Note: A copy of Mark Ballard’s letter is attached below the story.
LORAIN — School Board President Mark Ballard is calling for CEO David Hardy Jr. to reapply to the Academic Distress Commission to keep his job.
Ballard’s callout Friday is in reaction to Hardy’s announcement at Thursday’s town hall that high school staff would have to go through a “selection process” to retain their jobs next school year. In a letter sent to educators following the town hall, Hardy stated staff would be evaluated on their “experience, commitment and belief in the potential of our scholars.”
“I just think it’s fair that the criteria that he’s trying to hold them to, he should live by the same criteria,” Ballard said. “… I’m just in agreement with his logic, as far as if he’s going to use that logic, he should use it for himself.”
Hardy unveiled a new plan for the district at the town hall, designating buildings based on performance. The high school was designated as the first empowerment school in the district, marking it the lowest-performing, and slating it for extensive oversight by the central office to improve its state report card scores, effort and behavior.
In a letter sent Friday, Ballard noted during Hardy’s time with the district, the state Department of Education has not evaluated Lorain Schools, and Hardy himself has not been evaluated by the district’s Academic Distress Commission.
“Grades got worse, morale got worse, enrollment got worse,” Ballard said the district since Hardy took over 18 months ago. “… I think there’s probably about 60,000 people in the city of Lorain and he’s probably No. 60,001 that deserve that job based on how he’s been doing it.”
Academic Distress Commission members Steve Cawthon and Diane Conibear-Xander agree with Ballard’s call for Hardy to reapply.
“I believe this is a leadership problem,” Conibear-Xander said. “They are targeting the teachers, but yet they’ve done nothing to help the teachers. Everything that was promised to them 18 months ago, nothing has happened for these teachers. In fact, the buildings are in greater disarray and commotion than they’ve been in years.”
Cawthon, a social studies teacher at the high school, said, “Most of us that are having to reapply for our jobs have way more experience in what we’re doing than what Mr. Hardy and his administration have in what they’re doing, so if we want to go down that road, let’s play it fair, let’s make him and all his people do the same thing the high school’s doing.”
Cawthon and Conibear-Xander said if Hardy did have to reapply for his job, they would not support keeping him as the CEO, but could not speak for the other two members of the commission. It is still without a chairperson following Tony Richardson’s Jan. 21 resignation.
Hardy did not return a request for comment Friday evening. In January Hardy canceled all standing weekly meetings with The Chronicle-Telegram going forward, but did not give a reason.
Ballard and Hardy have been meeting regularly, which Ballard said his letter would not impact, if Hardy is willing to continue their discussions.
‘Declaration of intent’
Hardy met with high school staff Friday afternoon. The meeting was not open to the media, and school board vice president Tony Dimacchia said he was barred from entering the building by school security officers and Chief of Operations Jeff Hawks.
“I should have the right to walk into that room, and any room in any one of our facilities,” Dimacchia said. “I’m an elected official, elected by our community to be a good steward of their hard-earned tax dollars and for them to deny me access is completely wrong and inappropriate. The way they handled it was just mind-blowing.”
The meeting, which included teachers and other building staff such as security officers, was “contentious at times,” Cawthon said.
“Teachers expressed their continued frustration with the state of affairs as well as the uncertainty of what the future holds for their students and them,” he said.
He said the teachers at Lorain High School are some of the most “caring and dedicated staff.”
“There are teachers that stay late after school offering tutoring help for the students and opportunities for ‘their kids’ to work toward success,” he said. “These teachers sacrifice time away from their own families to try and make a difference in their ‘Lorain High Family.’”
He added, “Trust is the key to developing avenues for success. (Hardy’s) actions have illustrated a true failure in that department. But even with that failure in building trust, teachers continue to work hard to make a difference in the lives of all their students.”
Lorain Education Association President Jay Pickering did not return a request for comment Friday evening.
In an email shared with The Chronicle-Telegram, the district’s People Office sent staff an invitation to complete a “non-binding Declaration of Intent survey,” 6:15 p.m. Friday. Survey questions were not accessible without starting the application process, but the letter states those who wish to remain at the high school must “exemplify our district core values at all times; abide by the district policy, protocols, and identified expectations; abide by the district’s shared expectations outlined in The Lorain Way; uphold the expectations outlined in the Lorain teacher job descriptions; and believe in the limitless potential of all scholars.”
The invitation states “all staff” must submit the form, but only includes a link to the teacher job descriptions. The form is due March 1 and those who complete it will be contacted by a member of the People Office by March 5 to learn of the next steps and schedule a formal interview.
Following the survey explanation is a link to paperwork required for resignation or retirement.
Ballard said the board will continue to contact Gov. Mike DeWine and the state Department of Education to alert them of Hardy’s tactics, but in the meantime the district has a “guy who’s driving the car who doesn’t have a clue what’s going on.”
“What I think is he’s just going to go through his games,” Ballard said. “And the people who’s not buying into his program and dancing to his music, whether they’re right or wrong or whether they’re good at their jobs or not, he just wants them out of there so he can have additional puppets to do what he wants them to do.”
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