LORAIN — An administrator recently hired by Lorain Schools does not have any educational licenses from the state of Ohio.
According to the Lorain Schools website, District CEO David Hardy hired Scott Dieter as the director of early childhood education effective April 16 from a field of 45 applicants, but he is one of nine applicants for the position without certificates or licenses.
According to his application, Dieter taught kindergarten for two years in Tennessee before coming to the Cleveland school district in 2013 to work for Teach for America.
In the last five years, he’s served in several roles there, including manager of teacher leadership development, collaborative learning coach and most recently, director of educational leadership initiatives.
Two of the nine applicants without certifications noted they were in the process of receiving them later this year, and the 37 other applicants had a license to teach or be a school counselor.
Hardy said historically the needs of the Lorain community’s youngest scholars have not been met, something he hopes Dieter can change.
“Scott is a transformational leader who puts scholars first,” he said. “He is extremely talented and focused on the right thing — creating pathways for our youngest scholars to reach their full potential. We need to think about how we lead differently, and Scott’s experience brings a unique perspective to the work that will ignite innovation, creativity and, most importantly, outcomes.”
Hardy also said Dieter’s $88,000 annual salary will be paid for with grant funds.
Dieter is not the first administrator Hardy has hired without certifications. Last month, Kejuana Jefferson was selected to be the building leader for General Johnnie Wilson Middle School next year. Jefferson only has a certificate to teach preschool through third grade.
However, she did say she was expected to receive her administrative principal license this month.
Dieter is also one of two applicants for the position that is a Teach for America alumnus, as is Hardy himself.
Hardy also does not have an educational licenses or certificates in the state of Ohio, but he has a school administrator certificate from the state of New Jersey.
Teach for America is program where college graduates regardless of major complete a five-week course and then commit to teaching for two years in one of 53 communities across the country, including the Greater Cleveland area and southwest Ohio.
Stephen Dyer, an education policy fellow at progressive think-tank Innovation Ohio, said the concept of Teach for America — getting college graduates who are “bright-eyed and bushy-tailed” into struggling classrooms to breathe life into them — is an attractive one, but the practice can be a different story.
“It’s proven not to be sustainable for individuals long-term,” he said. “Teachers come in and do their two years, burn out and then they’re gone. It’s also a pretty popular prop for people looking to privatize public education because it can be a cheaper option.”
Dyer said it’s a cheaper alternative to traditional teachers because Teach for America corps members are not union and therefore can be paid much less. He said that often leads to friction with teachers who are union members because corps members can be seen as undercutting them for positions.
Teach for America spokeswoman Margaret McCarthy said corps members in the Greater Cleveland area are actually union members in the districts that employ them.
“It was supposed to be like AmeriCorps but for teachers,” Dyer said. “But you’re asking people to work miracles in some of the most struggling areas in the country, which is challenging enough for people who have actually gone to school to become teachers.”
One of the powers granted to Hardy by the state legislation that put him in power, state House Bill 70, is that after two years he can take any of the district’s “failing” buildings and turn them into a charter schools.
Hardy previously has gone on the record to say he doesn’t see charter schools for Lorain, but opponents of House Bill 70 have said it’s merely a tool to privatize public education in some of the state’s poorest districts.
School board president Tony Dimacchia said Hardy is a political puppet for the state government and House Bill 70 has created a social injustice by affecting only poor districts.
“I am not in anyway surprised that this guy is leading our district into the ground, in order to make it a charter school, has hired yet another employee with zero credentials to be an educational leader in our district,” Dimacchia said. “It’s amazing that all of a sudden we can hire whomever we want regardless of their educational background or education license or credentials, in any position in a public school.”
Earlier this year, Hardy said the district was looking to provide bilingual preschool classrooms next year, something Dieter would oversee. However, he is not one of the seven applicants that speaks Spanish.
However, El Centro de Servicios Sociales Executive Director Victor Leandry said the head of a department doesn’t necessarily have to speak Spanish in order to properly influence students.
“From my point of view, it’s more important that they understand the culture,” he said. “I don’t think they have to know Spanish but they have to be culturally competent and know what a child who speaks Spanish needs in order to grow and move forward.”
Dieter did not respond to request for comment. Tony Richardson, the chairman of the Academic Distress Commission, the only entity with authority over Hardy, also did not respond.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include a statement from Teach for America spokeswoman Margaret McCarthy.