The head of the Cleveland Teachers Union said her members do not feel heard in the school board’s plan for finding a new CEO for Cleveland schools, the first new boss in more than a decade.
The Cleveland school board and its search firm, Alma Advisory Group, are entering the final stage of replacing Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon.
Gordon will leave office on June 30, ending a 12-year run.
The board announced in March that randomly selected panels of parents, teachers, administrators, and community members will get to interview candidates the board has chosen as finalists for the position. Applications to enter the lottery are open through April 5.
According to CMSD spokesperson Roseann Canfora, Teachers Union leaders were invited mid-March to participate in a separate interview panel to speak with CEO finalists. They were not chosen by lottery.
The school board has praised the process, saying it has reflected members’ commitment to inclusivity and transparency. Board Chair Anne Bingham said in a press release that involving the community in the final interview process was an important step to “ensure that all members of our community get a chance to weigh in on who will be our next CEO.”
CTU President Shari Obrenski told school board members at their Tuesday meeting this method for final-candidate selection goes “a mile wide and an inch deep.” She called the process an “internet reality show” approach that’s being billed as transparent and revelatory.
“This final stage will only show how well a candidate can pander to strangers, many of whom will have zero idea of what it takes to do the job,” she said.
She also expressed concern that no explanation has been given about how the board will use the feedback from the panels to make their final decision.
Obrenski suggested that the board consider conducting the final portion of the search the same way school board candidate selections are handled – via a carefully selected nominating panel designed to be representative of the community.
This is not the first time these concerns have been raised. Obrenski and a group of more than 200 teachers and administrators sat in on the board’s January meeting to express their initial concerns about Alma Advisory Group’s plan, particularly the limited teacher and admin involvement in the first stage, when the board and the firm hosted community meetings to brainstorm ideas for the job profile.
“Keep your random panels if you must, but include those who know and do the work each and every day to give you the authentic scoop,” she said. “We’re at a crossroads. Will we hop on that merry-go-round of urban superintendents that we’ve seen in CMSD of old or will you do everything you can to find the right fit to see us successfully through our next chapter?”
Teffanie Hale, a CMSD parent who also spoke at the meeting, said she was appalled when she saw that Alma and the board would be using a lottery system to choose interview panelists.
She said she agreed with Obrenski that parents and teachers who understand the nuances of the district should be the ones involved in the selection process.
This story was updated to include new information from the school district.