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CMSD CEO reflects on tenure, explains why he’s stepping down

09-13-22 CMSD CEO RESIGNS.jpg
Posted at 5:51 PM, Sep 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-13 19:25:48-04

CLEVELAND — The state’s second-largest school district is bracing for major changes. Following the 2022-2023 school year, Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO and superintendent Eric Gordon will step down.

“At the end of the day, part of being a good leader is doing what’s right, even when it’s difficult,” Gordon told News 5 in a one-on-one interview Tuesday.

He has been at the helm of the 36,000-student district since June 2011 and said the time is right for his 12-year tenure to come to an end.

Reasons for leaving

The outgoing CEO said he plans to leave while CMSD is well-positioned for a change in leadership.

He explained the district is experiencing its best financial health in decades, which he credits to a successful 2020 levee, better advocacy for state funding and better financial planning management.

Additionally, all nine of CMSD’s labor agreements are currently settled and won’t be due again until 2027.

Gordon also believes the district is making strides as it emerges from the pandemic and a new state card report system will give a new leader a chance to start fresh with new benchmarks.

“I don’t want to be the leader that leaves when things are at crisis. I want to be the leader that sets up the next person for continued success,” Gordon said. “I made the tough, but I know right, decision to announce that I’ll leave at the end of this year to give the board and the mayor the opportunity to find that next person who can leverage all this opportunity and keep the direction going.”

Tenure

Gordon was appointed Chief Executive Officer in June 2011 after serving as the District’s Chief Academic Officer for four years.

During his tenure, the CEO earned national recognition for launching The Cleveland Plan in 2012. CMSD touted the plan for helping improve graduation rates from 52.2% to 80.9%. Black and Hispanic students in the district are currently graduating at a rate 4 and 6 points higher than their peers statewide.

The progress was reflected on the state report card, moving from an ‘F’ grade to a ‘D’ grade.

On the campaign trail, now Mayor Justin Bibb called for a more accelerated rate of change in Cleveland’s schools.

“When you’re deep in the ‘F’ hole, it took time to climb out. But we were moving and we can move again,” Gordon said of the district’s pre-pandemic progress.

Response

Following Gordon’s announcement Monday, the longtime CEO largely received praise for his time in the role.

“Eric and I share the same vision for increasing the quality of schools we have in our city,” Mayor Bibb told News 5 Monday. “We have a strong foundation to build on and Cleveland’s children and families are better off because of Eric’s leadership.”

The mayor added the decision was entirely up to Gordon, and there was no political pressure on the CEO to step down from his position.

Cleveland Teachers Union President Shari Obrenski said many were disappointed with Gordon’s decision to leave and applauded his longevity and experience in challenging times.

“I think most of our folks are definitely sad to see him go,” she said. “He has brought a tremendous amount of stability to the district in a very unstable time.”

In a statement, Cleveland Board of Education Chair Anne Bingham said, “His legendary leadership of The Cleveland Plan over the last decade has restored trust in CMSD, and earned national recognition for turning our once-failing school system into a continuously-improving one.”

Next steps

Gordon will step down in June 2023. He has offered to lend his guidance to CMSD and city leaders to ensure a smooth transition.

“I want my work to live on because somebody else can build on it,” he said.

Mayor Bibb pledged to work with the Cleveland Board of Education to find the next CEO and incorporate input from CMSD families.

Ultimately the selection of a new CEO rests with board members.

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