Reflections on March 14, 2018

Today is March 14th, 2018…it is the one month anniversary of the Parkland, Florida tragedy. I am not an attorney nor do I have the desire to be one, however from time to time my job requires that I behave like one at work.  Today was a day where many students exercised their First Amendment Rights in some way, shape or form throughout our Nation and here in Olmsted Falls, Ohio. Students, today is a day that you will likely read about in a history book. Just how the day unfolded for students varied from state to state and district to district. For instance, some school districts gave students carte blanche and in other instances their right of expression was limited.

Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District is THE case that was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1969 related to student speech rights. Here’s a quick synopsis of the case–In 1965 a small group of students in a very large school district in Iowa wore armbands as a symbolic protest of the Vietnam War and they were disciplined by the school district because the district believed that the armbands would “materially and substantially interfere” with the operation of the school. After numerous appeals, four years later the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the students (a 7-2 vote). You can read the court’s opinion here . Essentially the Supreme Court ruled that the district gave students discipline because of a fear of a possible disruption rather than any actual interference. The school disciplined the students for what might have happened  before it actually happened. While the court’s decision was about symbolic free speech, the court indicated the symbol was “akin to pure speech” and was therefore protected. In short, a student’s right to free speech (even when expressed in the form of an armband and peace symbol) can’t be limited because of a fear of disruption to education, but it can be limited when the speech is in fact disruptive to education.

While students do have Free Speech rights under the Constitution, those rights are not unlimited. They aren’t as broad as they might be for an adult functioning in everyday society. In short, the right of expression for the individual ends when normal school functions are impacted. Who determines if normal school functions are impacted? The school administration.

I am writing to provide some perspective…in fact, my perspective. As the superintendent there are decisions that I make that are easy and fun. People like them because they fully agree. In other instances I have to make a decision that some disagree with. It comes with the territory and I accept full responsibility for my decisions. Our district took a very middle of the road and conservative approach to the first National Student Walkout.

Here Is What We Permitted

While one could make a very convincing argument that a student walkout was indeed a disruption to education, Olmsted Falls Schools did not take this approach.

  • We permitted students to leave their classrooms and we did not discipline them for doing so.
  • Some students spoke, signed a banner to remember the lost lives from Parkland, FL and others wrote a letter to their politicians. School was disrupted for approximately 20 minutes.

Here Is What We Did Not Permit

  • We did not permit the creation of a forum for gun control.
  • Students were not permitted to distribute fliers during the school day within the school to advertise the student walkout.
  • Students were not permitted to hold signs with a symbol of a gun (even if the symbol said “no guns.”).
  • Students were not permitted to display banners within the building that said anything pertaining to gun control.       

While I have my own personal views on the issues being debated at the National level when it comes to the 2nd Amendment, I am not permitting a forum to be established within our school district regardless of where an individual stands on the issue (including where I might stand). If I permit a forum, that forum opens for those opposed and for the issue, and it creates the potential for other issues to have a forum.

Today, my goal was to keep students safe and maintain an orderly environment. Each school district community handled today’s events in their own way and while some may disagree with our conservative plan, it got the job done–students spoke their minds, kids were safe, the environment was orderly and the learning resumed.  I was very proud of the way in which our students and staff conducted themselves today and you should be too. They were safe, respectful and responsible. I sincerely appreciate the ongoing support we have received by our Police Department. Every time we’ve needed additional support, they have delivered.

On March 21 at 7:00 in the High School Auditorium we will have a community forum to talk about school safety in Olmsted Falls Schools. During that time we will provide attendees with an update as to what we’ve done to maintain a safe environment and what we are going to do in order to make it safer. We will talk about the physical plant, our personnel, student mental health and how the most preventative measure as it relates to school violence is connecting kids–to one another and to the adults. Keeping schools and students safe is complex. It takes significant cooperation between school, home and community.

Thanks for your time and consideration.


Jim Lloyd, Superintendent


Student Protests/Walkouts

I have worked as an educator within public schools for 24 years and unfortunately have witnessed the evolution of school safety that has occurred due to the violence and murder of our children. After each destructive episode, we gathered the school people and first responders to review our processes and procedures to ensure our protocols are updated. Many school communities have conducted forums on school safety and we will do the same. We will be providing our community with a communication forum on school safety in order to let them know what we’ve done and how will continue to improve. That meeting will take place at 7:00 p.m. on March 21st in the High School Auditorium.

The most recent school tragedy that occurred on February 14, 2018 in Parkland, FL, feels different from the others. Perhaps we are at a societal tipping point or a group of students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have empowered other students because they’ve been so inspirational in the face of this horrific tragedy.  The Parkland incident has inspired many students across the Nation to take a stand or weigh in on school safety, mental health supports and gun control. School districts across the Nation are handling this situation in various ways.

The issue of student protests is a legal one and the Federal and Supreme courts have provided rulings on the First Amendment Rights of students (see Tinker v. Des Moines). In order to be clear with our parents and community, I wanted to provide you with some information.

  1. While some districts have taken an active role in organizing a protest or walkout for their students, our school district has elected a different approach. We believe that supporting or facilitating a walkout would create a forum for such activities and while many are supportive of the basic tenets that have led to this National movement, the potential exists for other issues to surface that may be more controversial or divisive. We believe that if the school district would support one cause, it would be forced to take a definitive position or create a forum for others. As a result, we have elected to support our students’ Constitutional Rights–the rights of those who choose to participate and those that choose not to participate. ALL students will be supervised and kept safe.
  2. Students have constitutional rights and are permitted to exercise them so long as they do not interfere with school activities, or make a disturbance. We will support their constitutional rights.
  3. The administration has spoken with several students regarding walkout intentions. If students are unclear as to what the district’s and building principal’s position is, we encourage them to schedule an appointment and work with their building principal in order to gain clarity on the expectations. We want to support our students.
  4. Our understanding is that the high school students are looking to organize on a date in April due to the anniversary of the Columbine Tragedy. Some middle school students are discussing a walkout on March 14.
  5. With the assistance of our safety forces, the building administration and staff will be prepared for any walkout/protest that might occur in the interior or exterior of the building. Student safety is our number one priority.
  6. The district is not encouraging a walkout and at the same time we are not permitted to prevent one should the students decide to engage in one.  We are listening to students and if they decide to exercise their Constitutional Rights at school, our job will be to keep them safe and maintain order. Any student walkout will not be open to the public or the news media.
  7. So long as students are not making a disturbance, being disorderly or behaving inappropriately, students will not be disciplined. Students are not permitted to leave the school grounds. Simply put, those that do will be in trouble.
  8. Should a student walkout/protest occur, we will keep students safe and they will be escorted back into the building after it concludes (if they choose to walk outside).
  9. While the administration cannot physically prevent a walkout or protest from occurring, they have the discretion to determine when it is disruptive and if it interferes with the instructional environment.

Over the course of the past week I’ve spoken to parents who have been outspoken of my position on this issue. There are those that wish we would do more and those that would like us to do less. My approach is a moderate one and one with an emphasis on keeping students safe and maintaining an orderly instructional environment.

Never before have I seen young people this impacted and aware. Our students care and they want a voice in this matter. While there are structures that I must adhere to, I feel a duty to support them and to listen. As a school community we will continue to explore ways to make our learning environments safer and support the mental health needs of our kids.

Thanks for your consideration.

Dr. Jim Lloyd, Superintendent for the Olmsted Falls City School District




Contact Your Elected Officials and Oppose Ohio House Bill 512

March 5, 2018

Dear Chairman Blessing, III; Vice Chair Reineke, Rep. Faber, Rep. Ginter, Rep. Greenspan, Rep. McColley, Rep. Pelanda, Rep. Seitz, Rep. Smith, Rep. Clyde, Rep. Johnson, Rep. Kennedy-Kent and Rep. Sweeney,


My name is Dr. Jim Lloyd and I am the superintendent for the Olmsted Falls City School District which is located in southwestern Cuyahoga County.  Unfortunately I am unable to be physically present at the scheduled hearing for proposed Ohio House Bill 512. I write to you with significant, fundamental concerns related to the contents of this bill.

Fundamental to our great country’s government operations is the concept of the separation of power. While our founding fathers recognized that concentrated power would have had an impact on our country’s ability to act quickly, they had some  very poor experiences working with a particular individual from a foreign land who operated quickly in an arbitrary and capricious manner. These actions led to a revolution and the founding of a country. While tempting, concentrating power into a single person’s hands for the sake of operating efficiently has never been a good idea. Government should be limited, not emboldened and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Ohio House Bill 512 transfers nearly all of the duties and authority of the State Board of Education and the superintendent of public instruction into a new state agency with far too much power. Doing so removes the avenues that are currently in place to allow for input from students, parents, teachers, administrators, schools, school districts, superintendents and local school board members. While it may appear to create a system that may be more efficient, it abandons the fundamental principles of representative government. Moreover, it further exacerbates the concern that educational decisions will be be politically motivated with very little public input.  

My fellow superintendents throughout the State of Ohio have been strongly advocating for greater local control for quite some time; indeed Ohio’s citizens have voiced a desire to have government remove itself from the day to day operation of public schools as evidenced by surveys that my district has conducted with our public, and those that the Ohio Department of Education has as well.  While we recognize the need for a baseline of symmetry and structure within Ohio’s public education system, we believe that leadership at the local level understands the system’s needs best, and should therefore have the flexibility to operate accordingly. When the group of superintendents and Ohio Senator Huffman made significant progress with proposed Ohio Senate Bill 216, it encouraged those of us at the local level that we were indeed being heard. House Bill 512 represents a significant step backwards. It is the opposite of deregulation and represents the creation of a very powerful government controlled position.   

Ultimately public schools (and public universities) do not need government to assume control for us, or of us. We need the Ohio General Assembly to engage us, empower us, communicate, collaborate, and problem-solve with us. Finally, once that vision has been set, we need them to get out of the way so that the people who have been hired to implement can indeed do just that. While some would criticize the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio State School Board (and I have been personally outspoken); the nearly powerless system within which both groups operate is a structure that has been in place for a while.  The Ohio General Assembly and the Governor’s office have controlled public education in Ohio for over two decades by creating accountability laws and piling on more standardized tests. We’ve been given test-based accountability, a broken high school graduation system, a failed funding model and a host of other things that simply have not worked. Trusting full educational power and decision making to a group that does not have a very good track record of making good decisions about educational policy is a very bad idea.

Students, schools and communities are best served when decisions are made at the local level and supported by state and federal entities. We need limited government, not more government. Proposed Ohio House Bill 512 completely violates this principle.      

Respectfully Submitted,
Dr. Jim Lloyd, Superintendent

Olmsted Falls City School District

PART 2–Proposed Ohio House Bill Would Merge Systems: How it IS NOT political and why it is a bad idea

A group of people held a press conference and announced a plan to have government control of Ohio’s K-12 public schools, public universities and workforce systems. This link will take you to a video of the press conference. After watching the video you’ll have the choice to:

Collapse, Share or Buy DVD. I chose Collapse with the hope that it would make the idea disintegrate, collapse it entirely or make it simply go away…it didn’t work.

This is Part 2.

Before you answer the questions I’m about to pose with any degree of confidence, I would ask that you reflect on your answer for a moment.

Do you believe that the public school’s job and primary purpose is to “prepare the workforce for tomorrow?”

Do you believe that it is the state or federal government’s job to help students find their interests?

Should public schools help students explore, discover and illuminate potential career pathways? Absolutely yes they should, but does the mission stop there? Is our primary goal to simply be part of the “human capital” conveyor belt? Are we just preparing kids for jobs or is there more? The answer to that question is another “YES…there’s more.” While the public schools have a definite preparation role to play as it relates to the Nation’s workforce, that is not the core purpose of public education.  

Consider This

In the Fall of 2017 a group of public school superintendents from around Ohio were chosen with assistance from the Buckeye Association of School Administrators. Members were strategically selected in order to represent all parts of Ohio (urban, rural and suburban). The group was formed because many of the top school district leaders felt that Ohio’s educational policies and laws were not grounded in a solid foundation, but rather were formulated due to political interests. That coupled with the fact that Ohio did not have a clearly stated mission and vision made the conditions right to have these important components be generated from a grass roots level.

The superintendents took part in a two day think tank to discuss the purpose of public education and sought to create a set of beliefs. The first generation Statement of Purpose and Beliefs were created and then vetted through a survey. The survey was sent to all Ohio Public School Superintendents, other school administrators and it was open to community members at the local school districts. The vetting purpose was simple–get feedback and another set of eyes on that which was created and seek to use the opinions of others to reshape the first generation version. Feedback was generated by survey respondents indicating whether they could: a) Fully support the statement; b) Partially support the statement; c) Minimally support the statement or d) Cannot support the statement.  A summary of that feedback can be found here. Respondents were also able to offer narrative feedback as well. These responses were grouped and coded based on themes.

In December of 2017, the group was reconvened to reflect on the broad feedback and tasked with making revisions to the original statement of purpose and set of beliefs. The second generation of the Statement of Purpose and Beliefs can be viewed here. While the document needs some additional work, it does provide a more definitive direction for Ohio’s public schools based on feedback from a broad group of stakeholders from a grassroots level. The statement that should resonate the most is–

Students, schools and communities are best served when decisions are made at the local level and supported by state and federal entities.  

While I’ve been very critical of the Ohio Department of Education, they did run the gauntlet and gather feedback from over 15,000 people on what Ohio citizens wanted from public education and the answer was not, “let Columbus control it more.” One of the main themes that resonated within that feedback was–more local control. The survey that was used by the superintendent group to generate feedback had a very similar theme–less government and more local control.

If you’re a school superintendent and you want to endorse a complete government plan to take control of Ohio’s Public Education and Public University System, then shame on you. That’s lazy. Engage your local community, your teachers, administrators, parents, students, business and local universities and determine the skills and dispositions you want from your high school or college graduates. Don’t advocate for turning it over to the government so that they can do it for you.

This crazy unification plot overlooks a great deal about the role and purpose of public education–which brings me to the core of this section. Our job as superintendents is to engage our locally elected school board and a great number of others, to create and  define our vision and mission. While we have confines that we’re required to operate within (e.g. state standards, research on the most effective instructional methodologies, and so on), when it comes to the vision for public education, our allegiance is to students and to our local communities. Our obligation is to provide an environment that extends far beyond, “get ‘em ready for a job.”

In Olmsted Falls our mission is to Inspire and Empower students. We believe (and our community fully supports this…the same community that provides 66% of the resources to our fund our schools) that we should: illuminate and allow students to explore things that will allow them to choose a pathway…not a track…a path; develop skills to have options in life; teach the whole child; teach the love of exploration; teach self-awareness; help them develop autonomy; provide opportunities to develop a sense of service and belonging; teach students to set goals and fearlessly pursue them; help them learn to communicate, collaborate, think critically and be creative; and of course teach them to read, write and calculate.

Ultimately public schools (and dare I say public universities) do not need government to assume control for us. We need the Ohio General Assembly to engage us, empower us, communicate, collaborate, and problem-solve with us. Finally, once the vision has been set, we need them to get out of the way so that people can implement.  The Ohio General Assembly and Governor’s Office have controlled public education in Ohio for over two decades by creating accountability laws and selling their souls to standardized tests. They’ve brought you test-based accountability, a high school graduation system that is broken, a failed funding system and a host of other things that simply have not worked. We need elected officials, regardless of party affiliation, who are willing to collaborate with those at the local level in order to untie Ohio’s educational Gordian Knot.  

Public education’s mission (PreK through — Bachelor’s of ______) is so much more than prepping a person for a job. If someone is telling you that it’s as simple as getting them ready to work, then perhaps they need to consider another line of work or simply stay in their lane.


PART 1–Proposed Ohio House Bill Would Merge Systems: How it IS political and why it is a bad idea

A group of people held a press conference and announced a plan to have government control Ohio’s K-12 public schools, public universities and workforce systems. This link will take you to a video of the press conference. After watching the video you’ll have the choice to:

Collapse, Share or Buy DVD. I chose Collapse with the hope that it would make the idea disintegrate, collapse it entirely or make it simply go away…it didn’t work.

This proposal concerns me as a public school superintendent and Ohio Citizen for many reasons. Philosophically I believe in limited government control which probably puts me on the conservative side, however we’re all connected and people deserve a “heart” and a “hand”  so I generally fall within the moderate political range. This blog will have 2 parts. One that IS and one that IS NOT political. Regardless of the version, this plan IS completely foolish from both perspectives.

Part 1: How IS This Political and Why is it a bad idea?

While I’m not really certain how it occurred or when it transpired, but those holding the majority thought it acceptable to abandon their roots, take off their gloves and sink their claws deep into public education. Today they must have grown a 3rd arm and another hand for claws because Workforce Development is getting the Wolverine treatment as well.

Apparently limited government control is philosophically embraced for subjects such as tax structures, finance, business development and so on, however for whatever reason, public education has remained fair game. For some time now, superintendents, local school boards and citizens in Ohio have clearly said they want local autonomy, yet some of Ohio’s Representatives fail to hear them (or should it be, care to hear them).

In Ohio, we have a government controlled public education system. While some of the State School Board Members are elected, there are some that hold political office in this state that are elected by you who do not want you to be able to choose who should represent your interests and the interests of your region as it relates to public education. They would rather have public education be controlled by the Ohio General Assembly or have it now be centrally controlled by some Super Group that they are putting together.

Examples of government control by a party (of which I am a member, although I’m not even really sure what that means these days) are hidden in plain sight. For instance, the Governor’s Office appoints some Ohio State School Board members; the Governor writes policy into budget bills that specifically directs Ohio’s schools, and most recently, a group of people (none of whom are actually in charge of running the organizations they are seeking to take over or have experience in how they operate–the Ohio Dept. of Education; the Ohio Department of Higher Education and the Department of Jobs & Family Services) want to create a SUPER bureaucracy to oversee the 3 offices. Let’s be honest…this is a take over. 

If you care about government overreach (and you should), I would encourage you to watch this news conference. The representative speaking actually used the phrase–“crib to career.” One of the superintendents in the video, who does not speak for those that I know in my position, said, “no longer are we in a position to graduate our students, wish them well and hope they go out and discover their passion…it’s our responsibility to make sure our students have a successful transition.” You’re DANG right…that’s been our job for a while and my school district (and we’re not an anomaly) does not need the Ohio General Assembly to neuter the 3 organizations that help to provide that support and pay them to still walk around like they’re still real and relevant to us.

If you want to help students discover their passions and assist with their successful transition from high school, then engage your community and put the structures in place to help them dream, think, explore, discover and explore some more.  Don’t rely on government and the Ohio House of Representatives to create a plan to merge 3 organizations into one and then continue to use your tax dollars to keep everyone stay afloat. There is so much to fix with K-12 education– accountability, school funding, College Credit Plus, creating more formidable higher ed pathways that lead to jobs…why are you creating new problems?  

Proposed Ohio Senate Bill 216 demonstrated how a collaborative effort between Ohio’s elected officials and those leading school districts at the local level can work. While some things still need ironed out, its purpose was to deregulate and provide more local control. This proposed unification plot is an uninformed and unparalleled political takeover of Ohio’s educational system. It doesn’t distribute the power, the decision making, and it certainly doesn’t improve the outcomes for Ohio’s students.    

Ask yourself, will the proposed bill by the Ohio House that seeks to take control of Ohio’s Pre-16 educational system and workforce provide more local control or less local control?  The answer is pretty clear (LESS!) and what will result is a person with a tremendous amount of power over a great many people; the power to completely politicize our educational system under the banner of “workforce ready.”

Should the state and federal government work collaboratively with business to determine what skills and dispositions could strengthen our workforce and make us more globally competitive? They should. Is it government’s job to direct the K-12 and University education systems in order to plug gaps in the current workforce? It is not. Is it the government’s role to say, “we need 30 mechanical engineers, 7 writers, 20 CNC machinists,  10 baristas and 4 ditch diggers (because Judge Smails said the world would always need them)? Absolutely not! It doesn’t matter what political party you like to call home. While this idea of unification seems to be coming from a particular political party, this isn’t about party affiliation. A bad idea is a bad idea and when the genesis of it  comes from the political party that beats the “less government” drum, it is disturbing at best.

Ohio deserves more from its elected officials and it certainly deserves better.

~more to come

Rewinding the Decade: An Essay on Building Coherence in the Olmsted Falls City School District

The purpose of this document is to walk the reader through a brief, 10-year retrospective of certain conditions at both the State and District levels that have led the Olmsted Falls City School District to its current state.  

Part 1: Common Core Standards (Beginning in 2008)

At the State Level

The Ohio Department of Education went through several changes. The Race to the Top initiative was formulated to get Federal reform dollars to finance the shift towards a new set of National learning standards in math and ELA called the Common Core Standards. Ohio signed on with PARCC and quickly put together a testing consortium to measure student acquisition of learning standards that weren’t fully implemented within all of Ohio’s school districts. This testing experiment was met with parent opposition and it failed miserably on many levels.

At the Local Level

Olmsted Falls Schools were engaged in a few, very broad professional development/capacity building initiatives. Specifically, as a school district we learned about the importance of making the learning targets clearer for students, collaboratively creating units of instruction that centered on the most important learning indicators and providing high quality feedback to the learners through the use of formative assessment techniques.

As these techniques became more and more synthesized by the professional educators within our system, Ohio began its pursuit and subsequent adoption of the Common Core Curriculum. The district moved into the curriculum study and adoption phase and began studying the most effective ways to teach reading, mathematics and other core subjects. Our local focus was more on how best to deliver effective instruction to our students as opposed to how we can best align with the Common Core. That notwithstanding, after a few years of delaying specific curriculum adoptions, the district had the financial capacity to undergo several long awaited materials purchases in the four core areas of curriculum (math, ELA, science and social studies).


Part 2: Setting Priorities (approximately 2013)

At the State Level: All In On Test Scores

As the district was conducting several course of study adoptions, those in the Ohio General Assembly, the Governor’s Office and at the Department of Education level were engaged with tightening educational policy. The policy decisions that came from Columbus  resulted in a stranglehold on any “real” decision making that could occur at the local level. During this time the State Report card expanded and Ohio went from categorical rankings (“Excellent with Distinction”) to specific letter grades in several areas defined by those furthest away from the work (“A – F”).

While districts could locally determine the materials and instructional methods they would use to educate students, the metrics used to demonstrate how well education was being conducted locally were definitively grounded in the Local Report Card whose grades were based largely on standardized achievement tests. Coincidentally, the metrics and measurements that were contained within the “local” report card where not determined by the “local school boards” or those educators who were in the best position to weigh in on what each community might value.   

While student test scores on exams created and delivered by the Ohio Department of Education were always used as a method to evaluate a district’s worth, the new assessment system under PARCC was unstable at best. This instability was demonstrated by large swings in district ratings from year to year. Some districts went from “A’s” to “F’s” and then back to “A’s” with no apparent changes to their instructional practices.  It wasn’t until the creation of the Ohio Teacher and Principal Evaluation Systems (OTES and OPES) and the assignment of student growth to that evaluation process, that inextricably tied teachers to student standardized test performances. By law, fifty percent of a teacher’s or principal’s evaluation was required to be linked to student test scores. This effectively removed any semblance of local control from a school district and linked the evaluation of educators to an unreliable system.

While a uniform educator evaluation system that generally outlines similar instructional quality components can have an upside, linking such an evaluation system to unreliable student test performances at a 50% level put an undue emphasis on test scores and it set this as the main student outcome. In addition, the growth model (e.g. value added) was never designed to evaluate teachers or principals individually. Its core purpose was to create a data set to enable educators to provide equal opportunities for students.  The creation of the end of course exams at the high school level coupled with the need for a high school student to obtain a certain number of points on the exams to be “graduation worthy” further tied teachers and principals to test scores. Given the instability of the system, it generated even more anxiety at the local and state level based on the projected impact on the high school graduation rate.

Perhaps most important is this fact–a teacher evaluation system that links a teacher’s evaluation rating to the performances of his or her students’ test scores, coupled with a graduation system that links a student’s test performance to his or her ability to graduate is a recipe for disaster if the goal of the district is to inspire and empower students. An accountability system such as this forces only one plausible outcome–increase student test scores by any means necessary.  When there is a lack of sufficient evidence to suggest that a simple test score is the best predictor of long term student success, a school district is left with a choice to make. Take the paved road to perdition and go “all in” on increasing standardized test performances, or choose a different path.

At the Local Level: Imagining a New Pathway for Students

Meanwhile at the local level, the district’s central office underwent a change in leadership and it was at this time that the district chose to create its first Strategic Plan in an effort to imagine its own path. Members of the strategic planning writing committee analyzed former plans that were in place and sought to refresh the vision and mission of the district.  The new vision statement was strengthened and more focused– “Empower and Inspire students…”  We made a more definitive commitment to educate the whole child through a district re-branding process and created the “Triple A” moniker–Academics, Arts and Athletics.

After the creation of the plan the district immediately took action and aggressively implemented it.  Many parts of the plan called on the district to create structures and processes, or hire people to perform the duties outlined (e.g. College & Career Readiness Counselor; Technology Integration Specialists, etc.). Moreover, using our communication structures such as the School Report and Weekly Blog, we started to more thoroughly report on the four ways that we would use to communicate the district’s renewed focus–Student Success; Technology Enabled; Aligned Resources and Community Partnerships. Ohio became obsessed with aggregated metrics and expanded the A-F local report card system. Olmsted Falls Schools began to de-emphasize the very metrics that were being used by the Ohio Department of Education to measure district success and sought to emphasize items that it deemed important to fulfill its mission. While the district had been able to demonstrate “success” on the metrics designed by the state, the over-emphasis on accountability grades ran counter to the district’s locally created mission and vision. As a result, we created our first Quality Profile as a method to demonstrate that we were choosing something different.

At the Local Level: Forging a New Pathway for Olmsted Falls

After approximately three years of strategic plan implementation, during the 2016-17 school year another group of stakeholders sought to re-calibrate the district’s strategic plan. The process of re-calibration included the team determining which parts of the plan had been fully implemented, which components needed further work and what might need to be added. This team also began to identify a draft set of skills and dispositions that Olmsted Falls Graduates might possess (click here for that draft); skills that would help students be successful in whatever they chose as their next step beyond high school.

While curriculum studies and adoptions continued, the district became involved with two, multi-district consortiums as a way to begin to more formidably engage in the creation of an  environment that would indeed Empower and Inspire Olmsted Falls students as the strategic plan called for. Through a consortium of educators in Northeast Ohio, we were invited to become part of a network of six school districts who had an interest in creating more engaging work for students by becoming more of a learning organization and less of a bureaucratic one (e.g. the Schlechty Network).  At the same time, multiple districts were wrestling with how to create learning environments that would allow students to more thoroughly develop their skills in the areas of creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration. In order to create an instructional environment that would more purposefully and consciously include these important skills in the learning environment, teachers needed to learn more about the importance of them and how they could be infused into their daily lessons.  Professionals from EdLeader21 and the University of Chicago provided professional development to those trailblazers. We were concerned that our staff didn’t see the connections between these professional development opportunities so the need for coherence emerged.
Part 3: Establishing & Building Coherence (approximately 2016)

At the State Level–Splintering

Over the past two years there has been a significant amount of splintering on a number of fronts by state policy and law makers. The State Board of Education has continued to struggle to determine exactly what it will require of students seeking a high-school diploma (other than graduation points) and to this day remain encumbered by the stringent laws that were put into place by the Ohio General Assembly. The graduation point system that was created demonstrated that many from the Class of 2018 would fail to meet the arbitrary graduation target, established through point acquisition, set by the State Board of Education. In addition, the ODE fumbled with the creation of its ESSA Plan and did not effectively include feedback from constituents in Ohio who demanded that the state reduce the required number of assessment and thus put less emphasis on a student’s standardized test scores. Frustration with an ineffective system provided a catalyst for educators at the grassroots level and they began to slowly organize to put additional pressure on the State Board and the Ohio General Assembly to create an accountability system that has more meaning and more local control.  

At the Local Level: Building Coherence By Investing in People

While it would be comforting to hear that our road to this particular point in time was planned, sequential and even linear; saying that was the case wouldn’t be truthful. As Ohio continued to define district success based on student test scores, the Olmsted Falls School District purposefully used the district’s strategic plan as its GPS to follow an alternative path and sometimes that path seemed to be in the middle of the wilderness.  

Over the past two years we have provided development opportunities for a small set of trailblazing professional educators to learn more about the components of designing engaging student work, the importance of the 4C’s (creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration) and how these ideas interact with one another. We believe that at the interaction points of these concepts, students have a higher probability of being empowered and inspired which in turn will increase their probability of success beyond high school. As we learned more about their synergy, it became clearer that we needed to establish a common professional language.

The only way to ensure that students are inspired and empowered is to provide opportunities for teachers to become more adept at learning how to create the classroom conditions to allow for this to happen. Much like the common instructional language that we established with our commitment to clear learning targets for students and high quality feedback strategies to learners, we now have a need to establish a similar language with designing engaging work and the 4 C’s. It seems logical that those that have gone through this professional development should serve as the spokespersons for the value of the work.

During the past two years, those that have faithfully followed, have traveled along a very overgrown hedgerow. As the superintendent of the Olmsted Falls School District it became clear to me that we needed a defining moment at precisely the right time to publicly reject an accountability system that we had been forced into, however it would be irresponsible and reckless to not have the first generation of a more clearly defined system of student success in place to act as a replacement. In September of 2017, this School Board  Resolution effectively gave those within the district the permission necessary to go down the road less traveled. This resolution serves as our Aegis Shield and it provides the kind of cover teachers and administrators need to conduct this work.

While Ohio Law requires us to abide by its accountability system, we have philosophically rejected (in full) Ohio’s Local Report Card and are replacing it with our own locally developed system that focuses on the components of our strategic plan–Student Success; Technology Enabled; Aligned Resources and Community Partnerships. While our locally developed Quality Profile is a broad representation of our success, we are currently working on creating a real local report card for the district and each school (example is here) that will be used to report to our community what we are committed to and how we’re doing.

As we move forward, we will continue to learn more as an organization and how to engage in this work. It won’t be perfect and it certainly will not be easy, but it is the right thing to do. Our next steps are:

  1. Build on the DRAFT of the Profile of a Graduate by further engaging our staff and community.
  2. Increase the capacity of everyone in our organization to know and be able to implement the instructional design qualities and the 4 Cs.   
  3. Provide real life examples and tell our story through pictures and words.

Throughout our journey we will engage the community in the process. A recent survey (November, 2017) of our community (300 voters randomly sampled; 30% with children in the school and 70% without students in the system) provided reassurance that we have been heading in the right direction.


  • 79% of respondents indicated that it is more important for the district to concentrate on coursework to provide a broader education that will provide more enrichment for the benefit of the whole child over coursework to give students more exposure to subjects that will affect test scores.
  • Only 56% were aware that the State of Ohio released the state report card for Ohio’s schools and those that were aware do not put much stock in the results.
  • 67% of those polled indicated they believe the district’s Quality Profile is a better indicator of the performance of Olmsted Falls City Schools compared to the State Report Card.  

Our community (those with students in the system and those without) appreciate our locally created quality metrics and are calling for a more accurate and meaningful set of district performance indicators; indicators  they are not getting from the current system designed by Ohio’s General Assembly. We will stay the course and deliver the kind of meaningful feedback to those that are most impacted by our local decisions–the people of the Olmsted Communities and the students that attend our schools.
Thanks for reading.

Jim Lloyd, Superintendent

Dear Paulo and Chris…

Listed below is an email that I sent to Dr. Paulo DeMaria (State Superintendent for Public Instruction) and Dr. Chris Woolard (ODE’s Accountability Guru). I also included all members of Ohio’s State Board of Education and members of the Education Committee from the Ohio General Assembly.  From time to time I write and share my views and information. I’ve found that members of the State School Board and those in the General Assembly listen. They write back and call for clarification. Members at the Ohio Department of Education do neither.

We are either at, or are approaching, a tipping point in Ohio. If you’re reading this you’ve either been subject to, or part of (or both) decades of failed attempts to improve Ohio’s public education system.  The voice from the local level has been consistent and it has been clear. People (moms, dads, community members without kids, students, educators, mail carriers, retail workers, all sorts of constituents etc.) have indicated that they are sick of the over-testing of kids through state mandated assessments. Business on the other hand is indicating that certain skills are continuing to lack in prospective hires; however it hasn’t been in the basics.

The skills needed to be successful in life beyond high school and any form of post-secondary schooling, are generally the same. People need to think critically, be creative, work collaboratively and communicate clearly (through writing and in their speech). Of course people also need to show up on time, look you in the eye, not mumble, learn from their mistakes and problem-solve. These are the exact kinds of things that aren’t measured by Ohio’s state mandated exams at any level–primary school through high school. Nevertheless, we continue to debate what the right number of graduation points should be and consider whether or not the “relaxed standards” should be implemented for another year.

If the number of graduation points is lower than what was originally pulled out of a former Ohio School Board Member’s Magical Hat of Ohio, it is labeled as “watering down” expectations. While some are concerned that the elimination of the high school end of course exams may render a high school diploma meaningless (which honestly is a pretty rude accusation to those of us that collected one of those meaningless diplomas during the dark ages of no test-based accountability) they won’t acknowledge that the mindless assessment/test based accountability system has failed to make the conditions right for educational reform to do what it was intended to do–REFORM! You could have the number be set at “20” and it still won’t be the catalyst for success. Why–because mandating students to earn a certain number of points on a standardized test does not provide you with evidence that they can be creative, think critically, communicate, collaborate, problem-solve, etc. It only provides you with evidence that they test well in (insert subject here) on (insert test date here).

Our policy makers and elected officials are stuck in the weeds and unable to lift themselves up to allow dreaming and daring to occur. The public can help. We need to empower them with a message: “it’s ok to lift your head up and dream permission.” As it relates to Public Education in Ohio, our ruts have ruts. It’s time to grade the road.

That was my soap box…here’s my email:


Dear Paolo and Chris,

As you, the State School Board and other elected officials discuss alterations to our current failed state accountability model I wanted to provide some information that I’m suspecting hasn’t been shared. I hope that you take the time to at least look over parts of what I’m sharing.

The first document is a Board Resolution by the Olmsted Falls School Board that weighs in on the utility of an A – F system and how it runs counter to our locally defined vision for education–the vision that we are held accountable to by our community.

The second document is an article by Michael Fullan entitled Choosing the Wrong Divers for Whole System Reform. I’m suspecting many of those receiving this email have not read this due to the history of Ohio’s accountability system and the lack of success within that system. It may work for some, but it hasn’t been successful for Ohio. Ohio has adopted nearly every “wrong driver” as a matter of state law and policy. I pray nightly that our elected officials will consider something drastically different.

The third document is an essay by John Turner for the Texas Association of School Administrators called The A-F Accountability Mistake. It could have been titled, “Ohio’s A-F Accountability Mistake” instead. If you have not heard John speak I would recommend that you do. He welcomes challenging questions from those that hear him and he speaks in a very clear and concise manner.

As people deliberate and have their special caucusing committees work on law and policy that impacts those of us in the field, I hope that our elected officials heed the advice of the experts that write about these matters and will listen to constituents from around Ohio. The vast majority of people do not want an A – F accountability model. They don’t want letter grades that rank districts and they certainly don’t want a bunch of grades boiled down into a “super grade.” If anyone hears this (the Super Grade) being recommended you should know that it is an awful recommendation and there is no research to support it as an effective reform option. It costs too much, it doesn’t work, it sucks the life-force out of many in the field because it is demeaning and it doesn’t make sense to parents or community members. When these sorts of metrics are created, those of us at the local level are forced to create counterbalancing metrics that make sense to our communities because the state has confused them. I can share with you the success metrics that we’ve created in Olmsted Falls and demonstrate how much money we’ve spent on them as well.

Please take the time to do it right or face the reality that you will need to over spend to do it over.

Thanks for your consideration.

Dr. Jim Lloyd


OFCSD Board Resolution Commitment to Create Engaged & Focused Learning

Choosing the Wrong Drivers for Whole System Reform

A-F Accountability Mistake