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Lorain Schools Also Face Possibility of State Takeover

Friday, March 1, 2013 at 6:10 PM

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Schools in Cleveland and Lorain may join Youngstown as the first three districts in Ohio to operate under the scrutiny of special academic distress commissions. But Cleveland’s own transformation plan may exempt it from the special oversight. For Ohio Public Radio, WKSU's M.L. Schultze has more.

State law says the academic performance of Cleveland and Lorain is lousy enough —the equivalent of an F—to put each district under the oversight of a special state commission. The state would appoint three members of each commission and the local school boards two. And the commissions would develop plans to improve academics, could reassign administrators and would have to sign off on budgets.

But Cleveland has issued a statement that says its transformation plan, passed with the state’s support, may pre-empt the commission.  And a statement from acting Ohio school Superintendent Michael Sawyers calls the plan “an extraordinary step forward” that would influence him on whether to set up a commission.

There was no such wiggle room for Youngstown, which two years ago became the first district in the state to submit to the state oversight.  Adrienne O’Neill of the Stark Education Partnership chairs the commission and says the goal is far from taking away local control.

O’NEILL: “The underlying goal in terms of the academic distress commission should be to create a situation where the school district can carry on in the same manner by itself. So whatever it is that’s done in Youngstown, my hope is that it becomes a part of the usual functioning of the district.”

To be removed from the state’s watch, a district must reach the equivalent of a C for two of three academic years. Right now, Youngstown has a D. But O’Neill says the district could be done with the oversight in three years.

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