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Graham deserving of high marks, bonus | Editorial

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It really didn't come as a surprise that Lorain City Schools CEO/Superintendent Jeff Graham earned the highest performance rating possible — and a $10,000 bonus — for navigating the district through the second half of the 2020-21 school year during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

On June 28, the Lorain Academic Distress Commission voted 4-0 to affirm Graham’s evaluation as “effective” and the financial bonus.

Commission Chairman Randall Sampson said that money was part of Graham’s contract that the Lorain Academic Distress Commission neglected in the past for district chief executives.

The members agreed Graham deserved the maximum bonus.

Commission members rated Graham with a scale of 1 to 4, with 1 being ineffective, 2 being developing, 3 being skilled and 4 being effective.

They considered five elements, with Graham’s ratings: leadership, governance and communication, 4; curriculum and instruction, 3; human resources and professional development, 3; student supports, 4; and fiscal management, 4

Sampson said the summary was rounded to the whole number 4.

Graham was effective when he first arrived to Lorain Schools in June 2015 as superintendent.

Many people viewed him as the savior of Lorain Schools.

We had our reservations at first, because he didn't live in Lorain and we wondered how was he going to lead the district from another county.

Because Graham had no intention of living in Lorain County, after his shift is over, he got in his vehicle, drove back to his home in Cuyahoga Falls and had no connection to the area of the district that hired him.

That was concerning.

However, Graham proved he was prepared to do the job.

He attended students activities after the school day ended, he implemented programs such as health and meals to meet the needs for all of the students.

Graham was doing a good job when the state came in in 2017 and took over Lorain Schools under the controversial House Bill 70, which led to the hiring of a CEO for Lorain City Schools.

The Lorain Academic Distress Commission hired David Hardy Jr. as the CEO and that turned out to be a disaster because Hardy refused to listen to people willing to help him and chased away good administrators.

Graham, who still was superintendent but virtually powerless, left the district in February 2018; Hardy left in January 2020.

While away from Lorain, Graham served as regional superintendent of 15 schools in the "Best Practices" portfolio for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and superintendent of Canton City Schools since June 2018.

Greg Ring served as interim CEO until the Lorain Academic Distress Commission hired Graham as the CEO/superintendent in August 2020.

When Graham applied to become the CEO for Lorain Schools, it proved he still cared about the district and wanted to return to finish the job he started before he left.

Graham's high performance rating and bonus also proved the Lorain Academic Distress Commission was pleased with his handling of the district.

Sampson and commission members Patricia O’Brien, Steve Cawthon and Cel Rivera all had supportive remarks for Graham.

Sampson called Graham's leadership rating “highly effective” for Lorain Schools.

Cawthon said "Dr. Graham has done a really nice job" adding that he has established a nice rapport with the people of the district.

If the people feel respected and appreciated, Cawthon said, they will help the community instead of having an adversarial relationship.

Oh, he's so right.

Cawthon cited earlier conversations with Lorain School Board President Mark Ballard about needing leadership that calms the waters.

Ballard pointed out that Graham has done just that, calmed the waters.

O’Brien praised Graham’s communications with the community, school building principals and teachers.

Rivera, former Lorain police chief, also appreciated his efforts saying Graham is trying hard to build trust, not only within the school system, but also with the community.

Rivera also praised Michael Scott, assistant superintendent for school improvement, and Ross May, assistant superintendent and executive director of strategic planning, data and process, as a “dynamic duo.”

Graham agreed they are outstanding educators, but two of many working for improvements to Lorain Schools.

Sampson and Rivera praised the leadership team at all levels, from chasing down Lorain High School students who need classes and credits to graduate, to the middle and elementary schools where principals have teams to drive success.

And Sampson acknowledged Graham’s marks are not just the representation of one person, but an entire team, an entire community and an entire district moving forward in the right direction.

The high marks and bonus that Graham received confirms that he is the right person for the job, and was the right leader before he left in 2018.

Lorain Schools is a better district with Graham leading it.

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