General Counsel, Cleveland Metropolitan School District

$175,000 - $210,000 yearly
  • Alma Advisory Group
  • Cleveland, OH, USA
  • Aug 11, 2023
Full time Executive Legal

Job Description

As the second largest school district in the state of Ohio, Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) serves approximately 35,000 scholars across 99 schools, including 65 schools serving PreK through 8th grade, 31 High Schools, and 3 remote or virtual school options. Our district is grounded in the progress achieved since the introduction of our community-driven reform framework – – and we are poised to continue these essential efforts to ensure that all public school scholars have a high-quality, equitable education in schools that inspire joy in learning. Our families have the opportunity to choose which schools their scholars attend, with extensive options that include STEM, the arts, single-gender education, International Baccalaureate, Montessori, and early college. Our Vision for Learning is personalized for each scholar and designed to engage scholars deeply with increased autonomy on their respective learning journeys. Rooted in the elements of Competency-Based Education, Anytime/Anywhere Learning, Whole Human Learning, and Personalized Learner Pathways, we aim to amplify the experience and opportunity for each scholar and family we are honored to serve. Strong community partnerships support our efforts to help scholars select, prepare for and access futures of their choice through Say Yes Cleveland’s wraparound support and tuition scholarships, advising through College Now, and Planning and Career Exploration (PACE).

In the spring of 2023, the Board appointed new CEO Dr. Warren Morgan to lead the district into its next chapter. In the coming year, Dr. Morgan is looking to thoughtfully assess the current state of the district and build a clear vision moving forward. He is establishing a leadership team that is laser focused on building the conditions for student success, and ensuring that all schools have the resources, services and supports needed to ensure high-quality instruction in every classroom and every school.

What You’ll Do

The General Counsel reports directly to the Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Warren Morgan, and manages a team of professionals that support the organization in reaching its shared goals. The General Counsel is a critical member and advisor of the executive leadership team, leads a team of district attorneys, and serves as a liaison between the District and Administration and outside counsel on all matters. The person in this role must be a trusted partner and advisor, an empathic listener, and a problem solver who can help bring understanding to a complex system and bridge gaps when misunderstandings occur.

Your Key Responsibilities

Legal Advising, Contracts and Strategic Guidance

  • Advises the Board of Education, Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Chief of Staff and division heads regarding legal issues; provides legal advice and assistance at Board meetings and other meetings designated by the Chief Executive Officer; provides legal advice and opinions interpreting constitutional, statutory and case law, and policies, rules and regulations governing the district and its employees.
  • Support the executive and senior leadership teams in specific matters related to each functional area, including but not limited to: student discipline, student supervision, construction and facilities, real property acquisitions, personnel matters, and collective bargaining.
  • Represent the district in issues related to Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) actions and complaints prior to formal litigation, and Ohio Civil Rights (OCR).
  • Review and draft contracts, agreements, and other legal documents related to the district's operations, including vendor contracts, service agreements, and facility leases, ensuring they comply with applicable laws and protect the district's interests.
  • Represent the district in legal proceedings, including administrative hearings, mediations, arbitrations, and court cases.
  • Provide strategic thought partnership and risk management guidance on CMSD initiatives, goals and priorities.
  • Collaborate with district leadership to develop, review, and update policies and procedures to ensure compliance with state and federal laws and regulations.

Successful Execution of Written and Oral Communications

  • Conduct legal research and analysis to support the district's legal positions and ensure the accuracy of legal advice.
  • Ensure that all messages are coherent, consistent, cost-effective, and coordinated.
  • Communicate with various stakeholders to ensure that expectations are clear and that questions are answered directly and transparently.

Team Management and Development

  • Supervise the direct reports and provide ongoing coaching and development.
  • Identify opportunities for cross-functional collaboration and align teams to realize efficiencies.
  • Mentor, evaluate and provide professional growth and development opportunities for staff.
  • Manage and allocate resources (e.g., money, people, and time) strategically and equitably so that they align legal departments’ needs.
  • Conduct legal training sessions for district staff and administrators to increase awareness of legal issues and best practices.

The Skills You’ll Need to be Successful

Legal Expertise

  • Understand various areas of law, including contract law, employment law, education law, regulatory compliance, and litigation.
  • Exhibit a deep understanding of the complex nature of K-12 urban education and education law in order to support the district's strategic goals and priorities.
  • Acts with integrity in a politically complex environment, and maintains confidentiality about sensitive issues and student information.

Strategic Thinking, Problem Solving and Risk Management

  • Exhibit a strong focus on short and long-term goals, accountability, and results; establish clear metrics for success.
  • Analyze complex, nuanced data from multiple angles and exercise judgment in making critical decisions and communicate the implications to diverse audiences.
  • Proactively identify potential risks for the organization while ensuring compliance with relevant laws, regulations and policies.
  • Keep composure when conversations are challenging, and decisions are unpopular.
  • Envision the possibilities that others may not see and offer innovative solutions to seemingly intractable problems.

Extraordinary Communication and Negotiation

  • Lead effective decision-making conversations, anticipating and organizing key questions and data that support productive discussions to direct key priorities.
  • Communicate effectively, tailoring messages for the audience, context, and mode of communication.
  • Express ideas verbally or in writing with clarity, respect, and awareness in conversations and interactions with others.
  • Build trust and positive relationships among district and school leaders to execute the shared vision for the district.
  • Comfortable naming issues and addressing them openly as they occur. Not afraid to share difficult news.
  • Navigate politically complex structures, relationships, and dynamics to challenge ideas and enable thoughtful decisions and positive outcomes for students.
  • Listens compassionately with an open mind, seeking to understand other perspectives before establishing the path forward.

Team Leadership and Management

  • Lead a high-functioning team; delegate and leverage the team effectively to drive for impactful results and achieve ambitious goals.
  • Assess team and individual skills and identify development needs; provide feedback and support to improve practice, build capacity, and maximize talent.
  • Promote a culture of high performance and continuous improvement that values a commitment to quality.
  • Manage external counsel and other consultants to advance CMSD’s goals and objectives.

What You’ll Bring

  • Must possess a Doctor of Jurisprudence Degree from an accredited law school.
  • Progressive experience as either a Chief Legal Counsel, partner at a firm, or Chief/Senior Attorney that has led a Legal Department, Division, or Team with a focus on education law, school law or related areas.
  • Admission to the state bar and licensed to practice law in the jurisdiction of CMSD.
  • Demonstrated hands-on knowledge of federal, state, and local employment and human resources-related laws and regulations, especially as they relate to educational issues
  • Experience working with collective bargaining units, labor relations and contract negotiations is preferred.
  • Must have excellent computer skills, including but not limited to experience producing research and analysis reports
  • Experience working in a diverse, urban setting is required. Experience in a large metropolitan school district is preferred.
  • Ability to navigate uncertainty and ambiguity in times of tremendous change, and to prioritize work efforts to achieve overall strategy as defined in collaboration with the Board of Education and Mayor.


Salary range for this integral leadership position is $175,000 to $210,000 and commensurate with prior experience. In addition, a comprehensive benefits package will be included in the ultimate offer for the identified sole finalist. We look forward to discussing details with you as the interview process progresses.

We believe that equity and inclusion at CMSD is an essential call to action, a catalyst to ensure value and appreciation among all our employees, so we may be fair and welcoming now and in the future. CMSD provides equal opportunities for employment, retention and advancement of all personnel by administering all terms and conditions of employment regardless of race, color, ethnicity, ancestry, national origin, sex, disability or genetic information, age, citizenship status, military status, sexual orientation or expression, socio-economic status, title, other dimensions of identity, or any other characteristic protected by law.

The District’s Policy Prohibiting Discrimination, Discriminatory Harassment, and Sexual Harassment and the District’s Title IX grievance procedures, including information on how to report or file a complaint of discrimination, how to report or file a formal complaint of sexual harassment, and how the District will respond, may be accessed on the District’s Civil Rights Notices webpage, available at