Orchard School hosts Cleveland Metropolitan School District Board of Education meeting

by Chuck Hoven

(Plain Press, November 2018)        The Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) Board of Education held a meeting at Orchard School on Bailey Avenue in the Ohio City neighborhood on October 23. Orchard Principal Kathryn Francis and CMSD Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Eric Gordon noted, to those present, that Orchard had become an Apple Distinguished School in 2016 which means every student in the school has an ipad.

   CEO Gordon announced that Max Hayes High School’s Auto Lab has partnered with two other Greater Cleveland schools to restore an automobile. The vehicle will be on display to the public on November 2ndfrom 6:30 -7:30 p.m.

   CEO Gordon also reported that the district is updating its facilities plan and working to make data on individual schools more readily available to the public.

   At the meeting, the Board of Education passed a resolution issuing a report to the State of Ohio describing the CMSD’s performance in the 2017-18 school year. In the report, three schools were listed as high performing. Six schools were listed as mid performing. Fifty-eight schools were listed as low performing. Ninety-four schools were listed as failing. Three schools were listed as not rated.

   At the Board meeting, a woman addressed the Cleveland Board of Education concerning the lack of after school programs for middle school students.

   Retired CMSD teacher Gene Tracy followed up the woman’s comments noting that once again this year, CMSD and Mayor Frank Jackson had allowed a million dollars that was intended for after school programs for CMSD students to be diverted to the Cleveland Browns’ stadium. He explained to the parent after the meeting explaining this has been happening since 2009. According to Tracy, when the Browns stadium was given a tax abatement, the City of Cleveland promised that the schools would be compensated for the loss of property tax revenue by passing some special taxes including a parking tax. At the time of the abatement, it was promised that $2 million per year from those taxes would be given to the CMSD for after school programs. In 2009, the amount was reduced by Mayor Jackson by $1 million and the students have been shortchanged ever since, says Tracy.

   Elizabeth Coles, whose grandchild attends Tremont Montessori school, said she believes the Tremont Montessori is being set up for failure. She said, students are supposed to be allowed to enter a Montessori program only in kindergarten, however at Tremont Montessori students are entering the program as late as the 8thgrade. She also noted the disparity of resources from one CMSD school to another. She said while at Orchard we are celebrating every student having an ipad, at Tremont Montessori “you can walk into a classroom and not find a single computer of any kind.” She also mentioned a number of building maintenance issues at Tremont Montessori that have not been attended to.

   Another parent, who has a child at Paul Dunbar School, said while she appreciates the new school and its working air conditioning, she had gone with students on an outing to Fullerton School in Slavic Village. She said the Fullerton School building was dilapidated. She said the disparity between Dunbar School and Fullerton School shocked her and made her wonder how the CMSD budget works. CMSD CEO Gordon said that Fullerton is scheduled to have a new school open soon.

   The parent also called for CMSD to begin offering foreign language in elementary schools when children’s ability to absorb a new language is at a high level.

   Don Freeman, speaking on behalf of the Cleveland Education Committee, said, that while CMSD has cancelled its Investment School Program and replaced it with a Redesign School Program, some of the same issues are still cropping up in the Redesign Schools that are former Investment Schools. He said teachers are experiencing stress in those schools and he urged CEO Eric Gordon to make it a priority to personally “hear the concerns from teachers in former investment schools.” Freeman urged action, saying on behalf of the Cleveland Education Committee, “We do not want the same injustices and failures to persist in the Redesign Schools that happened in the Investment Schools.”

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