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Lorain school leaders kick off summit


LORAIN — Classes ended for students last week, but Lorain Schools already have started working toward next school year following the kickoff of a leaders summit Wednesday morning.

District CEO David Hardy said the eight-day program was designed as a professional development opportunity to allow the new building administrators to become acquainted while learning from each other as they try to improve academics and the culture in Lorain Schools.

“I’m looking forward to this group of leaders coming together collectively to understand the depth of the challenge but the promise of what they can do for our kids and our community,” he said. “Just seeing the faces here makes me really excited.”

The summit will include the turnaround principals, new building leaders aimed at focusing on instructional needs rather than day-to-day managerial ones, as well as new deans of academics and student and family engagement, who will take on those roles instead of assistant principals.

Palm Elementary School Turnaround Principal Carol Winter said she’s looking forward to working with her team while still getting to know the other people taking on the role of turnaround principal in other buildings.

“I’m very excited about the energy in this room and the energy you all are bringing to this,” she said. “There’s so many smiles; I can’t wait to work with you all.”

Hawthorne Elementary School Dean of Academics Ivy Dodd said she’s excited to “use her knowledge to support teachers” while “streamlining” some things about learning in the district, and Frank Jacinto Elementary School Dean of Scholar and Family Engagement Lashaun Garcia saying she was excited about the professional development summit because she wanted to prepare for the coming school year.

“I want to learn more about the academics,” she said. “I want to learn from my fellow peers and my team and meet more of you. I have a lot to learn and a lot to bring. But I want to hear more from others, too.”

Chief Schools Officer LaKimbre Brown said she and her team had been preparing for the program and were pleased to see all of the handpicked administrators finally coming together to get prepared for the start of school in August while getting to know the people who have similar roles and those who might have different ones.

“When everyone was coming in we realized person after person we knew every single person in this room because we chose you,” she said. “You are the team we feel can take us where we need to go and we’re thrilled to have this time together.”

Brown said one of the things the administrators should keep in mind is “Your school is my school,” meaning the successes of one school should be shared with others so they all stand a better chance of succeeding in improving the district’s failing state report cards.

“We will rise and fall together,” she said. “If your school is shining and bright, we need to share those strategies.”

Stevan Dohanos Elementary School Turnaround Principal Marie Deshuk echoed that sentiment, but said it doesn’t just extend to successes and triumphs.

“If you have a great idea then share it and shout it out, but if you need help reach out,” she said.

While the leaders were asked by Brown what they’re looking forward to about their new roles, they were also asked about what concerns are keeping them up at night.

“Being a change maker while still building relationships,” General Johnnie Wilson Middle School Turnaround Principal Kejuana Jefferson said. “You want to bring change but still have support for those who have been doing it a certain way for a while. For me, it’s how do I bring a team along and how do we build this thing together?”

Toni Morrison Elementary School Turnaround Principal Bridgette Kaiser said one of her concerns is that she is new to the district as are her two deans.

“I just want to know how we can all move forward together and not separately,” she said. “I think that’s really important when we’re talking about school improvement. I want to get to know other principals and other administrators.”

Hardy said one of the things keeping him up at night is getting the district ready for the first day of school, which really isn’t that far away.

“Even though we have eight days, we have a lot of work to do and very little time to figure it all out,” he said. “This past year has been about finding this team and this talent and making sure they’re the right people to drive us forward, and now it’s the hard work of what are we going to do to improve academic outcomes and school culture. I’m excited, though, because I truly believe these are the people who take us where we need to be.”

Contact Katie Nix at 440-329-7129 or Find her on Facebook and Twitter at @KatieHNix.

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