State Rep. Dan Ramos made a last-ditch effort Monday in an attempt to avoid a takeover of the Lorain school district, but it went nowhere.
In a House Education Committee meeting, he introduced an amendment to a bill that would halt a provision in state House Bill 70 that would remove Lorain Superintendent Jeff Graham and replace him with a CEO that has complete control over the district.
That amendment was tabled by the committee Monday night.
“I figured it was worth a shot,” Ramos, D-Lorain, said. “Our education committee never got to hear the HB 70 amendment that put this takeover plan in place because the amendment was added by the Senate, so I wanted a redo.”
Ramos’ amendment would have delayed the takeover until at least the fall of 2018, at which point the school district would have had enough time to adjust to state tests, but the committee chairman state Rep. Andrew Brenner, R-Powell, tabled it, effectively killing it in a lame-duck session.
The Lorain district was placed under academic distress in April 2013 and an appointed commission has been trying to remove that designation — attempts that have been unsuccessful.
To lose the academically distressed label, the district needed to score C’s on the performance index and value-added section of its state report cards for two years in a row. In 2015, the district got a D in the performance index but an A in value-added, which some hoped would show the district was making progress.
Then in 2016, the district once again earned a D in its performance index and took a nosedive in value-added, earning an F. Most districts in the state saw a decline, citing that the state tests changed three times in as many years.
Graham has acknowledged that the state-sponsored scores for the district are not good, but when the test changes every year, it’s hard to discern what growth is.
Initially, the district pleaded its case to state Superintendent Paolo DeMaria in an effort to get him to waive the bill provisions for the district, as it was only one of two statewide that fell under its purview — the other being Youngstown, which had a CEO installed during the summer.
In the new model, the CEO takes control from the Board of Education with the exemption of adding levies to the ballot. In the second year of the takeover, the CEO also has the ability to transition “failing schools” in the district into charter schools.
“It’s people who aren’t from Youngstown thinking they can tell Youngstown what’s best for it,” Ramos said. “And it’s the same thing happening with Lorain. Hopefully we can get something done before a CEO gets put in place next year by adding it to the budget or something like that.”
Graham has said he feels it’s important the district work with the state as it gets ready to transition to a CEO as early as next spring, because if a CEO comes in and fires administration staff after April, it makes it difficult for them to get a job for the next school year.
“I have a lot of respect for Dan Ramos and the work he does representing the people of Lorain and our school district, and I appreciate his support,” Graham said. “However, we have been and will continue to work with the state on our approach to this legislation.”
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