Mayor Justin Bibb said in a friendly joint appearance with outgoing Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon that the next school chief will build on Gordon’s legacy. 

Gordon highlighted education policies and programs that he believes the mayor and the next chief should continue to champion to maintain the success achieved during his 11-year tenure. 

The chat also included efforts by both Bibb and Gordon to dismiss any speculation about bad blood between them.

The two appeared together at the City Club of Cleveland Friday before an audience of educators, parents and school administrators. 

Here are three takeaways from today’s forum: 

Gordon said he is leaving because “the next [CEO] deserves the wind at their back”

In their first public conversation about education, Bibb asked Gordon to clear up the “rumor mill gossip” surrounding his departure, which came as a surprise to many city leaders and education stakeholders.

“Why now?” Bibb asked about Gordon’s decision to leave at the end of the school year.  

Gordon said now is the best time to leave because the district stands at a high point – the ideal time for a handoff. 

“There’s just a series of elements that make it right for the next CEO to be successful,” Gordon said. “The next [CEO] deserves the wind at their back, so that by the time those tough community decisions have to be made, he or she is trusted in the community in the same way that I have been trusted.” 

“If it is really a legacy, it will be because of what happens after I leave,” he said.

Gordon told Bibb he and his wife plan on staying in the Cleveland area once he leaves. 

“We are Clevelanders,” he said.

Bibb and Gordon said they share a desire to “lean into the power of community” 

The first thing Gordon will tell his successor is, “We’ve got to lean into the power of community.”

To Gordon, that means listening to parents and students and continuing to support programs that they have been advocating for.

Bibb praised Gordon’s new student and parent advisory committees, which members of his administration have attended over the last two weeks.  

Gordon said that regardless of who becomes the next CEO, the Student Advisory Committee will continue because its power to hold district administrators accountable is written into law. (According to Gordon, it’s the only student committee in the country written into law).

Gordon advised Bibb to accept community criticism and not retreat in response as administrators sometimes do.

Continued support for the Say Yes scholarship program is a key to success for youth

Gordon said creating Say Yes Cleveland, which provides college scholarships and social services for district students, was the hallmark of his time as CEO, and it was a part of the “infrastructure in place” that will help a new CEO start off on the right foot.

Gordon urged the mayor to continue to support the scholarship program, which the community has rallied behind. 

Both Bibb and Gordon agreed that the county government needs to step up to support the Say Yes program. 

“I just want to remind our listeners that Cleveland is part of Cuyahoga County,” Gordon said.

K-12 Education Reporter (he/him)
Paul, a former City Year Cleveland AmeriCorps member based in a charter school, covered K-12 education for Signal Cleveland until August, 2023. Paul joined us from Cleveland Documenters, where he focused on creating infographics and civic tech to make public information more accessible. Paul is also a musician, photographer and graphic designer.