Lorain Academic Distress Commission

Dr. Randall Sampson | Chair

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Randall Sampson, Ph.D., ensures equity and access for students through innovative learning models. Dr. Sampson has experience at the K-12 secondary education level as an administrator, teacher, and a national transformation specialist.
Dr. Sampson's focus areas:
1. Closing achievement gaps through the implementation and coaching of rigorous learning standards
2. Systemically increasing college and career-readiness
3. Boosting graduation rates
4. Implementing Innovation Learning Pathways
5. Building Public-Private Partnerships through our community engagement process

These are skill sets Dr. Sampson honed through the Harvard University Achievement Gap Initiative and through teacher quality research with Harvard University's Dr. Ronald F. Ferguson. As a practitioner, Dr. Sampson's analysis of students’ performance data provided a national value-add approach to building sustainable learning environments.

At Dr. Sampson's former high school Westerville North High School, such practices led him to identify gaps in student enrollment in Advanced Placement (AP) courses that led the school district to create systemic corrective measures to improve student learning outcomes. As a result, the school experienced a 600% increase of African-American students enrolled in AP courses. Additionally, the school saw a 35% increase of students' AP exam scores rising from 3 to 4. 

Steve Cawthon

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Steven Cawthon, a native of Lorain, has been an educator in The International City since 1991.  He began his teaching career at the original Lorain High School, before spending the majority of his time at Southview High School and now Lorain High School. Mr. Cawthon earned a Bachelor Degree of Arts and a Master’s Degree of American History from Cleveland State University.

Mr. Cawthon has shown a continued dedication to the Lorain community and the school system throughout his career.  He is the Lorain Board of Education appointed teacher member of the Lorain Academic Distress Commission.  In addition, Mr. Cawthon is the Social Science Department Chairperson at Lorain High School, an Adjunct Professor through Lorain County Community College, the advisor for the Lorain High National Honor Society and “the Voice” of the Lorain High Titans Football and Boys Basketball teams.  He is also the proud parent of a Lorain City Schools graduate.

As an educator, parent and ADC member Mr. Cawthon has worked diligently to insure the success of Lorain City Schools and is a big believer in the idea of “Lorain Grit.”  Cawthon’s “common sense” approach to education is one that has served him well in the classroom, in the community and as a commissioner. His goal is to continue the improvement of Lorain City Schools and see all students achieve great success while attending LCS and in their life endeavors beyond graduation.

Mr. Cawthon is married with two daughters, a lazy beagle and enjoys Pittsburgh sports in his spare time.

Patricia O'Brien

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Patricia O’Brien joined The Stocker Foundation in 1998 as the organization’s first program officer. Beth K. Stocker selected her to become the Executive Director in March 2001 as a result of demonstrable abilities to move The Stocker Foundation’s mission forward and work in partnership with four generations of Stocker family members living across the United States and abroad.  Patty continues to lead The Stocker Foundation through all facets of strategic planning related to competitive grantmaking and evaluation, local funding initiatives, and maintaining best-practice governance policies.

Before joining The Stocker Foundation, Patty honed her nonprofit management and fund development skills while employed at The City Club of Cleveland and Girl Scouts of North East Ohio (formerly Girl Scouts of Erie Shores). Patty is actively involved in Philanthropy Ohio, participating on the Education Advisory Committee, focused on critical areas to improve student achievement, early childhood learning, college and career-readiness, and college completion. Patty has served on the board of Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio, holding leadership positions of increased responsibility.  She was the Board Chair during a multi-million-dollar capital campaign to construct a 40,000 square foot warehouse distribution facility. Most recently, Patty served as a founding board member and Board Chair of Oberlin Center for the Arts.  

Cel Rivera

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Cel Rivera was appointed to the Lorain Academic Distress Commission by Lorain Mayor Jack Bradley in December 2020. Rivera most recently served as Chief of the Lorain Police Department; he retired in 2019. Prior to donning the "Blue and Grey" Rivera spent years in foster care and dropped out of high school when he was 16. He later joined the Army and served in Vietnam, working to get his high school diploma while in the military. Once back in the International City, he took a job with Lorain police in 1971 and rose quickly through the ranks. He initially served as acting chief in 1994, before being permanently sworn into the position in 1995. 

Dr. Michele Soliz

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Dr. Michele Soliz serves as the Associate Vice President for Student Success and Inclusion within the Division of Student Affairs at The University of Toledo.  In addition to leading the Office of Multicultural Student Success, Dr. Soliz provides leadership to Upward Bound, Toledo Excel, Career Services and the Catherine S. Eberly Center for Women. 

With 20 years of experience in higher education, Dr. Soliz has served in numerous key roles across the institution including in the Office of the President.   As the Executive Director of Academic Support Services and in collaboration with partners across the institution, Dr. Soliz increased the usage and visibility of academic support services which led to increases in retention and graduate rates of students.  Prior to her role in the provost’s area, Dr. Soliz served as the Dean of Students.  During her tenure, LGBTQA initiatives, including an LBGTQA advisory board, were formed and the institution was recognized as an LBGT friendly campus by Campus Pride, the leading national organization for student leaders and campus groups working to create a safer college environment for LGBT students.

She is active in the UT Latino Alumni Affiliate, serves as a mentor to Latinas and African American female students and teaches Managing Diversity in the Workplace for the College of Business and Innovation. 

Dr. Soliz received her bachelor of arts in Ethnic Studies from Bowling Green State University and earned her master’s and doctoral degrees from UToledo in higher education, where her research focused on Latino student baccalaureate completion rates and student engagement. 

She cherishes spending time with her three children, Nina, Jay, and Alejandro and granddaughter, Lena.

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