LORAIN — The mayor and the school district’s Academic Distress Commission chairman took to Twitter on Friday morning to debate the CEO’s evaluation process.
Sparked by a tweet from parent group It Takes A Village questioning where CEO David Hardy’s long-overdue evaluation was, ADC chairman Randall Sampson replied it has been a decade-plus since the Lorrain school board has evaluated “a friends and family superintendent.”
According to district records, no evaluations have been completed for the past five superintendents by the district’s Board of Education. The lack of superintendent evaluations is noted in a 2017 Ohio Department of Education review of the district as well.
“You are getting worked up over waiting 6 weeks for a review of the 2017-18 school year? Tag those board members that drove this school bus into the ditch,” he wrote.
At the first Academic Distress Commission meeting after his appointment, Sampson announced he would complete evaluations of Hardy for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years via a rubric he created based on The Lorain Promise.
Lorain Mayor Chase Ritenauer responded to Sampson’s tweet: “The positivity varnish has clearly worn off. CEO evaluation is contractual, Randall. It has not been 6 weeks. It has been the entire duration.”
Per Hardy’s contract, the Academic Distress Commission was required to complete evaluations after 180 days, 365 days and annually thereafter. Former chairman Tony Richardson did not complete any evaluations of Hardy. According to emails shared with The Chronicle-Telegram, commission member Patty O’Brien and the former chairman were creating the rubric, but had yet to share it with the rest of the members before Richardson’s resignation in January.
Sampson responded, telling the mayor to respect the process: “I don’t start yelling about a pothole in the street because I want what I want … your city crew has a process and I respect it. Instant gratification is not a solution.”
Ritenauer tweeted back that a process is in place and timelines have been “routinely ignored,” but the process “should not be the newest ADC member evaluates the CEO.”
Sampson then references a meeting he and the mayor had shortly after Sampson’s appointment, noting nothing has been done in over a decade and a process is needed, a misstep he can’t clean up in two weeks.
From there, Ritenauer’s tweeted replies are harsher. “As long as you continue to allow this CEO to continue his disastrous run, you will be viewed as a yes man for ODE. We know they screened candidates for this position based on their views of Dictator David. Prove it wrong.”
Sampson asks the mayor to show him the previous process in place and he will follow or adjust to it. “When I arrived, everyone said the chair has to create an evaluation … now it’s the opposite? You are a pro’s pro and I respect that.”
Ritenauer’s last reply is, “We both know the issue that needs addressed to move forward. One of us has a vote to get it done.”
In recent weeks, the mayor has joined two members of the Academic Distress Commission and local Board of Education members in calling for Hardy’s dismissal or resignation.
Following the Twitter exchange, Sampson said Ritenauer is a professional and very passionate about his city, but did not comment further on the Twitter exchange. He said he is in the process of gathering the 2017-18 “conditions for success data” and will email the information to Academic Distress Commission members once he has it. He said the evaluation process will allow members to see the 2017 to 2018 change via The Lorain Promise.
“The goal is to get (the evaluation system) right for the evaluation for the current CEO and the next five superintendents/CEOs that will come to Lorain after the current CEO. The process will also serve as a scorecard of progress monitoring, pertaining to the mission.”
He also said the evaluation will become a way for the community to hold leaders accountable, and for community members to hold each other accountable by fully participating in parts of the strategic plan. He also said his goal “has been and always will be to empower local control to community members,” as it is the right thing to do.
“It’s great to see a city supporting its schools and community members,” Sampson said. “I hope the same spirit of transparency and collaboration exists well after the school board regains total local control.”
Sampson declined to give a more specific timeline of when commission members could expect emails regarding the evaluation.
In a March 27 email shared with The Chronicle, commission member Diane Conibear-Xander raises concerns about the evaluation with Sampson.
“There seems to be a public notion that you, as the chair, have more additional ‘powers’ than the other commissioners,” Conibear-Xander wrote. “I understand your role as the chairperson is to call and conduct meetings, set meeting agendas, and serve as liaison. We, as a commission, must send a message to the Lorain community that we work collectively and not one member controls the CEO evaluation or agenda items and topics presented at the ADC meetings.”
On Friday afternoon, Ritenauer said Sampson’s commentary was “out of character for some of the things that were said at the public meetings.”
“My issue is not with what happened, it’s with the current contract and what that calls for,” Ritenauer said. “And it went from there from discussion of other things, and I feel very strongly that the person chosen was somebody who answered (State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria’s) questions about David Hardy correctly. … I really believe that this isn’t going to move forward. You’re not going to bring people together in the schools until there’s a change at the top.”
He also expressed concern about Sampson’s ability to evaluate the CEO, given his short time spent in Lorain, and that Hardy may have some protection from retribution for his handling of the district based on relationships he has with DeMaria.
He said he is tired of comments being made regarding the district’s leadership or oversight — and if he has to take to social media to make his voice heard, so be it.
“Some people might have a problem with me calling the CEO a dictator, but he is a dictator,” Ritenauer said. “He has no accountability, no checks and balances, he has the ability to spend money in a way that not even the president of the United States has — that’s dictatorial. … I’m not going to stand by, and there are people watching my social media from Columbus, there are people watching it from elsewhere and they ought to know what’s going on.”
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