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Cleveland teachers critical of CEO search as finalist interviews begin this month

The CMSD Board of Education discussing the results of surveys and other community participation on the search for the next CEO.
Conor Morris
Ideastream Public Media
The CMSD Board of Education discussing the results of surveys and other community participation on the search for the next CEO.

Some Cleveland teachers say they are disappointed by the structure of the search for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District's next CEO, as designed by the CMSD Board of Education and Alma Advisory Group, the search firm hired by the district.

Shari Obrenski, president of the Cleveland Teachers Union, told the Board of Education during its meeting last week that she's not a fan of the district randomly selecting community members from online submissions to make up interview panels for finalists, because panelists are not guaranteed to have proper knowledge of the district.

"To my members and to me, it seems to go a mile wide and an inch deep," she said. "All show and zero substance."

Today is the final day for Cleveland residents to nominate themselves or others to join the panels, which will include groups of teachers, students, principals and parents and will be chosen by a random lottery, the board has said. The board has also said it will chose panels of union leaders and community members to staff their own interview panels. It's not been stated publicly yet by the board who will make up those panels.

Obrenski likened the interview process to an episode of America's Got Talent. She and other teachers have previously raised concerns about the search.

"I had hoped and honestly believed that the members of this board would not only welcome but demand the feedback from those that have the most knowledge about what it takes to be a successful CEO in Cleveland have to say," she said. "Instead, the board is allowing Alma to turn this process into some sort of Internet reality show where random influencers get to perform for the cameras."

CMSD spokesperson Roseann Canfora said the board will respond to Obrenski's concerns in writing, which will appear on the agenda of the next board meeting (a new practice the board has adopted recently).

Board of Education Chair Anne Bingham said the board will look to begin finalist interviews of candidates in mid-to-late April. Portions of the finalist interviews will also be livestreamed, which the district has previously called an "unprecedented practice here locally."

Conor Morris is the education reporter for Ideastream Public Media.