2016 State of the Schools Address by Mr. Eric S. Gordon; Cleveland American Middle East Organization (CAMEO) Endorsement night; Night at The Maltz Museum
On Wednesday, September 14th, we attended the "2016 State of the Schools" address given by Mr. Eric S. Gordon, CEO of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) that took place at the Hilton Cleveland Downtown on Lakeside Avenue.
This was Mr. Gordon's 6th such address and it came just after issues that may have led to a teachers' strike were resolved at the "21st hour" and less than two
months before voters will decide on an important school levy in November which Mr. Gordon, and other community leaders, strongly favor.
The center of his address was the success of the Cleveland Plan, described in the program notes as "a package of education reform legislation that was signed into law on July 12th, 2012" and supported by a five-year, $15 million levy approved in 2012 and now up for renewal as we previously stated.
As Mr. Gordon said, prior to the passage of the Cleveland Plan the CMSD was "in academic emergency, on the verge of financial bankruptcy, and had lost the public's trust." Mr. Gordon and others managed to convince the public to give the Cleveland Plan a chance because over the years we had learned a lot about education reform (what works and what doesn't); legislation passed in Columbus provided the district with new work rules and flexibility than it had previously possessed; and if the levy passed, which it did, they would have the necessary resources to implement reform.
During the course of his speech, Mr. Gordon cited a lot of information that showed that there has been significant improvements within the CMSD. Examples that he gave included:
"Since implementing the Cleveland Plan, our community has expanded access to high-quality preschool education for four-year-olds in our city by more than 1200 seats. Data from PRE4CLE, a public-private partnership created by the Cleveland Plan shows that 80% of the students accessing these high-quality preschool classes are arriving kindergarten-ready when they come to school the following fall, compared to only 50% for those who don't have access to a high quality preschool. And, according to a report released by CWRU last fall, we know that kids who have attended CMSD preschools are 29% more likely to pass Ohio's third-grade reading assessment than those who have not."
"In both of the last two years since Ohio implemented the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, CMSD has improved third-grade reading scores from approximately 31% of students reading at a third grade reading level in the fall to more than 85% of the CMSD's third grade students reading at grade level by the end of the year."
"CMSD was identified as one of the only three large urban districts in the nation to show improvement in all four subjects of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, otherwise known as 'NAEP'-the Nation's Report Card. While other urban districts were losing ground on this measure of progress for 4th and 8th grade math, CMSD saw gains."
"In our high schools we've seen the most visible evidence of progress yet. Our four-year graduation rate, just 52.2% when we began drafting the Cleveland Plan, has increased to a District record high of 66.1% this year and, when our report card is released tomorrow, we expect to see another District record high as well!"
Mr. Gordon went on to quote the results of a study done by "Innovation Ohio" which is an independent research group that called the Cleveland Plan "an emerging path to improvement" and a report by the "Transformation Alliance" that came to a similar conclusion. Both reports also indicated that the CMSD should stay committed to the Cleveland Plan because the so-far good results should grow more plentiful in the future and it would be too jarring and counterproductive to change course at this time.
Throughout his speech Mr. Gordon referred to "one of my favorite finds of this year-an interesting critique of the Plan" and offered such quotes from the critique as:
"The problem of securing a business-like administration of the business affairs and of keeping the teaching force professionally healthful and strong is a difficult one..."
"And while this plan has not accomplished all that can be desired, it has worked so successfully that there is no thought in any responsible quarter of abandoning it, or of relinquishing any of its essential features."
"Success of the Cleveland Plan requires a constant and earnest endeavor to succeed, increased watchfulness, fidelity to its mission and greater zeal and honesty among all of us it is to be faithfully and intelligently administered."
At the end of his speech, Mr. Gordon revealed that this quotes came from the 59th annual report of the Board of Education for the school year ending August 31st, 1895 by H.Q. Sargent, School Director!
Mr. Gordon concluded his presentation by saying, "Cleveland has a long history of tackling our own challenges. In fact, Mr. Sargent was tackling similar challenges more than 100 years ago. As we enter our fifth year of implementation of our own Cleveland Plan, we can take some important lessons from the original: take decisive action to create a plan that meets the difficulties you face; stay the course, even as you recognize its successes and failings; recognize that even the best plan is only as strong as its people whose energy, zeal, and honesty must be nurtured and respected."
Afterwards, we asked Mr. Gordon about ESL education. He told us that the number of immigrant/refugee students keeps getting larger and he assured us that the CMSD will do its best to provide for them.
Prior to the start of the program, we spoke to our friend Ms. Desiree Caliguire-Maier from the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District who told us that the number of EL families in her area has risen to 156 many of them from the Middle East, China and South Africa. In addition to this, she deals with a very large number of American Foreign Students.
When we sat down to lunch, we visited with Ms. Alayna Moreman and Ms. Abby Teare from the Western Reserve Historical Society (WRHS) who told us that Ms. Margaret W. Wong is used as a role model of a person who immigrated to the United States and succeeded admirably in a program concerning entrepreneurial education for young people offered by the WRHS that operates from a multicultural framework.
Most importantly, we met Mr. Larry Bailey, a good man who is a parent/volunteer at the Fullerton Elementary School in Slavic Village. Mr. Bailey told us that he has done a little of everything including serving as the president of the student parent organization (SPO) and being a member of the fatherhood initiative.
It is the hard work of educators (serving the schools in all capacities) and people like Mr. Bailey, along with a student body that wants to learn, that gives us the most hope for the future.
That night we went to the Holiday Inn on Rockside Road in Independence for the Cleveland American Middle East Organization (CAMEO) Endorsement night.
In August many of the candidates running for local, state, or federal office either came to be screened themselves or sent representatives. Then the CAMEO board met and decided who to endorse and on this evening the club members themselves voted to approve the board's selections. This seems to us a fair process because if members disagreed with any of the board's choice they could vote to overrule their choice. But, on this occasion, the membership went along with the board's choices on all 20 elective offices up for consideration.
What's more, CAMEO was very bipartisan in their selections choosing to endorse some democrats such Marcy Kaptur and Marcia Fudge for Congress; Dale Miller and Scott Tunas for Cuyahoga County Council; Francine Goldberg for Domestic Relations Judge; and Meryl Johnson for State Board of Education. They also choose to endorse some republicans like Rob Portman for U.S. Senate; Matt Dolan for Ohio State Senate; Marlene Anielski, Dave Greenspan, and Tom Patton for Ohio State Representatives; and Joan C. Synenberg, Donna M. Coury, and Janet Rath Colaluca for judicial posts.
Afterwards, Mr. Pierre Bejjani, the president of CAMEO, urged all of the endorsed candidates to make use of the CAMEO endorsement in their literature because the Middle Eastern community was quite large and quite significant in the Cleveland area.
The CAMEO meeting was quite effective and quite short so this gave us time to drive quickly (observing all speed laws) to the Maltz Museum in Richmond Heights for the few minutes of its monthly program on Cleveland's Immigrant Communities. The last two months have dealt with people who have immigrated to Cleveland from Asian countries and countries in the Middle East so the dialogue for tonight concerned Cleveland's Latino immigrant community.
The program consisted of Mr. Jeffrey Allen, the Maltz Museum's Director Education and Public Programs, interviewing Ms. Veronica Dahlberg, Executive Director of HOLA; Mr. Bernie Moreno, President of the Bernie Moreno Companies; and Ms. Sylvia Perez, Vice President for Corporate Governance and Governmental and International Affairs at the Cleveland Foundation.
By the time we arrived the last part of the Q and A was in progress but even in its last few minutes the program was enlightening. Mr. Moreno said that he sadly believed that this year's U.S. Presidential election has brought out hatred on both sides of the immigration debate and he and Ms. Perez agreed that individual encounters between the U.S. born and the foreign-born were probably the most effective way to evoke positive change.
Along these lines, Ms. Dahlberg told of how an undocumented Hispanic man in Lake County's Madison Township was seized and scheduled to be deported by ICE. Even though it was a very republican area that voted heavily for Mr. Donald Trump in the U.S. Presidential primary, its citizenry came out strongly against this man's deportation because he was a good person who had contributed a lot to the community. Ms. Dahlberg went on to say that we must reach out to all people on immigration issues regardless of their political party. She concluded by saying that immigrants have rights but also have the responsibility to become involved in the democratic process of their new country.
Later, from talking to the other attendees afterwards, we learned that tonight's program contained more passion and emotion than the previous two and, from what we saw in the last few minutes, we can understand why.
Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC