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LORAIN — Mayor Chase Ritenauer’s made his decision on who he would like to lead Lorain Schools as its CEO: current Superintendent Jeff Graham.

At his annual State of the City address Thursday, Ritenauer said the state takeover of the district needs to be handled the right way and that starts with keeping the community and the school board engaged in the process, something he thinks Graham would do.

“Jeff gets it,” he said. “Value is being added to the schools every year, even though the state report cards keep changing. Go look at the new high school. Look in the classrooms. He gets it.”

As a result of poor grades on the report cards, the Lorain school district was placed under academic distress by the state in 2013, and an academic distress commission was appointed.

On March 7, as a result of the state takeover law that kicked into effect after another year of poor grades, that commission will cease to exist and a new one will be chosen by Ritenauer, state Superintendent Paolo DeMaria and Lorain school board President Tim Williams.

Ritenauer said “turning the apple cart over” and getting rid of Graham would be “detrimental” to the city and to what the state is trying to accomplish.

“If the right people are in the right seats, we can make this work,” he said. “It takes the local control and is critical to the success.”

Graham said Thursday he would consider taking the position of CEO, which would combine his duties as superintendent as well as most of the school board’s legislative power, but only on his terms.

“One of things the CEO can do after two years of being in the position is turn failing buildings into charter schools,” he said. “If that’s something the state wants to see happen, it’s not something I can be a part of.”

Graham said the district couldn’t ask for a better partner than Ritenauer moving forward.

“We really appreciate that Mayor Ritenauer has been so remarkably supportive of the path we’re on,” he said. “It’s a huge compliment to our schools.”

Ritenauer noted his appointment of a single person to the five-member Academic Distress Commission charged with selecting the CEO, is the only one required to be from Lorain, but he’d like that to be the rule for all appointments rather than the exception.

“I want to see the three people who are appointed by the state be people who know the city, who know the schools and know the region,” he said. “They need to understand this area.”

State Sen. Gayle Manning, R-North Ridgeville, a retired teacher who unsuccessfully tried to pass legislation that would remove Lorain from the track of a state takeover, said Thursday she has a lot of respect for Graham.

“I think he’s doing a great job with the district, especially because he’s only been there for a little over a year,” she said. “But, at this point, I’m not really involved in conversations as to who the CEO’s going to be, and that’s a decision Lorain’s going to have to make.”

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