear-Xander, “equitable treatment of every member of the Academic Distress Commission,” the status of a levy renewal, safety protocol and progress and communication of information. Even without Hardy present, he plans to discuss the same topics.

Mark Ballard addressed Hardy’s comments on their relationship, confirming the two had been in meetings but stating he is only one member of the board and does not speak on their behalf with him — as Hardy has yet to meet with the entire board in person. Ballard confirmed the CEO has a standing invitation to all of the board meetings, including a space on its agenda for a CEO report.

“I don’t think us talking more is any excuse to not show up at the mayor’s invite,” Ballard said.

The joint meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Feb. 26 at the High School Media Center.

Contact Carissa Woytach at (440) 329-7245 or cwoytach@chroniclet.com

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