by Chuck Hoven
Plain Press, November 2015 The Ribbon Cutting Ceremony on September 24th at John Marshall High School not only celebrated the opening of the new school building but also the creation of new academic programs for John Marshall. Students greeted guests and offered them programs as they entered the building. The ceremony included the schools ROTC Color Guard carrying out the flags, the singing of the Star Spangled Banner by John Marshall Senior Da’Jzhanae Smith, and music by the band and choir.
State Representative Martin J. Sweeney (D-14), the former Cleveland City Council Representative for the area, celebrated the new school and noted the path chosen to build new rather than renovate the old school. He talked about the difficult and controversial decision he made to have the former historic John Marshall High School Building de-landmarked so it could be demolished to make way for the new high school.
Ward 16 Councilman Brian Kazy talked about the new schools at John Marshall and its partnership with St. Edward High School. Kazy also offered two words of hope for the future expansion of the John Marshall campus “Football Field.”
Cleveland Metropolitan School Board Member Stephanie Morales, a John Marshall alumnus, praised community members that worked to help plan the new curriculum for John Marshall saying, “The fresh academic programs would not be possible without the community’s support.”
Speaker Ann Mullin, a senior program officer at the George Gund Foundation and a member of the Cleveland Transformation Alliance Board of Directors, spoke highly of the Advisory Committee made up of alumni, teachers, parents, students, business leaders, staff of non profit organizations and community members that worked for 18 months to create new academic goals for John Marshall. She said they even helped to change the design of the building to align with the academic programs. Mullin says the new academies at John Marshall are designed to help prepare students for high wage growth need jobs in Cleveland. She noted the goal of the Cleveland Plan is to create schools that are “places where we all would like to send our children.” She cited the large size of the student population at John Marshall as the first experience of the Transformation Alliance of being involved in the in building a new building for so many students. She said 1,400 students had enrolled at John Marshall for this school year.
Ward 17 Councilman Martin J. Keane also heaped praise on the Advisory Committee, saying their input was invaluable in creating an educational program that will help students be workforce ready. Keane said he believed the new school would aid in “the attraction and retention of students and families in the neighborhood.”
David J. Wondolowski, Executive Secretary of the Cleveland Building and Construction Trades Council, noted that through a partnership with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District men and women from the John Marshall neighborhood were hired to help build the school. Wondolowski urged students “to get into the habit of applying yourself every day. Come to compete every single day. Compete with classmates and friends. Apply yourself. Come to school every day – come early – stay late.”
In introducing David Chovan, Interim Executive Director of the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, Representative Sweeney took the opportunity to comment on the Football Field and the Track and Field tradition at John Marshall High School. He noted that the Ohio School Facilities Commission contributed 2/3 of the cost of construction of the new school building, but the State of Ohio would not allow funds to go toward a football field or track. He said that Cleveland Metropolitan School District Chief Executive Officer Eric Gordon was supportive of the idea of the community raising the funds for the stadium and track. Sweeney urged his successor, Councilman Kazy, and Mayor Frank Jackson to work with him to help find corporate sponsors and other funds to pay for the project. Sweeney, making a veiled reference to Satinder P. S. Puri, who held a hunger strike to protest the Sweeney led demolition of the old historic John Marshal building, said of the football field and track, “if it is not done in a year, I will hold a hunger strike with a stick in my hand.”
Chovan referred to the building of the new John Marshall and praised, “the partnership and support of so many people that made this a successful project.”
The newly opened John Marshall High School now houses four separate schools. Eleventh and Twelfth Grade students will continue their academic careers in John Marshall Comprehensive. Ninth and Tenth Grade students this year entered one of three academies at John Marshall: Civic and Business Leadership, Engineering and Information Technology.
At the ceremony students introduced the principals of each of the academic programs. Each student said a few words, while the principals just stood and nodded to the crowd.
Tenth grade student Jessica Whitmer introduced Principal Sara Kidner of the John Marshall Civic and Business Leadership Academy.
Ninth Grade Student Terrell Redding introduced Principal Timothy Primus of the John Marshall School of Engineering. Redding said he liked the idea that the school was full of technology and “offered the opportunity for all students to be successful.”
Tenth Grade Student Rochell Bradley introduced Principal Chelsey Cook of the John Marsahll Information Technology Academy. Bradley says her favorite part of the new school is that it is quiet and orderly, “I can learn in the classroom without any interruption, “ she said.
John Marshall 12th Grade Student Kevin Gramajo introduced Principal Tiffiany James of the John Marshall Comprehensive High School. Gramajo made reference to the saying “home is where the heart is” and followed with “John Marshall is where the heart is.”
Just prior to the ribbon cutting, CEO Eric Gordon, thanked all those from the CMSD staff, John Marshall alumni and members of the staff of Bellaire-Puritas Community Development who had not yet been mentioned by previous speakers. He also thanked the choir, band, ROTC students and students that served as hosts for the event.
Gordon noted the construction of the new 208,000 square foot John Marshall High School cost $42 million, 2/3 of which was paid for by the State of Ohio, 1/3 from locally raised tax dollars. He thanked local taxpayers for their contribution. He noted the building is a LEAD certified facility and the new building has recycled some elements from the old building to help carry the tradition into the future.
Gordon then invited several students to assist him in cutting the ribbon at the culmination of the ceremony.