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Out & About in Cleveland

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A Tour of the Thomas Jefferson International Newcomers Academy

We started our day and our week on Monday, October 6th, by attending a Morning Conversation at the Greater Cleveland Partnership featuring Ohio State Representative Cliff Rosenberger, a republican from Ohio's 91st District in Clinton County. When we arrived the first person we spoke to was Mr. William Napier, from Governmental Relations at CSU, who told us that he believes that State Rep. Rosenberger will be the next Ohio House Speaker since the current Speaker, State Rep. Bill Batchelder cannot run again due to term limits. Several other people such as Mr. Richard W. Lewis; Director, Governmental Relations at Northeast Ohio Medical University; agreed with Mr. Napier and from what we have read in the "Plain Dealer" State Rep. Rosenberger is certainly the front runner for the job.

State Rep. Rosenberger briefly discussed his background before opening the meeting up for questions because he said he wanted to hear and learn from the attendees. We learned that he is in his early 30's and and Air Force veteran who grew up in the small town of Clarksville that consisted of only 450 people. He liked to be politically active behind the scenes but the economic problems of several years ago in that region inspired him to run in 2010 and he won.

Job creation is his top priority but he firmly believes that government cannot create jobs-the private sector has to- although government can be a bridge or support system. When asked about JobsOhio he said that there can be improvements but he still strongly supports it. He realizes that businesses need qualified, well-educated workers so he was a co-sponsor of House Bill 484 that authorizes community colleges to create a tuition guarantee program where schools establish a tuition cost for an incoming freshman with the guarantee that the costs will not increase over the course of the student's time at the college.

He took several questions which included an inquiry about the eliminated technical investment credit for start-up businesses and the historic preservation tax credit. He said part of the problem that he is confronted with is that people just want to repeal something questionable but don't know what to replace it with. For example, he regards the fury over common core standards as only "a distraction." He said that we must emphasize moving forward and cautiously engage in long-term planning. He really wants to stay in touch with the concerns of small business, though, and not do anything to cause them harm.

Among the people who were there for this Morning Conversation were Ms. Claire Rosacco, who has known Ms. Margaret Wong for about 25 years, and Ms. Stephanie Franz from the Department of Government Relations at Cuyahoga Community College; Ms. Nancy Lesic and Mr. Steve Luttner from Lesic and Camper Communications; Mr. Michael Deemer and Mr. Joe Marinucci from the Downtown Cleveland Alliance; Mr. Nationael J. Jonhenry, Attorney at Law from Squire Patton Boggs; Ms. Aletha Washington from Cleveland Neighborhood Progress; Mr. Josh Rubin, from CJR Group; Mr. Dan Bucci from University Hospitals; Mr. Ron Cohen from Cohen and Company; and Mr. Loren Anthers from Metrohealth.

Before we left we asked State Rep. Rosenberger if there we any issue pertaining to immigration before the state legislature at this time and he said that there were not. The only thing that he could recall was that the Board of Regents was once talking about assisting newly arrived out of state students who were not citizens.

Moreover, things are customarily "lame duck" at this time so nothing much will get done until after the November elections.

We have been going to several things lately that have been real treats and our other event for Monday was certainly one of them because we were invited by Cleveland City Councilman Joe Cimperman to go with him to the Thomas Jefferson International Newcomers Academy (PreK-12) on West 46th Street for a tour.

As the Cleveland Metropolitan School District website says, "the International Newcomers Academy extends a welcoming and guiding hand to immigrant students from Puerto Rico and around the globe. Students with little or no grasp of English benefit from an interactive setting, total English immersion and an excellent student to teacher ratio...The mission of the academy is to help students achieve a comprehensive grasp of their new language in a timely manner so they can successfully transition to a mainstream school."

Unfortunately, Councilman Cimperman could not stay very long due to council business but he introduced us to Ms. Natividad Pagan, the Principal, and Ms. Maria Bozak, the school counselor who told us all about the school and took us on a tour of all three stories of the building. Ms. Pagan even opened the doors of the classrooms and stopped the classes for a moment to introduce us as the representatives of Ms. Margaret W. Wong, a great immigration lawyer. All of the young people said hello to us and Ms. Pagan had them tell us what country they were from and it seemed like almost every country was represented here including Nepal, Burma, Saudi Arabia, and India. We double-checked this in a "Plain Press" article published May 2, 2014 and learned that the students come from 20 different countries and speak 13 different languages.

Ms. Pagan and Ms. Bozak told us that 75% of the students were Hispanic, however, and that when the school opened in 2010 there were only 150 students and now there are 475 students presently enrolled but that number keeps rising. "All immigrants, refugees and migrants come here," said Ms. Pagan, "we want them to believe that this is their school."

The students can be at Thomas Jefferson from one to three years depending on how fast they learn English and then they will be transfered to other schools where they will still receive some bilingual support. We talked about attending the community meeting for GALA (Global Ambassadors Language Academy) and, from what we told them, Ms. Pagan and Ms. Bozak seemed to think that the GALA method of teaching was not unlike that of the International Newcomers Academy although the students of the latter will not be there as long as the GALA students whose families have committed to keeping them there for a much longer time period.

We were captivated by our tour, the staff, and the young people so we looked up some more info after we got home. From a "Plain Dealer" article by Mr. Thomas Ott published January 15, 2011 we learned that, "the academy follows the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol, a model used by more than 500,000 teachers in all 50 states and some foreign countries. The model seeks to teach fluency in language while simultaneously raising students to grade level in a range of subjects."

Before we left, we asked our host to tell us briefly what they love about the Newcomers Academy and they replied that cultural diversity is very important and that it is very rewarding to work with these students who have recently arrived in the United States and are really eager to understand their new country and its customs for, even though they come from different backgrounds, they all want to take advantage of the opportunities that the United States has to offer. Thankfully, the teachers are very sensitive to what these kids are going through. It is all about "listening and speaking in a safe environment."

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