CEO David Hardy's letter to teachers and CEO David Hardy's letter to community members are attached below the story.
LORAIN — Lorain High school staff will have to go through a selection process to keep their jobs for next school year.
At CEO David Hardy’s town hall Thursday, he announced a new plan for the district’s school buildings. To create a “system of excellent schools,” the plan will designate the district’s buildings in descending order of performance as either an excellent, innovation, improvement or empowerment school. Lorain High School is the only empowerment school, meaning administrative staff will participate in a selection process to decide which teachers will be working there next school year.
Empowerment schools, per Hardy’s presentation, will receive a high level of oversight from the district’s central office, powers for its leadership team to create “transformational improvements,” and monthly check-ins. It must improve in two or more state report card metrics to avoid “further intervention,” Hardy’s presentation stated, but did not elaborate what that intervention could be.
“If we think about it, that is the one we hear the most about,” Hardy said of the high school. “That is the one that needs the most support, that is our biggest school. So it’s no surprise, given where we are, that they landed there.”
In a letter sent to educators after the town hall, Hardy states staff who want to remain at the high school will go through the selection process, with their placement determined through their “experience, commitment and belief in the potential of our scholars.” It does not directly define what that process is, or outline what qualifications teachers must have to retain their current positions.
Teachers with continuing contracts, or tenure, who are not selected for the high school will be placed in other positions in the district. Teachers with limited contracts who are not selected will be connected with opportunities at other schools, the letter states. It is unclear how or if this selection process applies to nonteaching staff.
Lorain Education Association president Jay Pickering said he was caught off guard by Hardy’s announcement. He said he knew Hardy was going to talk about concerns at the high school, but was unaware Hardy was expecting the high school staff to “reapply for their jobs.”
“I think this is retaliation for the teachers’ vote of no confidence,” Pickering said. “It kind of feels like that, like hey, why didn’t we talk about this? Why didn’t you have a meeting with the teachers at the high school to explain your plan, because there are teachers going home tonight, getting their resumes ready and wondering what the future holds for them.”
In a survey the union conducted and Pickering presented at Monday’s school board meeting, 98 percent of teachers who responded did not have confidence in Hardy’s ability to lead the district.
Pickering said teachers are unsure what the timeline is for the selection process. He said roughly 120 teachers are at the high school, roughly a quarter of the district’s educators. He also was unsure of how this announcement would affect the union’s collective bargaining process, as its current contract expires at the end of this school year.
The building designation was based at least in part on student performance. The high school received an overall F on its most recent state report card, including failing grades in achievement, progress, gap closing and preparedness for success. It received a D in its graduation rate. New Beginnings received failing grades in all components.
Pickering said its unclear why the high school was designated as the only empowerment school in the district.
“I’m not going to dispute that it has a lot of issues, but what was the metric that he used?” he said. “It’s like going to a class and the teacher says, ‘This is the grade you’re getting — I’m not going to really explain to you how I came to this conclusion, but you’re doing bad.’ We’re all blind, we really don’t know where all of this is coming from.”
High School teacher and Academic Distress Commission member Steve Cawthon agreed with Pickering that teachers were shocked at Thursday’s presentation. Further confusion was caused by the promise of moving tenured teachers to other positions in the district if they were not selected to remain at the high school. Cawthon, a 28-year veteran teacher, said many of the certifications high school teachers have don’t transfer to the lower grades.
“(Hardy) has a lot of questions that he’s going to have to answer and this is unprecedented as far as this happening in this way, shape or form,” Cawthon said. “He’s going to pull this in February where we still have three and a half months of school left and the morale of the district is just so bad. The morale is just bad, period, and then you’re just going to basically put this sense of fear (in teachers), especially teachers that aren’t tenured.”
Of the district’s other buildings, those designated improvement schools are: Frank Jacinto Elementary, Garfield Elementary, Hawthorne Elementary, Stevan Dohanos Elementary, Toni Morrison Elementary, Washington Elementary, Longfellow Middle School and General Johnnie Wilson Middle School. Improvement schools are those close to meeting “expectations outlined by the district or state” but need significant improvements to avoid further interventions, according to Hardy’s presentation.
Of the buildings designated improvement schools, Frank Jacinto and Hawthrone elementaries, and General Johnnie Wilson and Longfellow middle schools, also received overall failing scores from the state.
Innovation schools are Larkmoor Elementary School, Helen Steiner Rice Elementary School, Palm Elementary School, Admiral King Elementary School and Southview Middle School.
No schools were listed as excellent.
Part of the new designation system includes creating a School Transformation Taskforce, with the goal of helping the district’s underperforming buildings create a plan to improve their grades. That taskforce will be made up of teachers and administrators.
Moving forward, Hardy said schools will be evaluated in a cycle: Designations will come out in December through January. From February to June administrators, the task force and others will collaborate on a plan to improve the schools and supports will be put in place from July forward. School evaluations are based 50 percent on the building’s state report card score and 50 percent on a new “excellent schools dashboard,” which replaces the previous “Big Board.” The new dashboard will track academics, effort (including student dress code adherence and attendance), behavior (including suspension rates) and building atmosphere.
With high school staff left uncertain of their future, Pickering said these outcomes have become a theme at the CEO’s monthly sessions.
“Every town hall, somebody leaves thinking they’re threatened,” Pickering said. “Whether it be a parent or students or teachers or administrators, it’s just sad that anybody would think this is a way to lead a large group of people.”
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