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Addressing student behavior in Canton City Schools

Learn how Superintendent Jeff Graham is working closely with staff to revise a framework that outlines consequences for students who misbehave.

Blog: Struggling schools need a locally-driven but state-supported solution; not the other way around.

Ohio’s legislators continue to grapple with how to support struggling schools. As the former Superintendent of numerous Ohio school districts including one subjected to HB70, I believe I have a unique perspective on what successful state intervention could look like. I agree that there are times that districts need some state intervention and assistance to help ensure that all children have the best access to good schools. I've led diverse districts for the majority of my career and have created turnaround plans in multiple districts. Those plans were based on the individual district and no two plans were alike. There is no quick fix and top-down decision-making does little to help the local district. 

Seven Questions with Canton's New Superintendent

While Graham’s resume provides a glimpse into his background, it doesn’t give any insight on his views regarding student discipline, how to raise student achievement or on other issues that Canton City school employees and residents told the school board’s search consultant that were important to them. So, the Canton Repository asked Graham about those issues. You can read his answers here.

Graham Hired as Superintendent of Canton Schools

After 97 days of searching, the Canton City school board has found its new leader. The board voted 5-0 Tuesday to hire Jeffrey Graham as its next superintendent. The hire comes nine days after Graham was declared the sole finalist for the position because Alliance City Schools Superintendent Jeffery Talbert withdrew his name from consideration.

Public Q&A with Finalist Jeffrey Graham

In nearly every answer, Graham, currently the regional superintendent of Cleveland Municipal City Schools, stressed the importance of working with those affected by the issue, listening to their needs and then developing a plan together that would be executed with fidelity and clearly communicated.

Graham New Superintendent of Canton City Schools

Turning things around doesn’t happen overnight, says Dr. Jeff Graham, the new superintendent of Canton City Schools. “If you’re looking at an increase in student achievement right away, that’s not how it works,” Graham told WHBC Tuesday night after the Canton City School District Board of Education unanimously approved his hire. Graham says running a successful school district is all about people, and the first thing he’ll do is go on a listening tour to hear from teachers and staff members their thoughts and concerns.​

Graham delivers "State of the Schools" address in Spanish and English

Lorain Schools Superintendent Jeff Graham took a step to build a stronger relationship with the district’s Spanish-speaking families with his State of the Schools address Tuesday morning. Graham, who has been in Lorain since 2015, detailed the district’s wraparound services as well as impending implementation of a CEO after the district failed to meet certain state testing benchmarks in Spanish.

Lorain City Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeff Graham met with community members April 12 at an open door session at Lorain County Community College City Center at 201 W. Erie Ave. in Lorain. Each month he visits with folks at a different location around the city.

Lorain Schools superintendent looks to improve academics, culture at Lorain High School

“We’re looking at them to improve culture and climate opportunities. Right now, they’re identifying needs.” More than a year ago, a similar group of students asked for more food in school lunches, and for permission to wear hooded sweatshirts they call, “hoodies,” Graham said. In response, the Lorain School Board approved hooded sweatshirts as part of the dress code. For some less affluent students, a sweatshirt takes the place of a coat and they were cold, Graham said.

“These things take time,” Graham said, “because it’s changing a culture and building trust. Our families are in the same boat. If they don’t know we care, everything else is pretty tough. We want to find the ‘Why?’ We don’t want solutions right away. Quick fixes don’t work. There are no quick fixes that are sustainable. And once we have the first why answered, there are usually eight more you have to answer before you can fix it.”

The Lorain school district is looking to change its hiring practices for the upcoming school year to get a more diverse staff. “Last year, only 4 percent of people who were licensed in the state were members of a minority, and we want to get people from that batch,” Superintendent Jeff Graham said. “We want people from diverse backgrounds that are talented and can serve the various cultures we have here.” With more than 30 percent of the district’s students coming from primarily Spanish-speaking homes, Graham, who is white, noted getting more Spanish-speaking staff is a priority, along with African-American men.

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

Lorain City State of the Schools address by Dr. Jeffrey Graham; United: Thoughts on Finding Common Ground and Advancing the Common Good

What's this item about? What makes it interesting? Write a catchy description to grab your audience's attention...As has been widely reported, the Lorain schools have been in academic distress since 2013 and face being taken over by an unelected state CEO and academic commission. During his presentation, Dr. Graham talked about the circumstances that helped bring this situation about, the problems that the schools still face which are being addressed at this time, and the conditions that they can be proud of like being fiscally sound, a record of decisions being made according to the best data and the best practices, and a healthy collaborative culture. He said that in light of this progress, he believed that district deserved to be taken out of academic takeover status and the most hopeful way for this to happen was legislation introduced by Ohio State Senator Gayle Manning.

“I don’t think we can improve without taking a good hard look at reality. It would be easy for us to hide from this, but we’re not doing it. In fact, we’re doing the opposite.”

Lorain City Schools is the second Ohio school district subject to the provisions of HB 70.  Knowing that Youngstown Schools fought HB 70 and litigated, mostly to no avail, the leadership of Lorain Schools chose to work with the Ohio Department of Education to make the transition as painless as possible.

“While we have safe harbor for everybody else, we have almost the opposite of a safe harbor in Lorain,” said Dr. Bill Zelei, chair of the Lorain Academic Distress Commission. “We don’t want the district suffering because of some political decision somewhere.”

Families said they needed access to health care, so the district provided space for three health clinics in school buildings, with dental and eye care following, Graham said. “The service for more than 90 percent of our students is free through Medicare and Medicaid,” he said. A student group told Graham they were hungry, so the Lorain School Board responded with free lunches for all students in the district. The number increased by 250 lunches served each day, he said. For the first time in his 14-year career as a superintendent, Graham delivered a State of the Schools speech in Spanish earlier in the day in the same room. “I’ve been here two years,” he said. “I drastically over-estimated the supports we have in place for Spanish-speaking families.”

Lorain Schools Superintendent Jeff Graham took a step to build a stronger relationship with the district’s Spanish-speaking families with his State of the Schools address Tuesday morning. Graham, who has been in Lorain since 2015, detailed the district’s wrap around services as well as impending implementation of a CEO after the schools failed to meet certain state testing benchmarks completely in Spanish.

“Our goal is to develop a community-centered plan that allows the school district to continue its progress toward improving student achievement,” Manning said in a statement released Friday. “A change in direction at this point would only disrupt the progress that is already being made locally. Involvement from this diverse group of stakeholders demonstrates that the Lorain community supports their schools and is committed to being part of a solution that ensures students are provided the best opportunities for their futures.”

Lorain City Schools will get a new Academic Distress Commission and a Chief Executive Officer. Despite improved test scores in the district, Lorain will follow Youngstown City Schools as the second in Ohio under state takeover. Lorain school administrators say they’re working to avoid a painful transition.

View the presentation Lorain Schools was selected to give at the November 2016 OSBA Capital Conference.

The district created a community survey and asked parents what they need. Mercy Health Clinics emerged from the list of needs, so students and teachers can visit a clinic at one of three elementary buildings, he said.

“The last time I spoke with him, (Dr. Richard) Ross, the state superintendent, (he) was very complimentary of Lorain City Schools,” said Lorain Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeff Graham. “But he said, ‘The law is the law.’”

Lorain City Schools officials and local lawmakers today announced plans calling for community stakeholders to participate in open dialogue sessions to develop a plan to improve educational achievement for students and take proactive measures to avoid further state control. 

The Ohio Department of Education noticed a shift in recent months at Lorain City Schools. Clairie Huff-Franklin, director of academic distress commissions and academic reform at the education department, said the new Lorain Schools administration rallies support with collaborative rather than piecemeal efforts.

Lorain has to score a C or better in the value-added and performance-index categories of the state report card for the next two years to comply. Since a 2013 state academic takeover by the unelected Lorain Academic Commission, Lorain has made progress, but with Ohio using new state tests this year, Graham said compliance “isn’t going to happen.”

“Our students are phenomenal,” he said. “We have great teachers, great building level leadership. What’s happening in the buildings is exactly what should be happening in the buildings.

“We’re in the top three percent in the state in value added,” he said, referring to a part of a state report card where students show a year of growth or more in one year. “So obviously what is happening in the classrooms, is nothing short of amazing. So to watch people do that, and at the end of the day feel like it’s not good enough, it’s tough for me. The feedback they should be getting is praise from around the state.

Graham wrote that he loves Lorain because it “is a place where everybody hugs everybody, and they mean it.” He said that his feelings of respect for the community and passion for helping the students has only grown over the two years he spent leading the district.

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43 Forum: Parma City Schools make the grade

 The Parma City Schools are rated Excellent by the state because it has achieved what is called 'value added' that's when students improve year-over-year sufficient enough to bump the district's grade up a notch. 

I am proud of the way our consolidation plan has come together. This was a community effort. Three years ago we were a district in despair. Levies had failed over and over, the state loomed above our heads with the threat of takeover, staff and programs were cut to the bone, and children were losing out on the benefits of programs, activities, and advanced classes. That is when this wonderful community of teachers, staff, parents, and public stepped in and said, “let us begin again. Our kids deserve a quality education.”

"This move will be transforming learning in our schools," said Superintendent Jeffrey Graham. "In a time when our students are expecting a more individualized education experience, and our community is expecting to see more 21st century skills of our graduates, this is a great opportunity. We're excited to see what our students and staff are capable of achieving together."

Parma City School District Superintendent Jeff Graham believes today’s students must be primed “to grow into jobs that we cannot imagine, and use technologies that have not yet been invented.” He made that remark during his State of the Schools address Thursday to members of the Parma Area Chamber of Commerce at Parma Senior High School, a speech that focused on how the district is trying to prepare students to enter the 21st century workforce.

 have only been here for two months now, but I have heard all of the stories about the troubles that have been faced in Parma City Schools, whether with economic issues, political issues, or trust issues.  I have also had the opportunity to meet many wonderful people.  What has impressed me the most is the overwhelming admiration and pride people have in the community and the Parma City Schools.  It was obvious from their passion, dedication and conviction that communities we serve are great places to live and great places to raise children – as they have been for many decades.  The more people I meet, the more confident I am about overcoming the challenges we face as a district.

Woodridge Leader accepts new position as Parma Schools Superintendent

“Woodridge Schools accomplished a great deal during the tenure of Jeff Graham, most notably attaining ‘Excellent with Distinction’ on the district report card,” said Woodridge School Board President Cheryl Hoover. “The community benefited by his leadership and we wish him well as he continues his career at Parma.”

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