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Deadline approaches to apply to be a Cleveland Board of Education member

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 in February 2023.

Five of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) Board of Education seats are expiring in June, and the deadline to apply is April 16.

The district's Board of Education works differently than other school boards. Board members are appointed by the mayor of Cleveland from a group of nominees selected by a local nominating panel.

People who wish to be considered for a seat - which is a four-year term - can apply via mail (the deadline is April 14) or go to the city’s website to apply electronically (the deadline is April 16). Candidates must be a resident living in the district, cannot currently be serving in an elected office position and cannot be employed by the school district.

The terms of current board members Louise Dempsey, Sara Elaqad, Leah Hudnall, Denise Link and Kathleen Valdez are all expiring in June. So far, only Hudnall – who was appointed by Mayor Bibb last year to a seat that was vacated – has said she will re-apply for her seat; the others did not respond to requests for comment sent over the last month.

The current slate of board members will likely be the ones to make the decision – in concert with the mayor – on the district’s next CEO, with outgoing CEO Eric Gordon stating last year he would be stepping down at the end of this school year. The district has previously stated the board will submit its final recommendation to Bibb in early May for his “concurrence” on the board's CEO candidate.

That nominating panel that will provide CMSD Board of Education candidates for Bibb to approve is made up of the following members, according to Board of Education Attorney Kevin Burtzlaff:

  • Dr. Michael Baston, president of Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C).
  • Kathryn Hall, vice president of diversity and inclusion at JACK Entertainment.
  • Shari Obrenski, president of the Cleveland Teachers Union.
  • Kevin Payton, president of the CMSD Principal Association.
  • Denyelle Rashid, listed on LinkedIn as a private secretary at Cleveland Public Power.
  • Rev. John Ribbon, pastor at Calvary Mission Hill Baptist Church
  • Victor Ruiz, executive director of Esperanza Inc.
  • Michael Schoop, senior vice president of talent at Greater Cleveland Partnership.
  • Richard Starr, a Cleveland City Councilman.
  • Turkessa Tenney, a former Cleveland Transformation Alliance board member.
  • Larry Bailey, listed on LinkedIn as vice president of Bailey Communications.

There are a few other specifics with regard to requirements for potential new board members,according to the state law that set out the current form of board governance at CMSD.

"At least four of the nine members must have significant expertise in either education, finance, or business management," CMSD's website reads. "Board members must be residents of the School District, and at least one of the nine members must reside in that part of the School District that is outside the City of Cleveland (Bratenahl, Linndale, Newburgh Heights, and parts of Brook Park and Garfield Heights)."

Conor Morris is the education reporter for Ideastream Public Media.