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Lorain City State of the Schools address by Dr. Jeffrey Graham; United: Thoughts on Finding Common Ground and Advancing the Common Good

On Tuesday, March 22nd, we attended the Lorain City State of the Schools address by Dr. Jeffrey Graham, the Superintendent.IMG_9310

The event took place at the Lorain Historical Society on West 10th Street and we were there as members of the Lorain County Chamber of Commerce. On this day, we met Ms. Barbara Piscopo, Executive Director of the Lorain Historical Society, who told us that 30 years ago she served on the board of Notre Dame College along with Ms. Margaret W. Wong.

As has been widely reported, the Lorain schools have been in academic distress since 2013 and face being taken over by an unelected state CEO and academic commission. During his presentation, Dr. Graham talked about the circumstances that helped bring this situation about, the problems that the schools still face which are being addressed at this time, and the conditions that they can be proud of likeIMG_9304 being fiscally sound, a record of decisions being made according to the best data and the best practices, and a healthy collaborative culture. He said that in light of this progress, he believed that district deserved to be taken out of academic takeover status and the most hopeful way for this to happen was legislation introduced by Ohio State Senator Gayle Manning.

What we really liked about the program was when Ms. Erin Gadd introduced the advisors of special educational programs throughout the city who in turn introduced the students involved with them. Subsequently, we got to hear from participants in Lorain High School Athletics and Champions, Lorain High School Special Olympics, Titan College/Career and Technical Education, Junior ROTC, and the Guys Read Program where some 8th grade students sit down, share lunch and read with some 3rd graders.

We talked with Ms. Gadd and Dr. Graham for a few minutes before the program started and we learned that the Lorain schools are very diverse with almost equal numbers of white, African-American, and Hispanic students. To be sure, there are many ESL classes and the number of students in them has been increasing by 60 each year. It was acknowledged that the Lorain schools are very fortunate to have Mr. IMG_9298John J. Monteleone as the Principal of Washington Elementary because he has been rated as one of the top ten Hispanic educators in the country.

But the real treat of the day was getting to meet the Longfellow Middle Schools Robotics teams and IMG_9313watching the two robots they created named "Titanious" and "Chronos" perform. Both teams and their robots excelled at the recent state championships and in April, the students and their advisor, Ms. Deb Hanson, will travel to Louisville, KY where "Titanious" will compete in the world championship trials against entries from all 50 states and other countries like China, Hong Kong, Uruguay, and Puerto Rico.

Later in the evening, we went to the Parma-Snow Library on Snow Road for a presentation by U.S. Senator Cory Booker from New Jersey. We made a special effort to attend this program because we had heard U.S. Senator Booker speak before at Baldwin-Wallace College in 2009 while he was the Mayor of Newark, New Jersey and found him to be very personable and dynamic.

At this time, U.S. Senator Booker wanted to discuss his book "United: Thoughts on Finding Common Ground and Advancing the Common Good" at this program put on by City Club of Cleveland and the Cuyahoga County Public Board of Trustees.

IMG_9316 At first, it looked like the free event might be filled to capacity and we might be relegated to watching U.S. Senator Booker via TV from a room close by but things turned all right and we were admitted to the auditorium so we could watch him in person.

In the course of his presentation, U.S. Senator Booker, a Rhodes scholar and a graduate from Yale Law School, talked about his experiences as coordinator of the Newark Youth Project, living in Brick Towers a housing project in Newark, and the influences many people had upon him. In view of today's political climate, we appreciated it when he talked about how it doesn't pay to exchange an insult for another IMG_9320insult.

He indicated that the best way to handle troublesome situations is to attempt to turn disadvantages into advantages, take responsibilities for one's actions, and be guided by a love for people, diversity and different points of view instead of resentment or even tolerance.

During the Q and A, we asked him about immigration reform and he said that it was a real shame that the comprehensive immigration reform bill passed by the United States Senate didn't make it through the U.S. House because it would have helped the U.S. from an economic perspective and it would have led to the IMG_9329creation of many new jobs.

He acknowledged that our current immigration system is broken and it troubled him that so many people were living in the shadows and were terrified of anyone working in law enforcement. He favored creating pathways to citizenship and challenged his friend, President Barack Obama for deporting as many people as he has who have committed no serious crimes.

In response to a question about what advice he would give to college students, he said that of course we would all like to fit in but he had come to believe the we were not born to fit in but, instead, were born to stand out. And, certainly, if a person wants to "fly" then he/she must give up the baggage that holds him/her down.

Michael Patterson 

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC.

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