LORAIN – The school board president has filed another round of public records requests in relation to the hiring of the district’s CEO.
According to the request made Thursday morning, Tony Dimacchia wants to see:
- A copy of the contract with TNTP and the Academic Distress Commission and/or the Ohio Department of Education.
- Any and all email sent or received in the last 60 days by John Richards, deputy superintendent of the Ohio Department of Education.
- Any and all text messages sent or received in the last 60 days by Richards as it pertains to the search and hiring of the CEO, David Hardy.
- And any and all emails sent or received in the last 30 days by TNTP to the Hardy, the Oho Department of Education and the commission.
The request is the second Dimacchia has made in less than a week after an extensive list last Friday that included the contact with Atlantic Research Partners, the 37 applications for CEO and texts and emails regarding the search, which cost $25,000.
Previously, Atlantic Research Partners President Jim Hager has said, with the exception of the five finalists, the firm will not release the resumes of the other 32 candidates.
“It is important to state that Atlantic Research Partners carried out the very charge we were given by the commission: to recruit a strong pool of dynamic applicants and to narrow the candidates to three to five highly qualified finalists,” he said in a July 20 statement. “In doing so, we also maintained, as promised, the confidentiality of all applicants who were not named finalists, in order to not jeopardize their current employment.”
Hager did not return a request for comment.
Members of the community expressed frustration that current district Superintendent Jeff Graham, who is getting ready to begin the third and final year of his contract, was not a finalist, despite him applying for the CEO position.
In the Thursday request, Dimacchia said he understands that Atlantic Research Partners, the firm hired by the commission to search for CEO candidates and narrow the applicant pool down to five finalists, has a “reasonable period of time” to fill his requests but some of the records he’s asking for have to be readily available and he has received no contact.
“As I have stated in the request, I would appreciate that any information gathered be sent to me immediately as I believe that much of this information is readily available and I do not need all of it at the same time,” he said. “To date, I have not received any communication from Mr. Hager and Atlantic Research Partners, who the state had hired to do to the search. That is very unfortunate as it leaves many questions about their process unanswered and makes me wonder what they are hiding.”
The Lorain school district has a CEO, St. Louis Public Schools’ Deputy Superintendent of Academics David Hardy, because failing test scores and poor state report card grades caused it to be classified by the state as under academic distress in 2013.
State House Bill 70, passed in 2015, says that if a district is in academic distress and under the supervision of an academic distress commission for four years, the old commission will be disbanded and a new one will be appointed to hire a CEO.
The CEO is expected to have all of the power of a superintendent as well as most of the power given to a school board, except for putting levies or bond issues on the ballot.
After two years in power, the CEO also can take "failing" buildings and turn them into charter schools.
Dimacchia said in his request by Hardy hiring The New Teacher Project, or TNTP, to help fulfill the community engagement provision outlined in House Bill 70, even more taxpayer money is being spent on this process.
“Since this new Distress Commission, mostly appointed by the State of Ohio, has come to Lorain they have managed to spend almost $100,000 of tax payer money on two firms. Atlantic Research Partners was paid $25,000 to do a nation wide search, which didn't give our community nationwide results,” he wrote. “Furthermore, we all found out that each and every candidate, including Mr. Hardy, had some kind of relationship to the search firm. And now the newly appointed CEO has selected TNTP to do community outreach for $75,000.”
While the state is expected to reimburse the school district for Atlantic Research Partners’ fees, Hardy said he hopes to not use taxpayer money to cover the fees of working with TNTP.
“I know there are outside funds and grants that can be used to cover this type of work and I’d rather do that than have it fall back on the community,” he said.
In the Thursday request sent to Hager as well as Graham, State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria, school board attorney Tony Giardini and Mayor Chase Ritenauer, Dimacchia echoed calls that the students of the district deserve better.
“The students of Lorain and our community deserve to have answers as to why the state of Ohio has come to Lorain and conducted a scam of a search and has, in my opinion, acted fiscally irresponsible with public dollars,” he said.
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