School & District Management

Cleveland District CEO Named Urban Educator of the Year

By Denisa R. Superville — October 20, 2016 2 min read
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Eric Gordon, the CEO of the Cleveland school district who is charged with implementing a comprehensive district transformation plan, was selected Thursday as the Urban Educator of the Year.

The annual honor, known as the Green-Garner Award, is given by the Council of the Great City Schools, the Washington-based organization that represents the nation’s largest urban school districts. The announcement was made at the council’s annual conference in Miami.

The council said in a statement that since the adoption of the 2012 Cleveland Plan for Transforming Schools, the district has seen increases in graduation rates, family engagement, and student enrollment.

The plan aimed to improve academic outcomes and make significant changes to the way the district operated. Among other things, it allows the district to share property taxes with some charter schools; changes teacher-compensation to one based on skill and performance; and allows for an expanded school day and year.

Gordon, who has been superintendent since 2011, was charged with putting the plan into effect.

“Eric Gordon has made a profound difference in the lives of thousands of Cleveland’s students, helped propel a once-struggling school system forward, and significantly contributed to the future of the Great City of Cleveland,” Michael Casserly, the council’s executive director, said.

The Cleveland Plan has had mixed results thus far. While graduation rates have increased, fewer students are leaving the district, and more students are graduating ready for college-level work, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that test scores were not as notable.

State test scores released in September showed that the district ranked at the tail end of eight urban districts in the state, including two—Lorraine and Youngstown—which had been taken over by the state, the paper reported.

But on the plus side, five Cleveland schools had 100 percent graduation rates, and attendance moved up a bit from 90 percent to 91.5 percent from the previous year. The graduation rate rose to 69 percent. It was 56 percent in 2011, according to the paper.

A separate analysis of test data, which the Plain Dealer published on Sept. 25, concluded that compared with the decline in test scores in other districts, Cleveland schools had made gains.

The award comes with a $10,000 scholarship prize that will go to a Cleveland student. Gordon was chosen by former award winners.

There were eight other finalists: John Allison from Wichita, Kansas; Juan Cabrera from El Paso, Texas; Alberto Carvalho from Miami-Dade; Michael Grego from Pinellas County, Fla.; Kaya Henderson, the former chancellor of the District of Columbia school system; Barbara Jenkins from Orange County, Fla.; Mary Ronan from Cincinnati; and Leticia Rodriguez-Rosario, a superintendent of District 9 in New York City.

The award is named after Richard Green, the first African-American chancellor in New York City, and Edward Garner, a former Denver school board member. It alternates each year between a school board member and a superintendent. Last year’s winner was William “Bill” Isler, a former school board member in Pittsburgh.

Eric Gordon, CEO of the Cleveland school district, was named Urban Educator of the Year at the Council of the Great City Schools’ annual conference in Miami on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016. Photo by Clarence Tabb, Jr., Council of the Great City Schools.

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.