On Thursday, October 20th, Lorain City Schools officials met with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria to learn more about their future under House Bill 70. This is the first time Lorain has met with DeMaria since his appointment to the position, as well as the first meeting in Columbus since the release of the Local Report Card which will trigger the appointment of a CEO to the district.
“The meeting was productive in the sense that the State Superintendent clearly wanted to know more about about our community, and about our students,” shared Lorain Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeff Graham. “We agreed that education is about more than the test. We talked more about the people and processes that make Lorain truly unique, and how we are measuring student growth outside of the changing assessments.”
The Lorain Schools, which entered academic distress in April 2013, is the only district in Ohio in which this year’s test scores are not held harmless. Since the district entered academic distress, the state has introduced three new tests while at the same time increasing academic rigor. Thursday’s meeting was Lorain’s opportunity to share their story with the new State Superintendent, who has the authority to release a district from the provision. Also in attendance at the meeting were Senator Gayle Manning and her staff, representatives of the Lorain Academic Distress Commission, and Ohio Department of Education office.
“We’re optimistic that the State Superintendent is willing to listen,” says Lorain Schools Board President Tim Williams. “The stage we’re in right now is all about information - gathering and sharing data to help the state understand what’s happening here in Lorain. There’s been a tremendous amount of investment of time and energy up to this point - we’ve all got a lot of skin in the game. We want to see that collaboration continue.”
The Lorain City Schools has also been working with local legislators Senator Gayle Manning and State Representative Dan Ramos to push for a change in law to allow the district more time to show academic growth before state takeover. Only a change in law or State Superintendent relief can prevent the next phase of academic distress, which includes the appointment of a new academic distress commission and CEO, who would have more far-reaching authority than a Superintendent.
“We have a phenomenal team exhibiting best practices to ensure our students are growing at an appropriate rate,” says Graham. “To have a discussion with the state that honors the humanity of our situation shows us that we’re all focused on a healthy transition to whatever comes next. What makes this situation unique is that no one knows exactly what that will look like. But we are encouraged that the focus is on how together we can have a positive impact on Lorain.”