LORAIN — Aaron Ceja and Denzel Palmer wanted to have a voice in choosing Lorain Schools’ new superintendent, but they never expected how clearly their voices would be heard.
The two college sophomores and 2011 Lorain High School graduates went from attending a public forum on the new superintendent to being part of the 10-member Superintendent Search Committee. Tim Williams, a committee member and Board of Education president, named Ceja and Palmer to the committee. Williams didn’t return calls for comment Sunday but previously said he was impressed by what Ceja and Palmer said at the June 12 forum and believed they could bring perspective to the committee.
“We felt like it was our duty to go and let our voice be heard,” Ceja said of the forum hosted by committee members. “We know that a lot of other kids might be reluctant to go to things like that.”
Unlike most Lorain residents young and old, Ceja, a political science major at Ohio University, and Palmer, a business administration major at Ashland University, like attending school board meetings. While high school students, they attended meetings and praised the education they received. Both took advantage of an early college program that allows high school students to earn associate’s degrees.
Palmer said he has an obligation to get involved to counter negative perceptions of Lorain and ensure a decent future for deficit-ridden Lorain Schools, which recently laid off 182 employees in cutting about $7.4 million of a projected $12 million deficit. He and Ceja said they are saddened by the layoffs and program cuts.
“My little cousin, who’s 5 years old growing up in Lorain City Schools, I want to make sure that he has the same opportunities that I had,” Palmer said.
As committee members, Ceja and Palmer helped write the five questions asked of the seven semifinalists. Palmer devised a question in which candidates rated themselves on administration, curriculum, community outreach and finances. They both devised another multipart question regarding how the district can compete with charter schools and open enrollment in terms of academics, finances and increasing enrollment through marketing.
Ceja and Palmer said they also answered questions from candidates about what it was like to have recently attended Lorain Schools. All committee members chose three candidates with the candidates with the most votes becoming the three finalists. Ceja and Palmer said they were pleased with the three finalists.
While their duties as committee members end when the committee disbands, Ceja and Palmer say they’ll remain advocates for Lorain and Lorain Schools. They plan to lobby for a proposed levy in November and said they’ll return to Lorain to live when they graduate. They hope they can help transform the city, which has seen its employment and tax base devastated by a generation of deindustrialization.
“What better inspiration to show people than that’s there’s kids fresh out of high school that do believe in Lorain and do want it to come back,” Ceja said.
“I can’t wait to come back,” Palmer said.
Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or firstname.lastname@example.org.