Lorain City Schools Bringing Back Former Superintendent Jeff Graham As CEO

Dr. Jeff Graham served as superintendent of Lorain City Schools from 2015-2017.
Lorain City Schools will enter into CEO contract negotiations with Jeff Graham. [Annie Wu / ideastream file photo]

Former Lorain City Schools Superintendent Jeff Graham will return to the embattled school district as the new CEO after a 5-0 Wednesday night vote of the district's Academic Distress Commission (ADC).

Graham, currently the Canton City Schools superintendent, beat out Galion City Schools Superintendent James Grubbs Jr. and Tracy Reed, the chief academic officer of Fort Wayne Community Schools in Indiana, for the position.

Graham previously held the position of the Lorain schools superintendent until the state takeover in 2017.  

After the Lorain ADC and school board spoke with the candidates in executive session, the ADC voted to enter into contract negotiations with Graham during a public Zoom meeting. Prior to the vote, however, several ADC members – including Chairman Randall Sampson – said they were impressed with all three finalists. 

“My first impression of all three candidates was their commitment when we asked them about COVID-19,” Sampson said. “Their first response was the welfare of their students.”

Steve Cawthon, a Lorain teacher and ADC member, said Graham was the “head-and-shoulders leader because he checked off a lot of the boxes.”

“I wanted a person that had experience, and I really wanted a person that was not learning about Lorain as they were coming in,” Cawthon said. “There really needs to be a focus on engaging the community and being familiar with the community.”

The search was driven in part by lessons learned from David Hardy’s tenure as the district’s first CEO, Cawthon said. Hardy was unanimously voted out by the ADC in late 2019 after an embattled tenure and replaced by interim CEO Greg Ring.

“You can’t have a Hardy 2.0,” Cawthon said. “You can't bring in some guy or gal that's going to just kind of blow things up to a point where we're right back where we were before Greg came in.”

Barbie Washington, a Lorain parent and member of the House Bill 70 opposition group “It Takes a Village,” said she breathed a “sigh of relief” after the unanimous vote for Graham. But Washington and the rest of her group still want the district completely in local hands. HB70, pushed through the state legislature in one day in 2015, authorized state takeovers of local public school district deemed “failing” by the state.

“While we are looking forward to working alongside Dr. Graham to ensure our kids and educators have the tools, services and support that they need,” Washington said, “we will not forget that we are still under state takeover.”

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