Parent group presents its plan at Board of Education meeting
by Chuck Hoven
(Plain Press, October 2012) Parents of children in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District presented their own educational plan to the Cleveland Board of Education at its September 25th Business Meeting at Tremont Montessori School. The plan titled Speaking Out of School: Parent Voices on Public Education in Cleveland evolved from listening circles involving 100 to 150 Cleveland parents. Working with parents in developing the plan were the community organizing staff of Ohio Communities United. Staff members from the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University and the staff of Innovation Ohio helped with the research and writing of the report that was presented to all the members of the Board of Education.
In developing the report, parents met in listening circles that were held in the Central, Glenville, Clark Fulton, Buckeye, St. Clair and Harvard neighborhoods. The Listening Circles in the Clark-Fulton neighborhood were held at Lincoln West High School and at Esperanza. A Teach-In was held at Trinity Commons in downtown Cleveland.
The resulting plan is human centered and based on building strong communities. It stresses the importance of building long-term relationships between teachers and students, and teachers and the community. According to the plan, “The voices of parents and community members are reinforced with research and best-practices provided by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform’s Center for Education Organizing.”
The parents and authors of the report say they intend “for this report to be used as a tool to bring Parent Voice into discussions and decision-making around education reform in Cleveland. We hope that parents, grandparents, and community members will use it to engage and mobilize their neighbors and other Clevelanders’ around public education.”
A parent introducing the report to the Board of Education asked Cleveland Metropolitan School District Chief Executive Officer to meet with parents in the middle of October to discuss the plan — Gordon was given three dates to choose as possible meeting times. Some of the key elements sought in the plan are: parental voices in educational decision making before decisions are made; enabling teachers to build strong relationships with all children; supporting safe schools that allow children to learn at their best and engaging research-based curriculum.
The parent originated plan contrasts greatly with the corporate originated plan that came out of the Greater Cleveland Partnership and is being touted by Mayor Frank Jackson and the school district as The Cleveland Plan for Transforming Schools. For example, the Parent Plan calls for building long-term relationships with teachers and school communities, and supports the importance of those relationships with educational research. It notes the value of stability in a teaching staff and the value of teachers that know the community and have built long-term relationships. The plan calls for heavy parent and community involvement in the schools and providing teachers and students with the resources they need to succeed and reach their full potential. In contrast, the Cleveland Plan for Transforming the Schools calls for evaluating teachers based on proficiency test scores and firing teachers that don’t produce improved scores. It calls for closing schools where test scores don’t improve and selling closed school buildings to charter schools.
The parent plan opposes continued emphasis on testing inherit in the corporate plan, and seeks instead a curriculum based on best educational practices such as experiential based educational opportunities that include music and arts education.
Parents and community members wishing to learn more about Speaking Out of School: Parent Voices on Public Education in Cleveland can contact Ohio Communities United at 216-262-6343 and ask for Executive Director Mike Foley or Community Organizer Michael Cook. The staff can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or at email@example.com.