CLEVELAND (WJW) – After 11 years as CEO of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Eric Gordon announced Monday he will be leaving the district at the end of the current school year in June 2023. During a one-on-one interview with FOX 8 News, Gordon had this message for students and parents:
“I think it’s fair to be disappointed and even angry or sad, emotion is fair. But if you’ve trusted me up to today, then please trust me today. I’m doing what I know is right for our kids and our community.”
Gordon says reports and rumors that he is leaving because of various disagreements with Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb are not true.
“The mayor and I never actually discussed this, because I went to the mayor and said, ‘Mayor, I think the time is right to make this transition.’ This was my decision and my decision alone,” he said.
Gordon maintains the district is facing what he calls a “transition point,” and he believes a new CEO will have the advantage of inheriting a stable environment next school year.
He told FOX 8, “We have the best financial health we’ve had in certainly my 16 years but probably far longer. We have all of our labor agreements signed and in place and we have not only agreements but a real collaborative labor-management relationship.”
He says the primary focus of the district needs to be on recovering from the pandemic and the impact it has had on student performance and attendance.
“Early literacy is really struggling because you can’t read when you can’t watch words being formed, right, and people wore masks for two years, graduation rates are going to suffer because kids weren’t able to get credits when they were sitting at home and not being able to be at school, so the pandemic hurt,” he said.
Among the achievements that Eric Gordon is most proud of are programs that make college more affordable, others that teach students the skills that will help them prepare for careers, and a dramatic increase in the graduation rate, which was just 52% when he started.
“As of the pre-pandemic last year, it was 81% and our graduation rate for Black and Hispanic students far exceeds the state average,” he said.
Another major accomplishment of the Gordon era was the passage of three school levies and a major bond issue. He maintains the district will not need to go back to the voters for support until 2026 or 2027.
Now 52 years old, Gordon will be eligible to retire in four years, just when a levy campaign may be needed.
“There gets to be a limit of what any one leader brings, and I fundamentally believe if I let this window close and then I personally decide I want to retire, shame on me that I knew that four years earlier, so this is about doing what I believe is right.”
Eric Gordon says he has not decided what he will do next but says he and his wife plan to stay in Cleveland. The school board and the mayor will now begin the search for a new CEO, who will take over next school year.
Mayor Justin Bibb released a statement to FOX 8 Tuesday:
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.Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb