Corley will be out of a job as East Cleveland’s school CEO

School board and teachers union suit seeks to obstruct state's takeover to protect teacher contracts and superintendent's job

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria is going to assign a commission to appoint a CEO to manage East Cleveland’s school district.

East Cleveland’s school board is being guided by Superintendent Myrna Loy Corley and the members of the teachers union she once held membership in to file and support a temporary restraining order in Cuyahoga County’s court of common pleas to protect their jobs from a state takeover.

Ohio Department of Education Superintendent Paolo DeMaria informed school board President Una H.R. Keenon and Corley on September 13, 2018 that he was invoking R.C. 3302.10 and authorizing a state commission that will appoint a chief executive officer to manage the district. 

According to R.C. 3302.10(B)(1)(c) DeMaria has 30 days from the date of his notice to Keenon and Corley to get the five-member commission appointed.  He has to appoint three.  One is appointed by Mayor Brandon King.  Another, a teacher from the district, is appointed by the Keenon-led school board.

East Cleveland school board president Una Keenon is a former municipal court judge the late Supreme Court of Ohio Chief Justice Thomas Moyer described as operating the worst managed municipal court in Ohio. Now she presides over the worst performing school district in Ohio.

The five-member commission has 60 days to identify and hire a CEO, according to R.C. 3302.1(C)(1).  After the CEO is hired, Corley is gone and the board’s authority is wiped out.  All decisions for the district are made by the CEO and commission.

The state law identifies 17 very specific powers the CEO has to control the school district and wipe out existing contracts that includes the collective bargaining agreements with the district’s education unions.

All hiring and firing decisions will be made by the CEO.  That official will control pay scales, curriculum, teacher assignments and front office staff.  Everything from classroom size to teacher workloads to learning materials is found in the authority of the CEO pursuant to R.C. 3302.10(C)(1)(a) through (q).  Contracts with administrators can be broken at will by the CEO.

Within 30 days after the CEO is appointed that official is mandated to meet with the city’s stakeholders and gain support for an academic plan to improve the district.

What the CEO will also have the authority to do is invest money directly in students and families, provide mentoring and job resources, and open the schools to more recreational and cultural activities.  There’s an open-ended provision in R.C. 3302.10(G)(2)(f) that lets the CEO “provide any other services that will contribute to a successful learning environment.”

The arguments  filed by Keenon’s board and the East Cleveland Education Association’s memorandum of support in essence place the blame on the state for the way the district’s scores were calculated.  They cited “errors” in calculating math scores and the use of an “uncodified” section of R.C. 3302.03 that instructed the state not to record a school district’s actual failing test scores for three years.

The ODE in its response explained the East Cleveland school district’s legal theory this way.

” … In the 2014-15, 2015-16, and 2016-17 school years, ODE was prohibited from “assigning] an overall letter grade under division (C)(3) of section 3302.03 of the Revised Code for any school district or building.” That is, ODE could not assign the overall letter grade that would typically form the basis for, among other things, an ADC determination. The General Assembly instructed ODE through uncodified law to instead use an “equivalent” overall grade for that period of time, and told ODE how to generate that equivalent. (See Exhibit C, Am. Sub. HB 70, as signed and enacted, at § 6).  The District claims that this uncodified section creates a conflict with codified law, andthat the various provisions cannot be read in concert.”

The ODE argued that the superintendent of the state had the discretion under amendments created in R.C. 3302.036 to assign the grade that would have been in effect for the years the district failed despite the district’s claims that the state’s testing standards were a mess.

The case has been assigned to Judge Steven Gall to determine if the East Cleveland school board’s argument meets the three standards required for a temporary restraining order to survive.  ODE attorneys don’t think the Keenon board and teachers union have a chance.

“In determining whether to grant a temporary restraining order, a trial court must
consider whether the movant has a strong or substantial likelihood of success on the merits of his underlying claim, whether the movant will be irreparably harmed if the order is not granted, what injury to others will be caused by the granting of the motion, and whether the public interest will be served by the granting of the motion.”

While Corley, Keenon and the teachers union are the “moving parties” in the case they are not the plaintiffs.  The board is set up to represent the interests of East Cleveland school children who the state has a duty to protect from the failure of its members to hold Corley and her administrative staff accountable since she got her first and unprecedented 5-year agreement in 2003.

Corley retired in 2015 and the board entered a “double-tipping” contract to keep her at a lesser salary despite the continued shortcomings of her administration to improve the quality of education for East Cleveland school children.

The Shaw High School band is but one example of Corley’s failure as a superintendent.  Band director Donshon Wilson was not certified to teach music to band members who did not know how to read it.

Some of the students who learned music under former director Alvin Fulton, Phd, had professional careers in the music and recording industry as composers and musicians.  Students Corley’s placed in the Shaw High band under Wilson have music careers that end with the Shaw High Band.  Reading music is a basic requirement of any college music program.

Lawyers for DeMaria have argued that the 10th district court of appeals has already rejected an argument similar to the one offered by Keenon’s board and the teachers union.  

Corley’s days as head of the failing East Cleveland school district appear to be numbered.

Eric Jonathan Brewer
Author, Investigative Journalist, Speaker, Politician, Consultant