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State to Begin Oversight of Cleveland School District

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Friday, March 1, 2013 at 1:12 PM

Joe Gratz / Flickr

The Cleveland school district will soon fall under state supervision, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.

Under state law, if a school district receives the equivalent of an "F" from the state and fails to meet federal standards for improving student performance for four years in a row, a committee -- called an Academic Distress Commission -- is appointed to oversee the district's operations.

As of yesterday, Cleveland officially met those conditions.

The state oversight comes as Cleveland launches its second plan to "transform" schools and after voters approved a big new tax levy.

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Cleveland district leaders have known for months they were likely to fall under the oversight of a state-appointed commission. The official notice of the change was delayed because state report cards for schools were released six months late while the state investigated allegations of data manipulation by Cleveland and other districts.

The Cleveland Academic Distress Commission will consist of five voting members: Three appointed by the state superintendent and two appointed by the president of the Cleveland school board.

The commission has the power to:

  • Appoint school building administrators and fire or reassign administrative personnel;
  • Contract with a private entity to perform school or district management functions;
  • Establish the district's budget and approve district appropriations and expenditures; and
  • Effectively override certain parts of union contracts

The commission will remain in place until the district earns grades of "C" or better on key components of its state report card, or until the state superintendent dissolves it.

The Youngstown school district has been under the supervision of an Academic Distress Commission since January 2010. Youngstown now faces major changes to its schools -- called "restructuring" -- for the second time in three years, as well as the potential loss of the district's superintendent for the second time in three years.

Our partners at WCPN and WKSU will have more on this story later today.

UPDATE (5:32 pm)

The state and Cleveland schools both say they are working to avoid a state takeover of the district.

Ohio Acting Superintendent of Public Instruction Michael Sawyers put out a statement earlier today saying that under Ohio law the district is "eligible for the potential creation of an Academic Distress Commission:"

The first step in that process, a notification letter from the Ohio Department of Education to the District, has not yet been taken and, if it were, it doesn't automatically result in the creation of a Commission or define a role for the Commission.

The Cleveland Plan is an extraordinary step forward in getting the schools back on track and its potential impact will weigh heavily as the Department and the District discuss the next steps.  The Department is open to exploring alternative options in lieu of an Academic Distress Commission to find the best way forward for the children of Cleveland.

Cleveland Schools CEO Eric Gordon put out his own statement to the same tune:
CMSD remains optimistic that the district has the “Right Plan, Right Now” for reforming its schools, a point made clear by CEO Eric Gordon, in a letter sent to staff and supporters today to clarify the state oversight process.
“Because of our community’s broad support for system-wide reform, courageous, bipartisan support of Ohio’s legislators in passing House Bill 525, the overwhelming passage of Issue 107, and the clearly articulated accountability measures outlined in the Cleveland Plan, we have in place the right plan for Cleveland,” said Gordon.  “I also expect that we will continue to be supported by the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio General Assembly.”
Since the Cleveland Plan may address many of the problems a state takeover commission would, the district and the Ohio Department of Education appear to be looking to avoid a state takeover. Nonetheless, under state law it appears to still be a possibility for the district.
You can find more coverage from our partners at WCPN here, and from WKSU here.

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