LORAIN, Ohio — Two years into academic distress, the Lorain City School Board pleaded to newly elected Governor Mike DeWine to lift its state takeover. The board declared a "State of Emergency" late last month as members maintain the CEO-style of instruction for the school district is not working and only making grades within the district worse.
State lawmakers are now taking notice after grades on the state report card placed a dozen more school districts on the road to their own state takeover. Districts now in jeopardy include Dayton, Toledo, and Columbus. Columbus City Schools is currently the biggest school district in the state.
"In this experiment, things are getting worse. Things are getting worse and that's not a good thing," said Mark Ballard, president of the Lorain City School Board. "This is our home. You have to have local control. Anything other than that is unconstitutional." Ballard and the rest of the board members have been stripped of their voting power under academic distress. Their only role is to place levies on the ballot to collect local tax dollars for the school district. However, they feel the CEO for Lorain City Schools, David Hardy, has not been transparent in his spending.
In a letter last month, Ballard wrote to Gov. DeWine, "Parents, citizens and community members are being denied an opportunity to hold their elected officials accountable."
Lorain City Schools fell into academic distress last school year due to continuous failing grades on Ohio's state report card. Ballard points out that grades have only been getting worse under academic distress. Its grade in K-3 Literacy went from a C to a D from the 2016/2017 school year to the 2017/2018 school year. As CEO, Hardy can be hired and fired by an Academic Distress Commission. He's also supposed to update the commission per quarter on his academic strategy and plan. Diane Xander, a former principal of the district high school, was appointed to the commission by the mayor of Lorain. She told Scoring Our Schools that despite her role, there are no checks and balances to the state takeover system.
"They bring in teacher - low wages. They pay administrators high salaries," Xander said. "We have people having breakdown, going through mental anxiety because they are in fear of losing their jobs."
CEO Hardy has not returned repeated calls made by Scoring Our Schools; however, several state lawmakers are saying they want to fix the problem. As part of a bi-partisan effort, multiple bills are being prepared and filed to alter and repeal academic distress in the state of Ohio. Mayor of Lorain Chase Ritenauer said he is helping push the movement now gaining momentum in Columbus. He told Scoring Our Schools that no lawmaker wants the district in the state capital to fall under such status. "If Columbus falls into this, I think it's a huge black eye for Ohio," Ritenauer said. "We're fighting an uphill battle in so many ways to bring jobs to this state, to bring economic opportunity to this state. "