Akron Public Schools introduces superintendent C. Michael Robinson | #schoolsaftey

Akron Public Schools officially welcomed its new superintendent during a press conference Tuesday, after the Board of Education approved a new contract with C. Michael Robinson Jr. Monday night.

Robinson will have his work cut out for him, with the district facing looming deficit spending as soon as 2027, as well as struggles with student academic performance, absenteeism and behavior made worse by the pandemic.

Robinson takes the reins after his predecessor, former superintendent Christine Fowler-Mack, stepped down from the position after roughly a year and a half on the job. She faced a challenging relationship with the board – some in the community accused the board of micromanaging her after a harsh evaluation last year. She also faced criticism from the district teachers’ union, which almost went on strike in January after stalled negotiations.

Robinson, chief academic officer of East Baton Rouge Parish School System, in remarks Tuesday said he would be a leader who listens carefully to the community while acting deliberately on ensuring all students get a good education. He called upon the community to “rally behind” students.

We must ensure that every child in our district has access to an opportunity for high quality education that empowers them to thrive academically, socially and emotionally,” he said. “Our focus will be on fostering an inclusive and equitable learning environment that celebrates diversity, respects individuality, and nurtures the unique talents of each student.”

Board President Derrick Hall said Robinson is the “right person” for the job. He was selected after a unusually quick superintendent search process that started and concluded in a little more than a month. Hall noted Robinson will need to get up to speed quickly before his official start date on Aug. 1 on the issues facing the district.

He’ll be guiding us during a time when, as many of you know, the public schools face a number of challenges, such as critical challenges with staffing, attendance, funding, safety and security matters and much more,” Hall said.

The son of educators who worked in Louisiana schools, Robinson got his start as a teacher in Louisiana, Georgia and Texas. He’s held a variety of administrative positions at school districts of varying sizes since, including a stint as superintendent at the 9-school Pine Bluff School District in Arkansas. He left that job early, asking to be let out of his contract by that district’s board.

After that, he spent several years at Burns Van Fleet, a consulting firm based in Texas. That firm prepared a transition report for the new superintendent of the East Baton Rouge Parish School System in March 2021, just a month prior to when Robinson started his chief academic officer job at that school district.

Robinson assured the community that he is “here to stay” when asked about his time spent moving between different school district, noting he has a five-year contract with the school district. He said he plans to meet with stakeholders in his first 100 days to better get to know the city.

He did note that with the district’s current financial forecast, more cuts will need to be made following reductions in force already announced earlier this year.

“There are some things already in motion to start looking at finances for our district around staffing, around spending,” he said.

Hall said the district will need to evaluate how well its academic and other programs are performing, noting they will need to be guided with “more rigor” if the district is going to pursue a school levy to pay for a new North High School, as well as a general operating levy to avoid deficit spending.

Robinson applauded the board of education for investments made this year into safety and security improvements, including metal detectors and moving forward with locking up students’ cellphones at the high school level to try to improve behavior.

He added he is committed to transparency and plans on releasing a transition report in the coming months, as well as any plans that have to do with the district cutting programs or jobs in response to its looming financial struggles.

“I’m going to do a lot of listening, looking and learning and listening. I do plan to have a lot of advisory committees, roundtables, and those will start as soon as I get back,” he said.

He added he will be living in Akron (he is required to by contract) starting later this month.

Robinson will receive a $240,000 base salary, a $12,000 increase from his predecessor. By comparison, new Cleveland Schools CEO Warren Morgan’s base salary is $285,000.

The district in a press release noted Robinson is a “self-described data-driven leader,” explaining that he implemented data reviews of his former school district’s schools to assess their achievement.

“This resulted in an overall 3.5% gain in mathematics, an overall 2% gain in ELA” short for English Language Arts, “and an overall 3% gain in science,” the release reads.

The release added he also is a proponent of Positive Behavior Intervention Strategies, efforts meant to reward good student behavior and performance, typically in the form of special privileges, free school supplies or treats. Akron and Cleveland both employ these strategies.

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