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East Cleveland school board's lawsuit against state takeover moves forward

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COLUMBUS — East Cleveland Schools Board of Education’s lawsuit against the state will move forward, even as the district appointed its new CEO under the law it is fighting.

The district filed the lawsuit in September, after it became the third district in the state to fall under House Bill 70.

Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Kim Brown ruled Friday the suit would be allowed to move forward, despite motions to dismiss filed by the Ohio Department of Education. The judge also ruled the state must turn over information regarding allegations that the district did not receive an overall failing grade for the 2017-18 report card. The school board alleges the grade the district received is “based upon flawed, unreliable data.”

The board’s suit requested documents in its original suit and in the months that followed, including email exchanges between Ohio Department of Education employees detailing possible problems with the grading process. Documents requested refer to statements that the department was troubleshooting data errors with the district’s grade only three days before the final report was released. Two days before the reports were released, the district’s progress component was marked in one system as an “F” but in another as a “D” with the discrepancy reportedly caused by a third-party vendor error. The value-added data also was being checked for quality assurance two days before the release.

The district also stated on Sept. 14, the day after the report cards came out, that a department official admitted she “found some errors in her black box files” and needed to rerun them and have them included in the 2018-19 report card.

A November filing states: “As far back as May of 2018, ODE was aware of the fact that a school district could have a passing overall grade but a failing equivalency grade for the same report card and that ‘there are winners and losers depending on what data are used.’”

The trial is set for Nov. 4, per the Franklin Courts docket, and is one of two in Columbus fighting House Bill 70. The Ohio Supreme Court agreed to hear Youngstown Schools Board of Education’s appeal in October. Litigation in both cases is ongoing, and Lorain Schools Board of Education has filed a “friend of the courts” brief in the Supreme Court case.

The ruling in East Cleveland’s favor came as the district’s Academic Distress Commission appointed Henry Pettiegrew II as CEO. Pettiegrew was assistant superintendent at Maple Heights Schools.

Contact Carissa Woytach at 329-7245 or cwoytach@chroniclet.com.


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