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Lorain Schools CEO admits error on teacher attendance

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LORAIN — The district CEO has admitted to an error in interpreting teacher attendance data, almost five months after the fact.

In January’s Titan Touchpoints, sent out Dec. 30, CEO David Hardy claimed teachers missed an average of 18.1 days last school year, not including Family and Medical Leave or professional development days. Lorain Education Association President Jay Pickering disputed the claim, pointing to district-provided data showing 18.1 days missed included everything from FMLA to jury duty and meetings. In a letter dated April 25, Hardy apologized for reporting inaccurate numbers.

“In essence, the CEO believed that poor teacher attendance was a challenge for the district to address academic distress,” Hardy wrote. “After reviewing the data again, teacher attendance reported to the state of 94.5 percent annual teacher attendance in Lorain is accurate and is on par with other high-performing districts and we are proud to recognize the continuing strong teacher attendance in the 2018-2019 school year.”

Hardy was confronted by a parent about the inaccuracy during his Jan. 10 town hall, but she said he did not respond to her question. When questioned by The Chronicle-Telegram later that month, he said he had no comment on the numbers presented in the newsletter.

Pickering said the letter he received from the CEO had not been presented publicly, prompting him to share the letter at Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting. School board member Yvonne Johnson asked Pickering if he thought the apology would mend relations between the union and administration.

“If this had been addressed within weeks of my bringing this up, then it would be a different story. It’s been five months. I don’t think it changes how the teachers feel. I think what happened yesterday was probably more important to their feelings than anything else.

Board member Tim Williams interjected, “Is this about being sorry or getting caught?”

He cited the difficulty the board has had in obtaining accurate data from the administration and said this is one of many instances where figures are manipulated or misrepresented.

Local control

The board unanimously passed two resolutions regarding the state takeover. The first, inspired by the resolution passed by the State Board of Education on Tuesday evening, called for the repeal of House Bill 70, the controversial 2015 state takeover law. The second called for returning the district to local control and asked the Ohio Department of Education to pick up the tab for lost levy money the district and the additional administrators hired by the CEO. The resolution to return local control also requested one of the state’s appointments to the Academic Distress Commission be replaced with either the mayor of police chief.

A $3.1 million levy will expire at the end of the year. The Board of Education has yet to take the necessary steps to get it on the November ballot, citing Hardy’s mismanagement and secrecy as something they cannot ask voters to continue to support.

Treasurer Josh Hill asked if the board would be willing to pass the first of two resolutions required to put the levy on the budget, and hold off on the second one until the law is changed.

“That first resolution, the time period in between that and the second resolution is that part to where it’s going to take some time because we’ve got to have the (County) Auditor’s Office certify the value,” he said. “So if we pass that first one, I can get the certification and then hang on to it for the second resolution.”

The deadline to file for the November ballot is Aug. 7.

Hill said beyond the loss of the renewal, a major concern should be the Cupp-Patterson school funding proposal. Under the new system — introduced by Reps. Bob Cupp, R-Lima, and John Patterson, D-Jefferson — many urban districts, Lorain included, would not receive a boost in per-pupil funding. He said losing that increase scares him, almost more than losing the levy renewal.

If nothing changes, including losing the levy, Hill projected the district could fall into fiscal watch in October.

“As much as we’re pushing a lot of this other stuff, we should be just as vocal about the Cupp-Patterson,” Hill said. “Because I do believe they’re trying to make it right, they’re trying to get it to where it needs to be, but I do think if you look at the projections for a lot of the districts, the more poverty-ridden districts, they’re not getting increases. They’re not getting anything to help them. And they’re the ones that need the money the most.”

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


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