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Distress committee member previews group’s February visit to Lorain


LORAIN — A state employee of Ohio’s Academic Distress Commission explained the commission’s impending visit to the Lorain Schools and what that means for the district at a school board meeting Monday night.

Clairie Huff-Franklin said the visit is part of an annual review the district receives due to its status on the distress list.

Huff-Franklin said independent contractors hired by the commission will be visiting every grade level at every school in order to evaluate how they perform in six major areas: leadership and governance, curriculum and instruction, assessment and use of data, human resources and professional development, student support and fiscal management.

She said the visit was not a new experience for the district, but it had been a couple of years since the review process had been explained, and she thought it was prudent to explain it again.

The district is the recent subject of a piece of legislation introduced by state Sen. Gayle Manning, R-North Ridgeville, which would exempt the district from being taken over by the state should it perform too poorly in state testing.

Manning said the almost-annual change in state testing makes it more difficult to determine how the already-struggling district is performing and therefore should make it exempt from the Youngstown Plan, in which both the superintendent and Board of Education would be removed and appointed by the state.

Huff-Franklin said she sings the district’s praises in the progress it has made.

“People often ask wanting to see success stories on how these reviews work and wanting to see data to support it, and I often point them to Lorain,” she said.

“The district has been earning A’s in other arenas on the district report cards, and I think that speaks to the growth of the district and especially its leadership and collaborative efforts.”

Huff-Franklin said that the new leadership in the district is already improving greatly.

“There are things we’re trying to do to help other schools across the state,” she said. “And some of the things we’re instructing them to do are things that are already happening right here in Lorain.”

Board member James Smith said he thought the program would be helpful, and it was also beneficial that someone would be coming into the district to evaluate it.

“Ultimately, we have to do what’s best for the students,” Smith said. “We also have to work together to do it. It can’t happen in a vacuum. I would hope that we can get everyone on the same page with this.”

Superintendent Jeff Graham said the Academic Distress Commission often brings with it a negative perception, but if it helps the district do better, then it is worth it.

“We have to do better,” he said. “If our scores aren’t where they need to be, at the end of the day, we need to get them up, and I think the board, the state, teachers and administrators want to produce a quality education. I think we are doing that, but how do we do that better?”

Graham said that those who are in the district every day know the quality education that is being given to the students, but he also wants the public to understand it better.

“I think that the approach and collaboration we’ve taken on this should help that,” he said. “And I think we’ve got a lot of really great things going on in this district, and I’m excited to see where it goes.”

Newly elected board President Tim Williams said he thinks the visit will provide a sense of validity to the work the district is doing and inform the public.

“Letting the public see how this process is going to work is going to do a lot of great things as far as validity is concerned,” he said. “It’s going to improve the impressions of what the Ohio Department of Education is doing here and will really help to get rid of the stigma involved and give a real dynamic view to the process.”

Huff-Franklin said about two months after the visit, which is scheduled to begin Feb. 8, the superintendent will get recommendations from the commission, which he will also add recommendations to it for approval and then it will be dispersed.

In other business

Student Daniel Neely of Larkmoor Elementary was honored at the meeting for alerting cafeteria staff of a choking student in December, and Mia Hilko of Washington Elementary gave a speech to the board detailing how the diversity of Lorain makes the area a stronger community.

The next board meeting will be 6:30 p.m. Feb. 1 at the Charleston Administration Center.

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