LORAIN — The Lorain Schools administration outlined some of the changes coming to the district next year at the CEO’s monthly town hall meeting Thursday night.
The meeting took on a different format than previous ones, with CEO David Hardy giving a brief presentation before audience members spilt into five smaller groups centered around five initiatives from the Lorain Promise, Hardy’s plan to turn around the district’s performance on state report cards.
In his presentation, Hardy addressed some of the shifts in how the school district and teachers will be working with Title I students, who are the benefit of federal funds to help improve math and reading test scores.
“We have about 425 children on average in each of our buildings, and we’ve had the structure of Title I teachers for 10-plus years,” he said. “I’m sure it’s more than that, but from the data I was able to collect but on average each month the Title I teachers serve about 27 kids.”
General Johnnie Wilson Middle School teacher Cynthia Fuller, who works with Title I students, said she felt Hardy’s assessment of how many students are reached through Title I is incorrect.
“I just don’t think that’s right,” she said. “I definitely see more than 27 students in a month. I don’t know where he’s getting that from. I mean, I have 10 groups of students. There’s pull-out work and there’s in-
classroom work as well.”
Hardy said he looked at every school and the Title I services offered throughout the district through the past year and analyzed it on a monthly basis to get this data, but more students need the help than just the 27 who receive services.
“The most glaring statistic is the percentage of students not reading at grade level,” he said, noting it was more than 74 percent. “It’s not an indictment on our people, but it is time to think differently if we want this to change.”
Lorain Education Association President Jay Pickering expressed concerns last week that Hardy was taking away Title I funding from teachers and would be instead using it to pay for administrators, causing the district to lose as many as 30 teachers next year.
At the Thursday meeting, Hardy didn’t address how the students who receive Title I services will be served next year, but a teacher, who would not allow her comments to be used if her name was public, said at a parent meeting last week the schools would start using an intervention block, meaning students are shuffled between teachers and those needing Title I services will all be in the same class for a period of the day.
“The problem is you still have a full class size then,” she said. “You still have kids not getting individual attention.”
In the smaller presentations, Assistant Superintendent Mic Becerra and Chief Operations Officer Jeff Hawks outlined changes coming to Lorain High School next year for those students currently in the eighth grade as part of the “Build for the Future” initiative.
Becerra said students will begin their high school career in a freshman academy designed specifically for ninth-graders but will move into more specialized academies after that — Early College, Arts and Media, Civic Engagement, Success Tech, which will be a blending of the Career Technology program and the New Beginnings Academy, and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM.
“The students will continue to have their core coursework but will also take two or three electives a semester in relation to the area they choose,” he said. “So someone in Civic Engagement might take a mock trial course or Model UN.”
Becerra said that specific details — such as if students will be able to switch academies — haven’t been worked out yet because the project, like most of the other initiatives, are still in the planning stages.
He also said the district is working on a pilot program that will begin to stress career and college options with students as young as elementary school with things like picture books.
“We want to be able to show that as an option early on,” he said. “So if we have them reading things like Bob the Builder picture books or something like that, we’re exposing them to different careers.”
Chief Schools Officer LaKimbre Brown and Assistant Superintendent Stephen Sturgill addressed another one of the initiatives, “Great Teachers,” which will include better aligning grade-level pacing guides to state standards.
“In the fall we did 94 hours of classroom observation and saw 97 samples of student work from K-12, and out of those 94 hours of observations at all of the schools, only 17 percent of lessons were standards-aligned,” she said. “There was a mismatch. In conversations we’ve had with teachers and leaders across the district, this number, while alarming and hurtful, was not surprising.”
Brown said this led the administration to shape a new system where teachers receive feedback and coaching throughout the year, perhaps weekly or biweekly, to make sure they’re on track.
Toni Morrison Elementary School Principal Megan Young said teachers have been receptive to the feedback they’ve gotten from the administration so far this year and that it was very helpful feedback.
“I learned a lot just from the one day sitting down and writing up the feedback and giving back to the staff members, and I think they really appreciated that, too, so this excites me a lot,” she said.
School board member Bill Sturgill attended the town hall and said the conversations being had at the individual stations — trying to engage families and students at a young age, trying to align better with standards — are conversations the Board of Education has been having for years.
“I really do hope he’s successful, though,” he said. “But it’s going to take engaging parents and families to get this to really work.”
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