State Official Details Next Steps For East Cleveland School District

Shaw High School, East Cleveland Schools [ East Cleveland Schools ]
Shaw High School, East Cleveland Schools [ East Cleveland Schools ]

Officials at East Cleveland schools were notified yesterday that the state will intervene in their district after getting an overall F for the third year in a row on the state report card.

Senior Executive Director at the Ohio Department of Education Chris Woolard says a five person distress commission will be formed within 30 days.

"Three of those members are appointed by the state superintendent, and of those three, one of those must be a resident in the county," Woolard said. "A fourth member is appointed by the president of the local board of education and that person should be a teacher employed by the district, and a fifth member (is) appointed by the mayor."

The commission then has another 60 days to appoint a CEO.

"The commission's created, the chair is selected, and that 60 day clock starts where the commission goes out and hires a chief executive officer, which will essentially have full functional control of the district," Woolard said.

Woolard stressed there's heavy local involvement with the commissions.

"A key piece: That plan is developed locally," Woolard said. "The CEO is required to meet with stakeholders at the district level, within buildings and to create that improvement plan that then goes back for approval to the academic distress commission."

The state legislature recently ordered a study of the academic stress commissions, but the report isn't due until May of 2019.

"Obviously, there's a lot of interest from policy makers and legislative leaders to understand what's happening there, and that report will be created. And what's happening in East Cleveland will be happening at the same time," Woolard said.

East Cleveland Superintendent Myna Loy Corley released a statement objecting to state intervention, citing improvement within the district, flawed state testing and concern over the academic commissions. Woolard responded that the goal of the commission isn't to change everything.

"It's not as if the CEO necessarily has to automatically change every practice or strategy that's happening," Woolard said. "In fact, if there are good things, I would imagine the CEO would want to continue some of that good work."

Woolard also pointed to improvements in districts like Youngstown and Lorain that have had state intervention.

"While their grades obviously aren't where we want them to be eventually, you can start to look at some of that data and see that they're making some pretty noticeable gains in areas and places where they had a long way to improve, and they're starting to move the needle," Woolard said. 

State Rep. Kent Smith, D-Euclid, has called for a moratorium on the distress commissions and blamed charter schools for taking away $5 million in funding from East Cleveland. Woolard says he is sure there will be a lot of interest from legislators in how the plan in East Cleveland plays out. 

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