LORAIN — Trying to figure out who to hold accountable for poor performance in the Lorain Schools was a hot topic at a community chat event Tuesday night with the district’s new CEO, David Hardy.
Ishikia Bennett, a health professional in the district and the parent of a student, said she doesn’t feel like the people supporting students aren’t necessarily engaged in what’s happening in the buildings.
“Everything is aimed at engaging students, as it should be, but parents and caregivers should be included,” she said. “While some students are displaced by being in foster care, staying with relatives or a family friend, I almost feel like we’re doing a disservice to students because we’re taking accountability from parents.”
Bennett said people are supposed to rally around their students, but that can be complicated by the fact they often feel like they’re eliminated from the process.
At the Harrison Cultural Center event, Hardy said statements like that make him feel conflicted.
“Part of me feels like we have to move forward for the sake of the children, with or without the parents,” he said. “But, in the meantime, I realize that the people who will help us the most are parents and the people closest to the kids. There may not be parents, but there will be a village that will allow children to rise.”
The district has a CEO because failing test scores and poor state report card grades caused it to be classified by the state as under academic distress in 2013.
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 with the exception of the right to put levies or bond issues on the ballot and after two years in power, the CEO also can take “failing” buildings and turn them into charter schools.
City Councilwoman Pam Carter, D-3rd Ward, said she was pleased with the standing room-only turnout of the event as it showed some district parents want to be apprised of what’s happening.
“I want to applaud those who are here, because it shows that there are parents who do care and are concerned,” she said. “Most parents don’t understand what is happening and don’t even know what questions they should be asking. We know how we got here, and we’re here now. It’s time to get behind the CEO and be supportive for our children because it’s about their future.”
General Johnnie Wilson Middle School math teacher Celia Contreras said she also wants to see students being held accountable, especially ones who are old enough to recognize that they should be learning.
“They know right from wrong,” she said. “They know at the middle school level that they need to be in the seats learning and communicating with the teachers. We also need to work with teachers in the classrooms because there are eighth-graders being taken over to the high school and they can’t do any math. There are students I wish I could hold back, but I don’t have any say so.”
Hardy said if people have specific concerns about the district and how students are being taught and they don’t see it being addressed in his strategic plan to be released Oct. 22, they should reach out.
“If we try to do everything at the same time, nothing gets done, so we have to tier this as we build on the plan,” he said. “I think the strength of the community will allow us to chart a path forward. Whatever we do moving forward won’t be done without you being in the forefront of my mind because one of the most important things is your voice.”
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