School takeovers on their way out under Ohio Senate measure

By: - June 2, 2021 12:50 am

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Three Ohio school districts currently under state academic control might have a way out under a newly amended bill.

A senate bill that sought to pave a way forward for the Lorain City Schools to rise from its academic distress commission will now create a pathway for all three city school districts currently under ADC control, via amendments made during a Tuesday meeting of the Senate Primary & Secondary Education Committee.

ADCs were established by the legislature in 2015, creating a takeover process for school districts who received an overall “F” grade on state report cards for three consecutive years. That process implements a financial supervisor (CEO) and takes away the decision-making ability of the local board of education.

The Youngstown City School District was the first to fall under a distress commission, in February 2016, followed by Lorain in July 2017 and the East Cleveland City School District in September 2018.

In a 2019 report about ADCs, the state’s superintendent of public instruction criticized the existence of the commissions, saying they lacked the input of the local education administration and tried to fit unique academic situations into a “one-size-fits-all approach.”

“While an ADC approach may produce some positive results, the potential for significant opposition makes it tremendously challenging for it to function in a way that leads to successful district turnaround,” Superintendent Paolo DeMaria wrote in the report.

Under amendments made to Senate Bill 165, the superintendent would be the one to agree to new improvement plans meant to lead to the release of districts from ADCs.

Once the superintendent approves the three-year improvement plan, the position of CEO would be eliminated, and the school district regains the ability to choose their leader, according to an amendment presented by committee vice-chair state Sen. Louis Blessing III, R-Colerain Township.

The other amendment made during Tuesday’s committee hearing, presented by state Sen. Teresa Fedor, D-Toledo, adds Youngstown and East Cleveland school districts to those allowed to create improvement plans.

State Sen. Michael Rulli, R-Salem, said giving the three districts a way to fix their struggles and bring back local focus to issues like wraparound services and state report cards is a good approach.

“I think this is a problem that the statehouse inherited,” Rulli said. “I think this is a very logical approach to having a pathway, so these three districts can survive on the outskirts of academic distress.”

Committee chair Sen. Andrew Brenner, R-Delaware, said the amendments came from negotiations with the Ohio Department of Education.

“Most of these were at their request, along with the auditor (of state),” Brenner said, adding that the bill could be up for a committee vote next week.

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Susan Tebben
Susan Tebben

Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.

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