by Chuck Hoven
(Plain Press, January 2016) The December 14 meeting of the Cleveland Transformation Alliance, a group, set up to monitor the Cleveland Plan to transform the schools, featured an update on the status of the Community Wraparound Strategy being used in twenty-five schools in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. The meeting also featured a panel discussion about wraparound schools in which two of the panelists are involved with schools in the Plain Press service area.
Transformation Alliance Board Member Bill Kitson said the wraparound strategy is helpful in schools where “it is clear that kids need more help than teachers and principals can provide.” He said services provided to wrap around schools have become more intentional – aligning services with the kids that need it most. Kitson said previously half of the students were using resources at schools and doing well. However, the kids not doing well in school were not accessing the services available. Now, by aligning the services with the kids that need it most, schools are experiencing success at lifting up kids. Kitson believes this effort will also lift up families and neighborhoods while improving attendance, behavior, discipline and core competencies.
In the area served by the Plain Press, five schools are listed as wraparound schools. The schools and the lead agencies that work with them are: Almira Pre-K-8 Academy with Cleveland Play House as the lead agency; H. Barbara Booker School with the West Side Community House as the lead agency; Lincoln West High School and Luis Muñoz Marin School with Esperanza as the lead agency; and Walton School with Cleveland State University as the lead agency.
Dr. Irene Javier, Principal at Lincoln West High School, and one of the panelists, said she focuses on Lincoln West as a place to celebrate the accomplishments of students. She said, when deciding what wraparound is going to look like in the school building, it is not only important to look at the children and see their needs, but also to look at the experiences and assets the students bring to the school. She noted that, in each of the last three years, Lincoln West has improved its attendance from 78% average daily attendance, two years ago, to 83% last year and to 91% average daily attendance this year. She admitted that the good weather this year has really helped with attendance.
Dr. Javier also cited other factors that help keep students engaged in at Lincoln West High School. She said students “feel loved. They are told you are welcome. You are going to be successful. Someone will care for you – a variety of services are available.”
Dr. Javier said there has also been a 300% decrease in serious incidents that result in suspensions and students loosing learning time as a result of suspension. She attributes this to identifying kids with needs and providing them services thorough various tiers of interventions that begin with a support team formed in the second week of the school year.
Dr. Javier noted that groups involved in the school, such as Friends of Lincoln West, have been focused on finding and providing services that are good for the children.
Pamela DiPasquale, Education Director at the Cleveland Play House, talked about her institution’s involvement as the lead agency at Almira School. She said the Play House began by focusing on parent engagement. Initially, an average of only four parents were attending meetings and events at the school. By surveying parents, the Play House learned that parents were not getting information about events at the school. They asked parents how they preferred to receive information and parents responded by saying they preferred to receive a post card in the mail. With the new method of delivering information to parent via the U.S. Mail – attendance at events at the school increased to an average of 300 parents per event.
The Play House also engaged parents in making use of services at the school. DiPasquale said a computer lab was made available at the school for parents on Saturdays so parents can use the computers at the school not only to assist with their child’s education but also to improve their own education as well. DiPasquale said many of the parents at Almira School have less than a 9th grade education and wanted to pursue getting a GED or use the computer access for other family needs.
Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon said wonderful work was being done using the wraparound strategy to help improve some of the lowest performing schools in the district. He called on using examples of success in different schools to continue to scaffold the model.