State Takeover Of East Cleveland Schools Heads Into The Hiring Phase

East Cleveland Academic Distress Commission members listen to state superintendent Paolo DiMaria speak
The five commissioners (right - left) Stanley Miller, Tachelle Banks, Karen Winston-Carpenter, Belinda Kyle and Michael Schoop, listen to Paolo DiMaria's opening remarks. [Matt Richmond / ideastream]

East Cleveland schools’ new academic distress commission met for the first time Wednesday night as part of the state’s takeover of the failing district. They now have 60 days to appoint a CEO to run the school system.

State education superintendent Paolo DiMaria started the meeting with some advice for the five members of the commission.

“I wish for you a great deal of patience,” said DiMaria, while standing in front of a roomful of East Cleveland residents and school employees. “I wish for you the ability to listen carefully and see the passion and the care and concern that people bring to you.”

In his comments, newly appointed chair Stanley Miller, a former director of the Cleveland NAACP and now an Oberlin-based pastor, sought to reassure a crowd that saw the commission as part of an undemocratic attack on the city.

“I think oftentimes, though, a fresh set of eyes can help, to come in and take a look to see where all the great work that’s been done can be improved on a little bit,” said Miller.

The commissioners would need patience at their first meeting. 

Audience member Debbie McHamm questioned Miller about what changes they wanted to make.

“You don’t have anything?” said McHamm.

“Excuse me,” responded Miller. “I just don’t think it’s fair. We’re going to make a difference and we want to make a difference but to expect us after an hour to come up with a plan.”

The next step for the commission will be to choose a search firm to find candidates for the CEO position.

The new position, paid for by the state, will have the power to rewrite the curriculum, fire teachers or administrators, close schools or transform them into charters and renegotiate labor agreements. The power to put a tax levy on the ballot stays with the city’s elected school board.

The five member commission will have sole authority over who is hired.

Under House Bill 70, the state is taking over East Cleveland schools because the district received three straight years of F grades on its state report card.

The East Cleveland school board is suing the state to stop the takeover, arguing only this past year’s failing grade should count against the district. The case is ongoing.

Both Youngstown and Lorain city schools are under the oversight of a CEO.

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