Friday, July 29, 2016



These are absolutely critical times for the Canton City Schools (CCS).

In a little over two weeks,  the students who live in Stark County's county seat will be filing into the buildings of the CCS questing for "a brighter tomorrow."

The question:  Is there "a brighter tomorrow" for the CCS or is it all "doom and gloom?"

The SCPR has seen the answer as being "doom and gloom.

Witness  a November, 2013 blog on the Rinaldi/Resnick face-off (LINK) and this chart from the Ohio Department of Education in a recent SCPR blogs LINK).

That is until the SCPR learned that once bitter political enemies and Canton City Schools Board of Education (CCS-BOE, BOE, District) J.R. Rinaldi and Eric Resnick have more or less reconciled their differences and have agreed to set them aside in their joint mission to provide the essential leadership to reverse CCS slide into an academic abyss.

The Report has learned that CCS officials have in hand a similar chart that, while currently in preliminary stages, it is said to show a continuing dire situation in the quality of education in the CCS top to bottom.

Moreover, there are reports that there have been protracted and tense negotiations between the Canton Professional Educators Association and the CCS on a new contract for the teaching staff with the school system.  An unconfirmed (with CPEA/school officials) report has the CPEA voting on a new contract today.

The Report is told that the CPEA has a particularly bitter take on Superintendent Adrian Allison and want him gone.

Because of Resnick and Rinaldi's "we are together" leadership model,  it appears that the CPEA is prepared to put its opposition on the back burner and agree to a new contract.

School starts in a little over two weeks.

Unless he decides otherwise, Allison will be continuing with the CCS for School Year 2016/2017.

Take a look at his current contract:

Allison has been on the job since January 1, 2013 and by contract has a right to continue as CCS superintendent until July 31, 2013 which in essence means one more school year after this school year.

The Report believes that might well be a move initiated perhaps as early as  February, 2017 to explore the feasibility of Allison agreeing to a termination of his relationship with CCS prior to the beginning of the 2017/2018 school year.

One unhappiness with Allison reportedly is that he keeps bringing forth models of education that will not work in an urban school such as the CCS.

In addition to the reported CPEA dissatisfaction with Allison, the inadequacy of a workable educational model for Canton's schools, he has a historically poor relationship with BOE member Resnick (likely beginning with the Timken/McKinley merger flap [LINK] and The Report thinks that it might be in Resnick's mind that the best thing going forward is for Allison to move on.

The Report has not talked with Resnick and the foregoing is conjecture by the SCPR based on past animosities that Resnick has directed at Allison.

A CCS connected person in a position to know says that the chief reason for hope for the system going forward is a rebuilding of the CCS education infrastructure beginning in the primary grades (a process said to be already underway).

Cantonians ought to hoping and praying that the Resnick/Rinaldi coming together and the "rebuilding the basics of fundamentally sound education" is the "real deal" in Canton, for if it is not, there could be a absolutely horrible immediate future for Canton's schools.

And the consequences to Canton in general without a viable plan to dramatically improve Canton schools will be far reaching.

Canton has elected a new mayor (politically independent Thomas M. Bernabei) who is already making dramatic improvements in the fundamental financial base of Canton government.

Moreover, he is working through the city's building department (principally Rinaldi) to reconstruct those neighborhoods of Canton that can be turned positive and be an attraction to younger families as being a desirable place to nurture family life.

But all this work will lilely be for naught if the Canton schools are not improved dramatically over the next ten years.

One reader of the SCPR thinks that Canton might be in for an immediate future (meaning one more year to turn things around) akin to the Cleveland, Lorain and Youngstown schools wherein the Canton schools become mired in what is nominated as being the Academic Distress Commission, to wit:

Is it possible that the Canton City Schools will suffer the same fate as the Youngstown School District and be placed under state supervision soon? 

The latest data will be released soon and the numbers for Canton City Schools do not look good.  In fact Canton is in about as bad shape as the Cleveland City School District and other distressed school districts like Lorain City Schools.

You may recall that the State of Ohio passed legislation (HB 70) which allowed the state to takeover the Youngstown Schools.  HB70 provides for the state superintendent to make three appointments, the mayor of the city to make one appointment, and the president of the school board to make the last appointment.  The all powerful position of Chief Executive Officer is appointment by the Academic Distress Commission.

You may also recall that this legislation was past quickly and without much fanfare and passed as an effort to "rescue" the Youngstown Schools.

As an overview, here is how the process works.

The Academic Distress Commission is a joint school district and state panel that steps in to try to fix the schools.

The determination of which school is taken over is as follows: Previous state law called for state takeover of districts rated in "academic emergency," the equivalent of an overall F grade on state report cards for three years in a row, and who miss a few other standards under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

Because the state's not giving districts overall grades right now, three years of F grades on the Performance Index measurement of student achievement and a grade of D or F for the value-added measure of student academic progress would also trigger state takeover.   The new bill makes only slight adjustments to these rules.

Districts Currently Affected:  Both the Lorain and Youngstown school districts have Academic Distress Commissions running their schools, but only Youngstown was affected by HB 70 - for 2015 to 2016 school year.

If Lorain's grades do not improve, a new Academic Distress Commission with new powers could be created for the 2017-18 school year.

Any new districts declared as failing will be handled under the new rules.

Bill changes panel membership: Before this bill, the state superintendent would appoint three people to this five-member panel. The local school board president would appoint two.

HB 70 would still let the state superintendent approve three members, but requires one of them to be from the district's county. The school board president appoints one member, who must be a teacher and the mayor appoints the fifth.

New CEO would take most of the control: The panel and the school board already in place in the district would give most of its power to a new CEO to be paid between $150,000 and $200,000 a year by the state.

Duties would include, as described by the the legislature's non-partisan research arm:

(1) Replacing school administrators and central office staff;
(2) Assigning employees to schools and approving transfers;
(3) Hiring new employees;
(4) Defining employee responsibilities and job descriptions;
(5) Establishing employee compensation;
(6) Allocating teacher class loads;
(7) Conducting employee evaluations;
(8) Making reductions in staff;
(9) Setting the school calendar;
(10) Creating a budget for the district;
(11) Contracting for services for the district;
(12) Modifying policies and procedures established by the district board;
(13) Establishing grade configurations of schools;
(14) Determining the school curriculum;
(15) Selecting instructional materials and assessments;
(16) Setting class sizes; and
(17) Providing for staff professional development.

CEO can close struggling schools: By year two of the Commission being named, the CEO can close struggling schools, impose a turnaround plan or convert the school to a charter school.

CEO can change union contracts: By year three, the CEO can change or suspend any rules in place in union contracts, so long as they do not lower the pay and benefits of employees.

School board appointed by mayor, not elected: By year five, school board members will be appointed by the mayor, not elected. There will be no vote by the community to make this change, as occurred in Cleveland when it shifted to a mayorally-appointed board.

The community will have a vote to return to election its school board once the district is no longer considered as "failing."

Panel and CEO will also add more charter schools: The bill calls for adding more "high quality" school choices in the district for families and creating a panel to act as a "high quality school accelerator" to improve schools and add more choices faster.

The legislative comments state: "The accelerator's role is to promote "high-quality" schools in the district, lead improvement efforts for underperforming schools not operated by the district, recruit "high-quality" sponsors for community school, attract new "high-quality" schools to the district, and increase the overall capacity of schools to deliver a "high-quality" education for students."

CEO will create a community advisory panel: The CEO must create a panel of community advisors to help create a new plan for the district.

The commentary to the legislation further states: "The purpose of the group is to develop expectations for academic improvement in the district and to assist the district in building relationships with organizations in the community that can provide needed services to students. The members of the group must include at least educators, civic and business leaders, and representatives of institutions of higher education and government service agencies."

State Funding: The state can give the district up to $1.5 million as a one-time payment to enact its plan.

With regard to the Youngstown Schools, the 2015 results of this state takeover of the Youngstown Schools will be apparent once the data for last year is presented in the forthcoming weeks.  At that time we will also know if Canton Schools will be on to a "Brighter Tomorrow" or to State Supervision.

The SCPR for one hopes that the apparent "coming together" of former BOE rivals Resnick and Rinaldi for the sake of the well-being of the  Canton schools will be effective to stave off what may be in the offing for Canton schools (i.e. Academic Distress Commission supervision).

Such a development would certainly impede Canton's municipal government in its effort to get the city healthy again.

Many area citizens and Stark County political subdivision (elected and appointed) officials think that the Pro Football Hall of Fame Village Project (HOFVP)—if it materializes—will be "the salvation of Canton."

While all should hope and pray that the HOFVP becomes a reality, it will not be a panacea solution to the decades in the making problem of the eighth largest city of Ohio.

It will be the work of Canton's strong neighborhood association network, responsible landlords (e.g. Kings Landing LINK)  coordinating with the schools and the Bernabei administration that will "tell the tale" of the future of a town that is the birthplace of a president of the United States.

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