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Lorain Academic Distress Commission releases CEO profile

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LORAIN — An “emerging leadership profile” for the Lorain schools’ CEO was released at a meeting of the district’s academic distress commission Tuesday afternoon.

Commission Chairman Tony Richardson said the profile was a result of two days worth of community engagement sessions and town hall meetings last week where district staff, community members and other stakeholders offered opinions to what the commission should be looking for when it comes to selecting the next head of the district.

“I think you can go to any school district or community and these will come across as to what people want to see in a leader,” he said, noting the qualities weren’t listed in any particular order but the profile will be included at lorainschools.org/CEOsearch.

The Lorain district is seeking a CEO after falling test scores and poor state report card grades caused it to be placed under academic distress in 2013 as well as the purview of state House Bill 70.

House Bill 70, which was passed in 2015, states that if a district is in academic distress and under the supervision of an academic distress commission for four years, the old commission will be disbanded and a new one will be appointed to hire a CEO to take over the district.

Superintendent Jeff Graham, who is getting ready to begin the final year of his contract, is one of 42 people Richardson has said has applied or has expressed interest in applying.

According to the session and profile, the district’s incoming CEO should:

Focus on students; be an instructional leader; be committed to cultural diversity and equity; be a strong communicator; have leadership in urban education setting; be a collaborator; be accountable; have integrity; be relatable; be open and transparent; reduce achievement gaps; be an effective manager; be innovative; have a vision; be visible; make difficult decisions; be strategic.

Richardson said the commission hasn’t decided if they or the search firm hired to organize the applications will be in charge of weeding out the field of candidates but they hope to have a decision by July 21.

“By July 21 we hope to name a CEO, but we also want to be able to take that weekend if necessary to deliberate (before the July 24 deadline),” he said. “I know there’s a lot of anxiety around what this is going to look like, what type of CEO is going to come in and those anxieties and concerns are all valid. I think every one will be safe and comfortable and we really are going to incorporate what we heard from the community.”

School board member Jim Smith noted that House Bill 70 does allow the CEO to delegate powers to the superintendent and school board, both of which stand to lose a significant amount of power as the CEO can almost completely take over their roles.

Richardson noted that as a former city council member, he understands the importance of elected officials, especially the school board.

In a letter last week, Richardson asked the Lorain school board not to make any major hiring or spending decisions in the coming weeks as they might shape the district before a new leader comes in, something school board president Tim Williams didn’t take kindly too.

“Instead of returning the respect and courtesy of building a partnership, your letter clearly outlines that you intend to dictate to our district and our staff how to run our district and that you apparently intend to upset all that we have worked so hard to accomplish in anticipation of the impending CEO,” Williams wrote in a response letter.

At the academic distress commission meeting Tuesday, Smith said as a board member he agrees with the commission and is willing to work with any organization who wants to improve the student body.

“No qualified candidate will be interested in coming in if all the decisions have been made for the next year and their hands are tied even though the CEO can undo any of those decisions,” Smith said. “We don’t need a dictator. We need someone with a vision to help our kids.”

The next academic distress commission meeting will be 6:30 p.m. July 17 in conjunction with a regular school board meeting.

Contact Katie Nix at 329-7129 or knix@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter at @KatieHNix.



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