CLEVELAND — The leader of Northeast Ohio's largest public school district is leaving his position.
Cleveland Metropolitan Schools CEO Eric Gordon announced his resignation on Monday, effective in June at the end of the 2022-23 academic year. In a statement, Gordon said he wanted to provide the school board and Mayor Justin M. Bibb "with sufficient time to conduct a thorough, high-quality search for the next CEO."
"While the decision to leave CMSD was not an easy one for me, the time and conditions are right for the Mayor and Board to identify a CEO to lead the District’s long-term recovery from the pandemic and to build on the gains we achieved during a remarkable and historic period in K-12 education," Gordon added in a video message.
Godron was hired to steer CMSD in 2011, and since that time he has overseen various changes to the district. In particular, the Cleveland Plan for Transforming Schools led to school buildings across the district becoming specialized campuses depending on students' academic needs or interests, and also focused on increasing enrollment, better distribution of funds, and improving employment and retention practices.
CMSD did see some notable gains in performance, particularly with a graduation rate that has increased from just over 50% to now north of 80%. He also played a leading roll in bringing the Say Yes Foundation to Cleveland and making college tuition virtually free for students over the next 25 years, and voters even rewarded Gordon's leadership by passing multiple tax levies.
However, Cleveland public schools' overall test scores report cards have remained among the lowest in Ohio, and the district only avoided a potential state takeover years ago because of their own ongoing plan, which then-Gov. John Kasich had supported. The COVID-19 pandemic also sapped progress, with students having to learn remotely on-and-off for much of the past two years.
Bibb, who made improving education one of the pillars of his successful 2021 campaign for mayor, released the following statement:
"We thank Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon for his steadfast and dedicated leadership of our schools for the past 11 + years. Over the course of his tenure, CMSD students made significant gains on important measures, including increasing high school graduation rates. His stewardship of The Cleveland Plan made CMSD one of the fastest improving school districts in Ohio and Clevelanders have shown confidence in the district as well, passing significant operating levies in 2012, 2016, and 2020.
"Eric is a true leader who puts students and families first. He is passionate about serving our community and recognized that the timing and conditions are right for CMSD’s transition to a new CEO to lead the district’s long-term COVID recovery and build on the promise of The Cleveland Plan.
"CEO Gordon will remain in his role through the end of the school year in June 2023. We wish him all the best in his future endeavors and will continue to work closely with him through his final school year with CMSD. We also look forward to partnering with the Board of Education on an inclusive and effective search process for the new CEO that will include substantial input from the community."
Bibb did not give a timeline for when a search for Gordon's successor might begin. CMSD is the only district in Ohio where the mayor's office has the final say over who serves as superintendent or CEO.
"I will forever be proud of the work we have done over the past 11 years at CMSD and grateful for the role each of you has played in the District's progress that I have every reason to believe will continue in the year ahead," Gordon said.
Cleveland Teachers Union President Shari Obrenski also released a statement after Gordon announced his intention to step down:
"On behalf of the teachers and staff at Cleveland’s public schools, CTU thanks Eric Gordon for his dedication to Cleveland’s students and community.
"Mr. Gordon has listened to and worked with CTU members and officials. He has treated educators as partners to work with, rather than as obstacles to work around.
"Our collaboration led to improved outcomes for our students, safer schools, increased opportunities for student involvement in sports, the arts, and other activities. The community has rewarded our efforts with their support demonstrated through the passage of a number of levies, including the most recent November 2020 levy, overwhelmingly passed at the height of the pandemic.
"We will miss Mr. Gordon’s leadership and devotion to our kids, our schools, and our community and thank him for his service. We look forward to working with him in his last year as our CEO and wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors."
Gordon's colleagues spoke on his departure about all of the good they believe he had done for the school district during his tenure.
Orchard Stem School principal Andrea Moss:
"We were just sharing what a great orator and motivator he was to us all. It's difficult to learn of his departure but what's important is the legacy he is leaving for our district"
Cleveland Municipal principal Victoria King:
"He was good with the kids. That was his number one priority all the time. He was so supportive of administrators and the staff. (He) just always made you feel good, so uplifted."
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