LORAIN — While the local connections on the Lorain Schools’ Academic Distress Commission are strong, the same can’t be said for the CEO finalists who were announced Sunday evening.
Commission Chairman Tony Richardson said the search firm the commission hired, Atlantic Research Partners, chose the five finalists from a pool of 37 applicants, most of whom were from Ohio.
But of the five, only one, Eric Thomas, lives in the state — in Cincinnati.
The finalists are:
- Vilicia Cade, senior director of secondary curriculum and professional development for Christina school district in Wilmington, Del.;
- David Hardy, deputy superintendent of academics for St. Louis Public Schools, St. Louis, Mo.;
- James Henderson, former associate superintendent for academic support for St. Louis Public Schools, St. Louis, Mo.;
- Lloyd Martin, former superintendent of schools Academy for Urban Scholars, Columbus, Ohio;
- Thomas, chief support officer for University of Virginia Darden/Curry Partnership for Leaders in Education, Charlottesville, Va.
“As we move forward, the Lorain Academic Distress Commission will continue exercising due diligence and taking all necessary precautions to assure the best candidate is selected to serve our students, families, teachers, staff and community partners,” Richardson said.
School board president Tim Williams said he wasn’t familiar with anyone on the list of finalists and wasn’t able to comment on the list as of Sunday night.
The Lorain district was placed under academic distress in 2013 after low test scores and state report card grades. The CEO selection process began at the beginning of April when the new commission headed by Richardson was appointed.
A CEO would have the full authority of a superintendent and most of the powers of a school board, including hiring and firing decisions, with the exception of putting levies on the ballot.
Additionally, after two years a CEO has the ability to change “failing” buildings and turn them into charter schools.
One applicant noticeably missing from the list of finalists is district Superintendent Jeff Graham, who said he did apply and had a preliminary discussion with representatives from Atlantic Research Partners.
Graham, who is getting ready to start the final year of his three-year contract, said after the conversation he had with the search firm, he wasn’t surprised he wasn’t a finalist.
“When I spoke with the person from the search firm, he told me that because I was the current superintendent, I was ‘at a distinct disadvantage,’” Graham said. “For that reason, I am not at all surprised that I am not a finalist.”
This leaves Graham’s future with the district uncertain — the CEO could choose to leave him on board, but he also could be let go without provocation.
- Cade, who received her doctorate in leadership and administration from New York University, serves as senior director of secondary curriculum and professional development and education at the Christina school district in Wilmington, Del.
Cade has previously worked at the College Board, Illinois School District No. 92, Chicago Public Schools, the University of Chicago and the New York Department of Education, where she began her teaching career in 1993.
- Hardy is deputy superintendent of academics in the St. Louis Schools but has previously worked in the Philadelphia school district as chief academic support officer, the New Jersey Department of Education as executive director of regional achievement and at Achievement First East New York Middle School as a principal.
He began his teaching career in 2003 in the Miami-Dade Public Schools and is expected to receive his doctorate from Columbia University in Urban Education this year. He has a master’s degree from the same school. He also has a master’s degree in educational administration from St. Thomas University.
- Henderson, who received his doctorate in educational leadership and supervision from St. John’s University, also worked for the St. Louis Schools as assistant superintendent for academic support. He works for educational consulting firm Impeccable Resources in Missouri.
He began his career in education in 1990 in Texas and has worked in several districts there and in Missouri at various levels.
- Martin works at Universal School Solutions in Florida as president and CEO but previously was employed in Columbus. He previously served as the superintendent in the Mansfield school district as well as a principal in the Dayton and Columbus school districts where he began in 1986. He also worked in Duval County Schools in Jacksonville, Fla.
Martin also was employed from 2010 to 2012 as a senior research adviser for Atlantic Research Partners, the search firm used by the Lorain Academic Distress Commission.
- Thomas is chief supporting officer at the University of Virginia Darden/Curry Partnership for Leadership in Education and as a consultant for the Ohio Department of Education on academic distress commissions. He has previously worked in the Cincinnati Schools as an administrator, including its chief innovation officer, and at Garfield Alternative School in Middletown.
He received his master’s in educational administration at the University of Cincinnati and his doctorate degree from the Concordia University of Chicago in educational leadership.
Moving forward, the commission will have a joint meeting with the school board at 6:30 tonight in the media center of the high school, 2600 Ashland Ave., Lorain.
At 6 p.m. Tuesday, also in the media center, there will be a CEO candidates’ night for the community to meet the finalists.
Throughout the day Tuesday and Wednesday, the commission will conduct interviews with the finalists before selecting one.
Richardson has said he wants to have a CEO selected by the end of the week, but House Bill 70, the legislation that was passed in 2015 that stipulates how districts placed under academic distress will be taken over by a CEO, affords the commission until July 25 to select a new head for the district.
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