Thursday, April 25, 2002

Cleveland mayor wants to keep schools control

By Thomas J. Sheeran
The Associated Press

        CLEVELAND — City residents should vote Nov. 5 to extend mayoral control of Ohio's largest public school district so that educational reforms can continue, the mayor said Wednesday.

        “The experiment in mayoral control is working,” Mayor Jane Campbell said in a State of the City address at the City Club forum.

        “For years, mayors bemoaned the state of the schools, but took no responsibility to fix them. One thing that Mayor (Michael R.) White did right was to take control of the schools.”

        Since the mayor got control of Cleveland's 76,000-student district four years ago under state legislation, graduation rates have increased from 25 percent to 30 percent, Ms. Campbell said.

        The legislation giving the mayor control of the district included a provision to let voters decide whether to continue the arrangement.

        Opponents have argued that a mayor-appointed school board violates democratic principles and makes board members answerable to the mayor, not voters.

        Ms. Campbell, a backer of schools chief executive Barbara Byrd Bennett, said it is important to resolve the district's governance issue so that the city can keep Ms. Byrd Bennett.

        Ms. Byrd Bennett gets regular offers of top education jobs around the country, the mayor said.

        “I am working with the school board to negotiate her contract renewal, and I believe that we can resolve that,” Ms. Campbell said.

        Ms. Campbell said she also was close to announcing nominees to fill two key cabinet vacancies, airport director and health director.

        She has offered the job directing Cleveland Hopkins International Airport to “an experienced professional” but said an announcement must await contract details.

        Ms. Campbell said the health department appointment would be made jointly with Case Western Reserve University's medical school to attract a top candidate.

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