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Lorain Schools disputes Commission members' report (WITH DISTRICT RESPONSE)

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The district’s response is attached below the story.

LORAIN — The school district is disputing claims made in a recent report by two Academic Distress Commission members.

Presented at a joint school board/academic distress meeting Feb. 26, commission members Diane Conibear-Xander and Steve Cawthon outlined problems within the district. In an email sent out Monday evening by the district’s communications team, it responded to the six “urgencies” Conibear-Xander and Cawthon outlined, and “in the spirit of collaboration as it pertains to the best interest of our scholars,” called several of the statements false.

“It was just disappointing to see,” Cawthon said. “I don’t know if he’s looking to discredit myself and Diane — I’m sure he probably is — but at the end of the day, his way in which he basically fired Lorain High staff one day and then a few days later he’s thoughtful and provoked because of our sincere words … It’s unfortunate that we’ve come to this point, but he’s burning bridges — he’s not even burning bridges, I feel like he’s detonating bridges right now, in my opinion.”

The commission members’ report outlined “excessive violence” at the high school: 22 fights in a two-week period, and nine fights in one day at Southview Middle School. The district provided data from the high school for Jan. 31 to Feb. 6 and Feb. 6 to 13 on fights and suspensions. Between Jan. 31 and Feb. 6 it lists eight fights, and seven between Feb. 6 and 13. The district stressed “2 percent of our population are involved in these fights,” and that restorative practice is one way to give “scholars the tools to solve difference without violence, but it is not in place of discipline.”

In another set of district-provided data, at Southview Middle School for this school year through March 9, 29.5 percent of the building’s students had received an out-of-school suspension, emergency removal or in-school suspension. The data provided does not specify what those disciplinary approaches were for.

“The data reporting about the fights where (CEO David Hardy) comes flat out and says that’s false, I question the data reporting because that’s been an issue all year long,” Cawthon said. “… My whole thing maybe in response to that is maybe we would ask our (school resource officer) to help discuss this further, but unfortunately Lorain High doesn’t even have an SRO anymore to even go in that route.”

The lack of an SRO was brought up in Cawthon and Conibear-Xander’s report, but was not addressed directly in the district response.

The district also disputed that Lorain High School staff did not have a protocol for emergencies, stating “a digital version of the safety binder was made available to all LHS staff before school began.”

In an email shared with The Chronicle-Telegram on Monday evening, a digital copy of the emergency safety binder was sent to high school staff by an administrator Sept. 11 — almost three weeks after the start of the school year.

Under Conibear-Xander and Cawthon’s claims of the district skewing or falsifying data, the school responded: “False data has never intentionally been shared publicly. It is the goal of this administration to lead with full transparency and identify discrepancies and redundancies in order to be confident in our data reporting. We work tirelessly to improve the integrity of our data reporting and bring all data to our community when available.”

Touched on in the commissioners’ report, the district did not directly address CEO David Hardy’s false claims on attendance data. In a January newsletter, Hardy claimed teachers missed an average of 18.1 days last school year, not including Family and Medical Leave Act or professional development. The Lorain Education Association president Jay Pickering, and data provided to The Chronicle following a public records request, dispute this: to get 18.1 days per-teacher would include everything a teacher had missed school for, including FMLA, development and administrative leave.

Conibear-Xander further disputed the district’s claim that teacher evaluations, or OTES, were implemented correctly. The district states, “implementing the OTES rubric with fidelity has been a major goal of leadership training and support … All LCS administrators participated in a norming session and participate in regular meetings in order to calibrate their expectations and understandings of the OTES rubric.”

Conibear-Xander said she has copies of teacher’s evaluations showing they have been done incorrectly.

In regards to records requests and the CEO’s refusal to schedule a meeting with Conibear-Xander, the district responded: “The CEO provides updates as directed by the ADC chairperson and at ADC meetings.” It goes on to state Conibear-Xander has been offered a monthly check-in time and she and the district are working to schedule a time that “works for everyone.” It also said public records requests are addressed on a case-by-case basis and gives a link to the district’s responses on its website, which do not include Conibear-Xander’s requests.

“I think Hardy’s (response) is a sure sign of desperation to save his reputation, which at this point in time I think is irreparable,” Conibear-Xander said. “You have reports or urgency and crisis from your own employees but yet I read through this and there’s denial, he dismisses a lot of it, he makes comments that more context is needed to respond appropriately. I also find it very interesting he speaks in the spirit of collaboration, and again, we’ve invited him to a meeting, I’ve requested meetings with him, but there’s been zero collaboration on his part.”

CEO David Hardy did not return a request for comment Monday evening.

Contact Carissa Woytach at (440) 329-7245 or cwoytach@chroniclet.com.


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