Mayor Justin Bibb visits Clark School to promote education and literacy


Monday, January 23, 2023; Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s Clark School, 5550 Clark Avenue: Mayor Justin Bibb reads from the book Thank You OMU by Oge Mora, while second grade students in teacher Damaris Sanchez’s class listen attentively.

At a January 23rd visit to Clark School, Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb read a story to children as part of an effort to promote the Cleveland READS campaign and met with members of the press to share details of a proposal to spend $16 million of the City of Cleveland’s allocation of federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding on investments in education and literacy.

     A statement released by the Mayor’s Media Relations staff says, “Cleveland READS is a citywide campaign led by the Cleveland Public Library, with goals to raise awareness of the importance of reading and literacy, to nurture a love of reading, and to have one million books and/or minutes read by Cleveland readers by the end of 2023.”

     The Media Relations statement also notes the educational investments are part of a $40 million ARPA package of spending proposals the Bibb Administration has submitted to Cleveland City Council for approval. The statement says, “The goal of these education investments will not only be to help bring schools and students back on track from the pandemic but will also help create a brighter future long-term for Cleveland children. It will do this by catching students up with high-dosage literacy tutoring and other approaches; investing in healthy and safe learning environments for children; and creating more programs and pathways to provide Clevelanders with the skills and credentials to go to college or participate in a meaningful family sustaining career.”

     The statement notes that “These initiatives were identified in collaboration with school district and community leaders after an extensive listening campaign was conducted by the Mayor’s Office in 2022.”

     Mayor Bibb’s visit to Clark School centered around the classroom of teacher Damaris Sanchez. As members of the media gathered at the back of the classroom in anticipation of the Mayor Bibb’s arrival, Sanchez sat with Student of the Day Teirane Ortiz at her side giving a lesson on Social and Emotional Learning to a dozen second grade students listening attentively as Sanchez compared emotions to temperature readings on a thermometer.

     Sanchez paused the lesson and announced to the students that the special guest she had told them about had arrived as Mayor Bibb entered the room accompanied by Clark Principal Amanda Rodriguez.

     Mayor Bibb greeted the class and wished a happy birthday to a student, Justin Ramirez who shares his first name with the mayor, and to Justin’s twin sister Emely. The mayor then shared that he had some difficulty with reading when he was in second grade and talked about the importance of a program at the Cleveland Public Library that helped him to gain a love for reading. Mayor Bibb told the students that he intended to invest American Rescue Plan Act funds so students in Cleveland can get the help they need to improve their reading skills and he also planned to invest in other programs like their Social and Emotional Health Class. The mayor said he also hopes to get City Council approval to help adult “Comebackers” who are getting their GEDs (Graduate Equivalency Degrees).

     Mayor Bibb then showed the students the book he brought to read to them, Thank You OMU by Oge More. Mayor Justin Bibb began to read the story about OMU cooking a big pot of red stew. The story tells of the many people drawn to OMU’s house by the smell of the pot of cooking stew. OMU gives every one of the visitors a bowl of red stew to eat. By the time OMU was ready to eat – all the stew was gone. But then all those who received a share of OMU’s stew began to show up at the door bringing food. In the end, they all came together to share a feast at OMU’s home.

     After reading this tale of sharing and gratitude, Mayor Bibb fielded questions from students about the story. Students asked some tough questions. One student asked how people could smell the stew from outside. Another student noted that the window was open. Mayor Bibb commented on the importance of paying attention to detail when reading.

     Mayor Bibb then asked students to help him wish Justin and Emely Ramirez a “Happy Birthday.” While Emely and Justin remained seated on the floor, Mayor Bibb and the students stood and gave them birthday greetings. Mayor Bibb then autographed his copy of Thank You OMU and gave it to Emely and Justin as a birthday present.

     Mayor Bibb then spoke to members of the press talking about the Cleveland READS challenge and the importance of spending ARPA funds to help students coming out of COVID to receive the academic assistance they need to catch up on their reading levels and make sure they never give up on school. He said the legislation he proposed is currently being considered by Cleveland City Council’s Workforce, Education, Training and Youth Development Committee. He said the legislation contains a high dosage of literacy funding for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District which includes funding for technology as well as funding for tutors.

     After Mayor Bibb departed, the students in Damaris Sanchez’s class talked excitedly about their visitor. The second-grade class, made up of a dozen children ages 7 and 8, expressed their delight in seeing and talking to Mayor Justin Bibb up close and in person.

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