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Tensions high at Lorain Schools Academic Distress Commission meeting

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    Lorain Schools CEO David Hardy Jr. addresses the Lorain Academic Distress Commission and those in attendance on Wednesday evening.

    KRISTIN BAUER / CHRONICLE

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    Those in attendance at the Lorain Schools Academic Distress Commission meeting Wednesday brought signs and placed them on the seats of the Lorain High School auditorium in opposition to House Bill 70 and the actions of the district.

    KRISTIN BAUER / CHRONICLE

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    ADC Chairman Randall Sampson, Lorain City School District CEO David Hardy Jr., and ADC member Patty O'Brien speak to those in attendance on Wednesday evening, June 5.

    KRISTIN BAUER / CHRONICLE

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LORAIN — Frustration reigned supreme for all parties at Lorain Schools’ Academic Distress Commission meeting Wednesday night.

Teachers and parents demanded answers from CEO David Hardy and ADC Chairman Randall Sampson about public records, curriculum and budget.

In a new public comment format, Sampson gave a total of eight minutes after each agenda component for questions and feedback. Sampson said it was structured so that people would comment on specific items.

ADC members Diane Conibear-Xander and Steve Cawthon, local appointments to the ADC, objected to the format and said it sounded like a restriction on what people could say and ask.

Some ADC members said they wanted input on the agenda before it was completed, which they said they haven’t gotten.

In the front row, several signs were placed on seats.

ADC member Patricia O’Brien expressed frustration at a flyer going around on Facebook that had three distress commission members’ faces, affiliations and phone numbers on it. She was bothered by the Stocker Foundation listed under her photo as she does not want her employment there associated with her work on ADC.

As several voices began to rise and people talked over each other, Sampson called security down near the stage and said they could not continue at this pace.

“No. 1, someone’s going to get hurt,” he said. “There are crazy people out there. We’re all in here having a civil, rigorous conversation, but we don’t know who’s out there watching this on Facebook Live and will come up here and … you guys all know that mental health is real and that’s not the folks in this room. I just want to make sure we’re all up here having a decent conversation, not talking over each other, not yelling from the stands.”

Sampson said it was not his intent to remove people from the room, but that he wanted to keep things civil. Ultimately, no one was escorted out of the auditorium.

An audience member then said that the phone numbers were put up of members who did not respond to emails about concerns.

Sampson said the district is beginning to improve but that “we can’t burn the house down with personal agendas.”

Hardy said that the unofficial graduation rate for 2019 was 79.1 percent, but that has not yet factored in summer graduates and the petition period, which will last until November.

Conibear-Xander addressed issues with the standard-based grading being incorrect and not yet fixed. Sampson agreed the issue should be resolved as soon as possible.

Kenan Bishop, chief equity and achievement officer, spoke about the selection of a new curriculum for next school year. He said they went through a four-month process to select it and are in the process of finalizing it.

He said the committee gave all kindergarten through second-grade teachers the opportunity to participate in testing out a couple different curricula for English Language Arts.

But a teacher who participated disputed that. She said 12 teachers were chosen by a principal and they did not receive any materials until April 18, giving them four weeks to pilot a program in the middle of state testing. Only six ultimately opted into the program.

The tested curricula went through to 10 weeks, which means teachers did not have enough time to go through the entire material.

The teacher said they asked to do a pilot program in the beginning of the next school year, but were instead informed through a video that the curriculum had been selected.

Questions also arose about the letters sent to six employees about potential non-renewal of their contracts. Hardy said some employees ultimately were offered renewal. He said he met with two people individually and made a decision after he spoke with them.

When asked why those six people were chosen, Hardy said he could not answer that because he can’t reveal personnel details. Sampson said the six people were too easily identifiable and he should answer that only in executive session.

Contact Laina Yost at 329-7121 or lyost@chroniclet.com.

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