LORAIN — The newest member of the Academic Distress Commission overseeing Lorain Schools called CEO David Hardy insubordinate in a three-page memo detailing dysfunction in the district and notes that the law giving him his job dictates that he serves at the pleasure of the board on which she now serves.
The memo, dated Jan. 21 and written by Diane Conibear-Xander, an educator with a long history with Lorain Schools and appointed Jan. 10 to the panel by Lorain Mayor Chase Ritenauer, notes: “Mr. Hardy’s denial of data and information request — several collaborative attempts were made on my behalf — continuous delays and excuses. Insubordination and in noncompliance of 3302.01, C(1) Academic Distress Commissions.”
Conibear-Xander emailed the three-page memo to all members of the Academic Distress Commission on Jan. 21 after a special meeting of the commission was canceled that day. On Jan. 22, Hardy rebuked her in an email response to the ADC, state Attorney General’s Office and the School Board, calling her efforts an attempt to “proliferate an extremely negative and inaccurate narrative that does not come from a place of purity.”
He wrote, “It is clear that it is easier to live with hate than engage with love and care for children.”
Monday’s meeting was canceled by Chairman Tony Richardson, who gave his resignation notice to State Superintendent Paola DeMaria, who appointed him to the ADC, and Deputy State Superintendent John Richard that evening, according to emails shared with The Chronicle-Telegram. He declined to speak on the record Friday about his decision to leave the position.
Hardy’s response to her memo further referenced her short time on the ADC.
“One that speaks through the chair rather than grandstanding, promoting false narratives through the media and attempt to divide the very fabric that holds us together after a mere 10 days on the commission,” he wrote, calling her work “deeply shortsighted and unwarranted attacks that lack significant information.”
He also noted that Conibear-Xander had sought the CEO job.
Hardy wrote: “It is not lost on me that the majority of our scholars are children of color and the tone and rhetoric used in this email comes from a place of unfortunately displaced energy driven by power and resentment from a new member to our team that is presenting from a perspective of someone who applied for the job I now have.”
In emails shared with The Chronicle-Telegram between Diane Conibear-Xander and Hardy, Conibear-Xander requested documents outlining the district’s operational standards and practices, roughly three days after her appointment to the commission.
She said she has given Hardy several deadlines, including 4 p.m. Friday, but has yet to receive what she has asked for.
“Everything I asked him for is something a school district should be able to pull out in about a day’s worth of time just to collect the information,” Conibear-Xander said Thursday. “It should all be right there at the tip of somebody’s fingertips. I am asking for basic, operational practices and standards of a district. There’s nothing out of the ordinary that I’m asking for.”
On Jan. 10, Mayor Chase Ritenauer chose Conibear-Xander to replace John Monteleone, the mayor’s first appointee to the ADC who resigned in December. Ritenauer, who is copied on several of the emails exchanged between Conibear-Xander, the ADC and Hardy, said Conibear-Xander should receive the information she has requested, citing it is public record that “should be fulfilled without delay.”
“Diane not only represents me, but she is the voice of many of the parents, teachers, staff and taxpayers who have questions — many they feel (are) unanswered,” Ritenauer wrote in a text message. “We should also remember that she is one of five members of the commission and has every right to seek information for her role.”
Appendices to Conibear-Xander’s memo, shared with The Chronicle by School Board Vice President Tony Dimacchia, further detailed parents’ concerns including late report cards, student behavior and plummeting moral. Dimacchia agreed what Conibear-Xander is requesting should be readily available and applauded her work thus far.
“I am, personally, glad Mrs. Xander is finally holding Hardy and this current commission accountable,” he said in a text message. “It’s about time somebody did since (the Ohio Department of Education) and the past governor had put a blind eye to it.”
In addition to taking issue with Hardy’s responses to her, Conibear-Xander brought up his behavior at a town hall meeting Jan. 11: “Mr. Hardy’s inability to effectively and transparently address the community’s concerns, and address the media appropriately.” She added that “school leaders must be able to engage the media and answer parent questions in any forum, for however long it takes.”
The forum ended with Hardy leaving with a security escort after community members continued to question him following the meeting’s conclusion.
Hardy did not return a request for comment Friday evening.
Thursday morning he canceled all weekly meetings with The Chronicle going forward, but didn’t give a reason. In an email, he said any questions could be sent to the district’s communication team and would be addressed in writing.
Marketing and Communications Coordinator Sarah Egan-Reeves confirmed Thursday afternoon Hardy had canceled the newspaper’s longstanding meetings, but was not sure if he had done the same with other media outlets. She also did not answer why he canceled the meetings.
Conibear-Xander said she has been trying to help “from the get-go” and has either been dismissed or that there have been deliberate attempts to silence her.
“I attempted to pick the information up (Friday) at 4 p.m. and he told me (Friday) that that binder would not be ready for me. He told me I would have to wait,” she said Friday. “He’s basically refusing to give me the information and data that I requested about the school district.”
Managing Editor Julie Wallace contributed to this story.
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