TWDC responds to CMSD decision to close Tremont Montessori
An open letter to Cleveland Metropolitan School District Chief Executive Officer Eric Gordon:
(Plain Press, June 2019) The Friends of Tremont Montessori, Tremont West Development Corporation and the Tremont community have fought to save Tremont Montessori as a neighborhood asset numerous times. In 2010, Friends of Tremont Montessori (FOTM) began as a group dedicated to keeping a school in the central Tremont neighborhood. Residents and neighbors rallied against the proposed school closing and continued on to support improvements in the school. FOTM has been critical in setting the direction of the school and has been involved in the District’s master planning process and supportive of multiple levies and school reform initiatives. In 2014-15 FOTM approached local foundations, with support from CMSD administration, to begin a strategic planning process to look at how to transition the school from a public school with Montessori influenced curriculum to a high performing fully accredited public Montessori. This process also dealt with the facility needs. Throughout this process, the goal of FOTM has been to support CMSD while incrementally moving towards a fully accredited Montessori school that would provide high quality educational outcomes for all students. We were pleased to take part in the hiring process that brought the first Montessori certified educator as Principal to the school. Since that time a number of initiatives have taken place to continue to further the mission of the school including creating a strong partnership with Stonebrook Montessori (a CMSD sponsored charter). This is an indication of the success of the partnership between the Tremont community, FOTM and CMSD.
The decision to relocate Tremont Montessori is a break in the trust created with the community and CMSD leadership. Hours and hours of planning, years of hard work by community members and Tremont Montessori staff and families, and the leadership of Friends of Tremont Montessori seemingly means very little to CMSD. It is unfortunate that a community that has been supportive of CMSD and worked collaboratively to meet CMSD goals, finds out on cleveland.com about the decision. This is an indication that the people that spent considerable time, talent and treasure to assist Tremont Montessori toward its goal of becoming a high-quality public Montessori school, are being discarded because of short-sighted decision making.
We understand that due to financial constraints, difficult decisions were necessary. We also understand that CMSD is using the percentage of children from the neighborhood (17%) as part of the rationale. However, it is important to note that this does not tell the whole story. Tremont is a growing community of young families. The most recent census estimate showed a growth of over 50% in the under 5 population and a growth of over 35% in the 25-34 age group. This data indicates that more families are choosing to call Tremont home and making decisions based on schools. Tremont Montessori has attracted these families to the pre-K program. Unfortunately, due to the age of the building, lack of continued commitment to investing in the needs of the Montessori program, and uneven leadership over the past few years, the families are not being retained. Additionally, due to our central location, Tremont Montessori has always attracted students from the East side with the second largest population outside of Tremont coming from the Central neighborhood. Our central location, Montessori education and safe, supportive, diverse community has been a draw. This strengthens the rationale for a new construction high quality public Montessori school in Tremont.
The Tremont community is urging CMSD to reconsider its position. We continue to want to partner with CMSD to ensure a high quality fully accredited public Montessori becomes reality in the Tremont neighborhood. We do not feel the decision to close is in the best interests of the current students, the future students, the neighborhood or CMSD. Together, we can build a school that our community, the City of Cleveland and CMSD can be proud of.
Tremont West Executive Director