Sunday, December 04, 2005

Serial Killer Art and Grass Roots Innovation

BOSTON (Reuters) - An online auction of artwork by a serial sex killer triggered outrage in Massachusetts on Tuesday where lawmakers proposed to block criminals from profiting on what they called "murderabilia," setting off a debate on free speech rights of prisoners.

A colored pencil sketch of Jesus Christ kneeling in a desert by Alfred Gaynor, a serial killer serving four life sentences for sodomizing and choking to death four women, went on sale on Tuesday on a Web site operated by a prisoner advocacy group.

It was one of nearly 300 artworks offered for auction through December 18 on The Fortune Society's Web site. If sold, nearly all proceeds from the work entitled, "A Righteous Man's Reward," will go to Gaynor, the group said.

Protests from the families of Gaynor's victims about the possibility of a convicted murderer profiting from his criminal celebrity prompted state Rep. Peter Koutoujian, a Democrat, to submit a new variation of a "Son of Sam" law in the state legislature.

But the legislative proposal triggered its own debate over the prisoners' constitutional right of free speech...

... The Fortune Society said its online and studio art show draws work from a wide range of prisoners -- not just killers -- and most items sell for less than $100.
"It's a misconception that we're selling this art for thousands and thousands of dollars and that people are making all these profits," said Kristen Kidder, project manager of The Fortune Society's art show.

The paintings can be found at www. ociety.
11/16/05 09:05

I personally feel most threatened by those who will play on people's fears in order to get re-elected. To that end, they enact another piece of legislation which chips away our freedom of speech.
Yeah, you guessed it...I'm a liberal.

You can read
this entire article here. I found it posted on a message board on the Experimental Behavior website.

I highly recommend this forum for anyone who suffers from the misconception that Cleveland lacks a creative, free thinking, community.
You folks are looking in the wrong places. Experimental Behavior will give you a glimpse into the edgey soul of Cleveland's creative community.

New ideas and innovation often come from the fringes of society, where things aren't always comfortable. They might seem unsettling, or even disturbing. In fact, sometimes the fringes can be down right scary. Necessity is still the mother of invention.

There is a new breed of emerging artists, inventors, and entrepreneurs who create because their survival depends on finding new solutions. They don't have PhD's, MFA's, or MBA's. They aren't coming from the cultural ivory towers of academia.
You can find them on the shop floor, or driving a taxi. They make music in their garages, and art on the dining room table. They write stories on laptops, and do research where ever they can find free wifi.

Clevelanders got used to looking for it's establishment to fund our salvation. Old money doesn't like new players unless they follow the the old rules. Cleveland's establishment gives some lip service to grass roots innovation, as long as that grass is growing on a lovely manicured suburban lawn, the kind that requires the right type of seed, carefully chosen by the caretaker, and depends upon continued grooming and maintenance for sustenance. But it is the grass that can be found growing between the cracks of the sidewalk, the tough, deep rooted species, that springs unbidden, without permission, that can and will survive, and eventually create a new landscape

Friday, December 02, 2005

"We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are."

Anais Ninn

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Close To Home

"I'm really not feeling well. Can I put my head down?"

"Sure, darlin'. Come and sit here, you can be by yourself." I motioned to a seat next to my desk.

As I sorted through papers, she raised her face from her forearm. A red imprint of her cable sweater was visable on her cheek. Her voice was barely above a whisper, and I moved my chair closer to her as she spoke.

"I was awake all night. My parents were fighting. My stepfather hits my mom when he gets drunk. I'm afraid to go to sleep. She might need me to call 911 or something. I really want to move out of there. Part of me can't wait. I'll be 18 in July. But, I don't want my mom to be left alone. My dad was an alchoholic too. He's in prison now. I don't know why she puts up with these men. I wonder why we don't just leave."

I only half wondered. This conversation was a little close to home.

I've lived with alchoholism in a household. It is shameful, painful, and eventually destroys the people who live alongside it.The families of alchoholics often feel like they have something wrong with them. They must deserve the life of embarrassment and dysfunction. It is hard to break away. Just like the drowning man will pull his rescuer under the water, the person who thought they would save the alchoholic can become a victim of the disease.

Disease. Damn it.
Why did the medical profession decide to call alchoholism a disease?
How do you save yourself, when the only way to do it is by walking away from a sick person? The guilt is unbearable. The scars are slow to heal.

The physical abuse issue is much harder for me to comprehend. I was hit once by a boyfriend in college. One time...that was all it took ...I was outta there. No apologies, no begging, no tears could bring me back. That kind of anger scared me way too much. It is very hard for me to even listen to the stories of some of these women sometimes. I find it way beyond my understanding.

The bell rang, signaling the end of the class period, and as my student stood up to leave she said, "Maybe I'll be able to sleep when I get home."

I certainly hope she can.
"Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat."

Mother Teresa

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Parental Involvement and the Jerry Springer Culture.

I have been having an interesting discussion this week with a few readers about the poverty factor and how it relates to education in large uban districts like Cleveland. Rather than keep it in the comments section, I figured I would continue the conversation here.

There is a gap in understanding between the educated, working, self-sustaining general population and the reality of the demographics of those who live in poverty. We in the first group tend to feel more comfortable with the poor if we can put a noble or romantic face on them. The laid-off factory worker, the single mother, and the person who has lost everything due to tragedy or illness; these are the poor we like to help, these are good people who have been dealt a cruel blow by the world.

When we assume these people make up the vast majority of Clevelanders who live in poverty, no wonder we are confused when we see some of the poor who don't help themselves, and when given the opportunity, why they don't get involved, or why they do not bootstrap their way into a better position.

Sadly, however, the culture of poverty is not always so honorable. There are many people who are unemployed because they are unemployable. They are the addicts, the sociopaths, the lazy, and the stupid. These people have children, and their children are raised in environments of perpetual dysfunction. If you want to get a glimpse of this culture first hand, simply turn on Jerry Springer or Maury Povitch. This is not a manufactured cultural phenomenon for television. We, the teachers in urban public schools, encounter people like these guests on a regular basis when we make phone calls home, or set up a conference with the parents of students who are having problems in school with behavior, attendance, or learning.

The foul mouthed, abusive, drunk-at-9AM, mother. The father who promised to beat the shit out of his son if the school ever calls again. The kid who needed to bring a parent to school for a conference, and each time would show up with a different one of mom's boyfriends. The girl who did her homework at the tavern where her mother worked turning tricks. The uncle who gave his nephew marijuana to sell at school. The girl whose mother walked into an eighth grade classroom after her daughter was suspended for fighting to beat up the girl her child fought with.
Each of us has more stories than we can recall.

Yes, parental involvement is crucial to a student's education, as long as the parents are good, loving people. Sadly, there are many parents who we would rather not see involved, who are detrimental to to the child.

Simple biology does not in any way insure capability.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Silent Culture of Cleveland Drop-outs.

Fellow NEO blogger, Jeff Hess, at Have Coffee Will Write responded to my last post concerning the lack of Cleveland parents at Monday night's CEO search meeting, surmising:

"...Maybe they are just tired of trying to walk around in size 8 shoes with size 9 feet."

Jeff, I have to disagree.

My gut reaction is that exhaustion due to poverty is not the reason many city residents don't attend school events.

The apparent apathy of many Clevelanders who live in the city toward civic issues and the schools, has been on my mind for quite some time.

It bothered me when I first began teaching in Cleveland back in 1988, and very few parents would show up for school open houses or parent/teacher conferences. The abysmal turnout of Cleveland voters at the polls and the mere smattering of parents, and the people living in the city neighborhoods, who attended school district functions and civic forums, prompted me to begin asking questions and drawing some of my own conclusions.

The common responses I receive from folks (students, parents, and former students) when I ask why they didn't participate in an event or vote in an election are:

"I wouldn't make a difference"

"I don't know anything about that stuff."

"Nobody really wants to listen to me."

"Let the people who understand those things make the decisions."

"I never heard about it."

"Why bother? The Big Shots already made their minds up."

" I don't get it. What do all those issues mean?"

"I don't watch the news. It's boring."

"Where do you find out about these things? You must read a lot."

These conversations lead me to believe this inner-city demographic of Clevelanders, who have been labeled apathetic because they do not participate in the civic process, are not absent because don't care or because they are working too hard. They aren't getting involved for a completely different reason.

Many Clevelanders are not comfortable in the civic realm due to a lack of education.

The district has been hemorrhaging drop-outs since the busing mandate was enacted in the '70s. In the mid 1990's only 25% of Cleveland students graduated from high school. At the last census, fifty thousand Cleveland families were headed by parents without high school diplomas. What has evolved over the past thirty years in Cleveland is a generation of Clevelanders who have disengaged from education. The children of these people are the students I teach. I have talked on the phone to parents who are very uncomfortable inside a school, and try to avoid coming in, if at all possible. There are even those who have never again stepped into school since they flunked out, dropped out, got kicked out, or became involved with the criminal justice system. Some parent's status as ex-offenders makes them feel insecure and unwelcome, even though nobody at the school may even be aware of their history.

A culture has silently developed in Cleveland, of citizens who somehow became disconnected from both the educational and the civic process.

Many people don't know they even have a voice, others are afraid to use it for fear of sounding stupid, and still others assume the lack of education makes their opinions irrelevant. The power to make decisions is the sole realm of the wealthy and the educated...Why bother?

How do we begin to engage this lost generation of Clevelanders? Can we?

Or do we simply write them off, and hope their children will be different?

When more than 50% of Cleveland's 70,000 students are currently still dropping out of school, the future of the city does not look too bright.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Search for a CEO: CMSD Style

The room was nearly empty at 6:30 when I arrived at the community meeting. The Jergens Manufacturing Company located in the Collinwood Yards is very easy to spot from the Shoreway, but apparently a little tricky to find if one is not familiar with the neighborhood. Eventually the search comittee, CMSD administrators, and several Board of Education members came in and introduced themselves, along with two other teachers, a woman who was filming the event, and a journalist.

Where were the community members who were supposed to be giving their input?

The meeting finally began, about twenty minutes late with not quite twenty people in the room, when the facilitator, who was coming from Chicago, arrived. Only one of the people present was a parent, and even she was a school employee.

The first question that was asked of the group was "What does the district need?". The immediate answer, of course was "Money!". Nothing like stating the obvious.

I raised my hand and asked , "Where are the community members? Where is the neighborhood? Where are the voters? Why aren't they here?"

"Well, we publicized the event. We sent flyers home with the kids. Apparently people just aren't interested."

"Hmmm..." I said. "Maybe it would be a good idea to find out why. Why don't Clevelanders come to these forums? Is because they don't know about them, or do they feel their voices won't be heard? Do they feel their opinions don't really matter, and the meetings are just a formality? The disconnect between the school district and the community is a glaring issue, evidenced by lack of voter turn out and the failure of the past two levys. Addressing this problem should be a priority for the new CEO."

Newly re-appointed board member Shirley Hawk spoke, "Adelphia cable has money for a public access cable channel dedicated to the Cleveland schools. I want to know why it is no longer being used. In the past they broadcast school board meetings and good news about the schools."

CMSD administrator Julian Bond replied that the monies for communication were drastically reduced over the past two years with the massive district budget cuts. The sudden absence of good news from the district and lack of communication with the residents seemed to coincide with the decline in Barbara Byrd Bennett's popularity. Since good news doesn't sell, the major media news stories focused on the district's problems and scandels.
A lot of the ensuing discussion focused on the community's access to technology, why the district hasn't taken advantage of it, and what needs to be addressed in the future.

The lone parent sat silent for most of the meeting, but when she finally spoke up, she vented her frustrations. Her complaints focused on teachers and administrators who didn't seem to care about kids or parents. The employees who came across as selfishly only interested in collecting a paycheck and doing as little as possible to earn it. A recent newcomer to Cleveland from Savannah, she complained about the black hole of the district voice mail system, and the general public's inability to find anyone who could answer a question in a reasonable period of time. She predicted the exodus of more children from the Cleveland schools into parochial and charter schools for precisely that reason.

The meeting concluded at 8:00.
My hope is that this was not simply a sham forum to appease a mandate for public input, that someone will pay attention to the concerns that were expressed. Wouldn't it be nice if a new mayor and a new district CEO would usher in a new era of communication?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Nothing Stops A Bullet Like A Job

My friend Margaret Bernstein from the Cleveland Plain Dealer sent this notice to me today and asked me to pass it along.

Nationally recognized gang expert Father Greg Boyle, SJ will deliver a talk on gang activity and preventing youths from joining gangs on Friday, December 16 at 7:30 pm at Gesu Catholic Church. Gesu is located at 2450 Miramar Blvd. in University Heights. The telephone number is 216-932-0617.

Father Boyle, a Jesuit priest, is founder and executive director of Jobs for a Future/Homeboy Industries, a Los Angeles employment referral center and economic development program. The progam provides at-risk and gang-involved youths training, work experience, and an opportunity to work side by side with rival gang members. The slogan of Jobs for a Future is "Nothing stops a bullet like a job."

Father Boyle, who is the subject of Celeste Fremon's book G-Dog and the Homeboys, serves on the National Youth Gang Center Advisory Board.

This looks like a great presentation. I plan on being there.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Frank Jackson v.s. the Cleveland Board of Education

Today's Plain Dealer ran a story about mayor-elect Frank Jackson's first public attempt at school reform. He will be asking the school board to resign and then reapply for their positions. He would like to have a school board who has a real life connection with the schools, people who have a personal stake in them. He wants the new board members to be public school graduates and have kids who are in or went to the Cleveland schools.

Practical grassroots reform. Makes sense to me.

I find it rather disturbing that a number of the current board members would refuse to resign and reapply. The voters have communicated their lack of confidence loudly and clearly, voting down two levys, withdrawing support from the CEO, and ousting the mayor. The message reflected the perception of disconnection with the political and educational hierarchy. They want a board who they can relate to, someone who knows the problems of the schools first hand, people who are intimately familiar with the district, the streets, and the neighborhoods, not merely occasional visitors. People who are not afraid to send their own children to the city schools.

The people on the board who refuse to resign have none of these qualifications.

Which makes me wonder...

Why are they holding on?
What is their stake?
What are they getting out of this appointment?
What's in it for them?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

"Forgiveness is the answer to the child's dream of a miracle, by which what was broken is made whole again, what is soiled is again made clean."

Dag Hammarskjold

"In search of my mother's garden, I found my own."

Alice Walker

A November Remembered

Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of my mother's death.

A decade ago, I drove through the snow, to the hospital in Chardon, with my oldest son, Ben, after receiving a phone call from my sister that Mom was in intensive care... possible stroke... no need to rush.
We arrived, just as the doctors put the paddles away, and gave up on the attempts to revive her.

Behind the steering wheel that evening, heading home to Cleveland Heights, my tears were angry.
How dare she die? We still had issues to resolve. I needed to know things.
I was afraid she was still disappointed. I wanted to talk about the hurt feelings, the guilt, the rejection, the forgiveness, the love , the understanding, the new relationship that was finally evolving. We had not finished healing the hurts accumulated during my rebellious twenties and stubborn thirties.
Now, those conversations would never take place.

Mom had spent years ignoring her doctor's advice. She refused to spend money on the medication he perscribed to treat her high blood pressure because she "felt fine". An undiagnosed pulmonary aneurysm developed, and finally burst, that Friday afternoon.

The relationships we have with our parents are the most profound of any we develop in our lives. When I was a teenager, I couldn't imagine two people more different than my mother and me. As I've gotten older, I've begun to notice at least a few similarities. The altruism, forever champion of the underdog, the over-analyzation of situations, people, and motives, the accidental green thumb, the interest in philosophy and theology, the ability to recognize potential, and our chosen careers in education. Both of us became Cleveland teachers.
She taught kindergarten at Harvey Rice Elementary School. Being a different temperment, I chose to teach high school.

As much as I emulated my mother, I was also very cognizant of her not-so-admirable traits, which I strove to reject:
The passive/aggressive martyrdom, the use of the "silent treatment" as punishment, and holding on to perceived hurts and sleights.

Yesterday, I stopped at Lakeveiw cemetery on my way home from work. The gray sky and the lonely sound of an unusually warm November wind, moved me to park my car and wander among the headstones.

My mother is not buried there. Her grave is in Shadyside; a small, country cemetery in Auburn township. My father, disconcertingly, had my name and those of my siblings engraved on the back of her tombstone.

Ambling along the paths, I recognized the names of famous historic Clevelanders, surrounded by the markers of the long forgotten.

There is nothing like a symbolic reminder of death to help one recall the essence of life. The memory of my mother and the anniversary of her sudden death, already a decade past, is a welcome prod to push myself, and make the most of the time I have to live.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Milking the Cash Cow

Max S. Hayes High School in Cleveland's rapidly gentrifying Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood was slated for a 27 million dollar "make-over", paid for by the capital improvement tax money which Clevelanders approved several years ago.

For two years, big teams of consultants and architects, from Middough Consulting and Braun & Steidl Architects, roamed the halls, meeting with administrators, instructors, and advisory groups. Drawings were submitted, and resubmitted. The consultants came back and told us that what we wanted to have redone couldn't happen... there was not enough money.
The too-small gym would have to remain too small, and wish list items were eliminated.
Finally, the remodeling schedule was announced. We were advised to get ready to start packing up our classrooms on the third floor, because the construction crews would be starting on the top. I began to clean out my store room.
At the end of May we were told the remodeling was being put on hold. The start of the 2005-06 school year would be back-to-school as usual.

Yesterday, our principal announced to department heads that the school was not going to be remodeled. He was told it would be cheaper to build a new school than to remodel this one. There is no new location picked out. The consultants suggested it could even be built in our current parking lot.
Incredulous as to why it took these companies two years to figure out how much money the remodeling would cost, as compared to a new building, I began having visions of a big cash cow named "Max".
I asked about plans for the new building.
The principal blinked and said, in all innocence "I think they are just going to use the plans they already have for this building."

I'm guessing the dear man has not had much experience with building contractors.

Does somebody besides me sense some chicanery going on here?

I remember that a capital improvements oversight committee was convened as a watch dog group for this money. Does anyone know what happened to them? Who was on that committee? Do they ever really meet? Are they even paying attention?
Are the records of the consultant fees public? How much money will be left for a building and a new site after the architects and consultants are paid off again?

Do I see some very creative project management going on here, or is it just business as usual in Cleveland?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Cleveland - A Third World City?

Web-surfing last night, I was searching the internet for information about another art teacher in an urban vocational school.
What I found made me shake my head, partly amazed, wanting not to believe.

I discovered a 2001 post from a vocational school in Rwanda.
If you would substitute the word "Rwanda" with "Cleveland", and change the 59% drop-out rate to Cleveland's 2001 71% drop-out rate, the story would be about this city. Even the pictures of the students and teachers in the classrooms could have been taken here.

The first part of the excerpt caught my eye:

"One of the pressing needs for these children and youth is to ensure access to a relevant, basic education. 59% of street-based children in Rwanda have dropped out of school"

Reading the rest of it made my jaw drop. I could have written it.

"There is a very big difference because the children who live in the streets have ingrained habits which discourage them from concentrating for longer periods or sitting still in a classroom. Children who attend primary schools and who are able to go home in the evenings are able to learn from family members and are encouraged, but for street children it is very difficult.
It is difficult for many of the street children to concentrate on their work as they arrive already tired to the class. When the children come to the classroom they fall asleep as they were unable to sleep the night before or were up most of the night sniffing glue. Also many of them are traumatized from the violence in the streets. Sometimes there are discussions during the class when children explain that the night before they were hit by security guards or others in the streets"

Here is the link.

For God's sakes, our urban schools in Cleveland and East Cleveland look like Rwanda's!

When is this region going to wake-up and do something that will have a real impact?
Maybe it's time to take a good close look at the school reform policy du jour that the educational leadership will parade around at election time, and demand something better...Demand something real...Demand to get involved. The lip service we've received is only an insult.
We need to do more than change a label to effect reform.

Monday, October 10, 2005

A Drop-Out Drops In.

"Hey, I saw Ryan this weekend."

"Really? Where?"

"At the store in Lakewood where he works."

"How's he doing?"

"Okay I guess, he dropped out of school."

Damn, I thought, not another one. "Well, if you run into him again, tell him to stop in and see me."

Two weeks later Ryan walked through the door of my classroom and flopped himself down in the big old high-backed chair behind my desk.
"Everything is still the same." he said softly as he looked around the room and smiled.

The last time I'd seen Ryan was a little over a year ago when we stood in the hallway and he told me he was leaving Max Hayes High School.
He was failing all of his classes, yet ironically, he was one of the smartest kids in the school. He hadn't failed to learn, he just didn't come to class. He hadn't been sick, he was bored out of his mind. The school had an attendance policy mandating a failing grade for any student who had ten or more absences during a semester, and Ryan had exceeded his limit.

Several years ago , when Ryan was a ninth grader in my art class, I could see right away that he was different. He was a talented artist as well as a bright kid. He would complete drawing excuses and unit projects with time to spare. So, I would introduce him to new mediums, or have him work on a contest entry, while the rest of the class caught up to him. That summer I was able to secure an internship for him at the David Davis Studio in Cleveland. There he worked with resident sculptor Mike Spencer, completing a monumental work of art, as well as creating a couple small stainless pieces of his own.

The following year he began cutting early morning and late afternoon classes. His excuse? He was bored. He would finish his assignments, and fall asleep while the teacher worked with the rest of the class. He figured he could do all the work for a week in one class period. Why should he sit through five? When I checked with his teachers they all agreed. He did 'A' work but was failing due to attendance.

The next year he was still repeating most of his classes, even though he knew the content, so mid-year, Ryan decided to transfer to his neighborhood high school, John Marshall. There the situation was not much different. Teachers spent the majority of class time working with the students who needed the most help. He disengaged, and once again his attendance became sporadic. He was failing his classes. He would have to pay to make up the classes in night school. Due to budget cuts, tuition-free summer school was only free to seniors. Ryan couldn't afford the tuition, and couldn't bear the thought of sitting through the same classes yet again, so he just quit. He dropped out of school in the spring and got two jobs.

Now, at 17, he is working as a roofer during the day, and at a game store in the evening. I couldn't help but wonder what his chances will be to succeed without a high school diploma. We talked about the GED program, and he promised to look into it. We also talked about re-enrolling in Max Hayes night school program once he earns enough money to pay the tuition.

I couldn't help but feel bad. We failed again. One more young Clevelander without a high school diploma. We had failed to give this young man an education. We couldn't keep his attention. The professional educators, with our degrees in human behavior and psychology, couldn't educate a good, bright, talented kid. He wasn't a behavior problem, he didn't need special education, he didn't attract attention, and he fell through the cracks. We have thousands of these young adults in Cleveland. Each one of them represents almost a quarter of a million dollars of lost income over the next forty years.

My mantra - Education equals Economic Development. While the school district grapples with improving test scores and trying to improve graduation rates, we have a city full of drop-outs. Cleveland had the lowest graduation rate in the country back in 1998, only 28%. It has steadily improved to a pathetic 50%, but those who never received their diplomas still live here. They make up Cleveland's workforce. Why are we shocked to read that Cleveland is one of the poorest cities in the country? Why are we surprised that they don't vote? They are the electorate. What are Cleveland's civic leaders doing to address that problem? Where will we find jobs for the undereducated?

These people used to find employment in the region's factories. Now the industry uses new technologies that require new skills. They can't find workers.
(Read more on that here) We have a solution...!

One proven strategy to keep students in school is through the arts. The arts keep bright, creative, kids engaged. A group of civic-minded folks from Greater Cleveland understood this, and began a non-profit organization called the Human Fund whose first benefit will be dedicated to raising money for the All-City arts program in the Cleveland schools. A silent auction of student work will be held at the gala event on October 22nd at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I will be submitting several landscape paintings by Ryan to the student exhibit. Check out their web site, attend the benefit if you can, bid on a work of art or donate to the cause. You may just be able to help one more kid stay in school.

Thursday, October 06, 2005


I knew her first as the head of long, mousey brown, hair piled over folded arms. The days that she showed up in class, she sat in the back of the room and buried her face on a bunched up jacket plopped down on the table. As the rest of the class was getting their latest projects out to work on, she would sit, with her head resting upon her arm, eyes closed.

"C'mon darlin', I can't give you a grade if you don't have anything to turn in. You're here, you might as well give it a shot."

Malinda would roll her eyes, and slowly walk to the file cabinet to get her portfolio. She was taking the art requirement her freshman year, and had pretty decent drawing skills, but her absenteeism was taking a toll on her progress. My cajoling was usually met with a reluctant compliance. Any attempts to talk with her were met with one-word answers. She was quiet, an easy student to overlook in a class filled mostly with excitable ninth grade boys.

Malinda had one friend in class, Sara, a slightly built, tom-boyish, chatty, tenth grader. Never lacking in self-confidence or something to talk about, Sarah was popular. Even though she had many friends, I noticed her taking time out with the loners, the "geeks", and the "underdogs". If anyone was ever so ingnorant as to pick on one the the special needs students in Sara's presence, they would find themselves dealing with a 5 foot tall, ninety pound avenger. Justice in a ponytail, Sara's fist could fly as fast as her words.

Early one morning, before the first period bell, Sara appeared at my door.

"Ms. Matthews, I need to tell you something."

"What's wrong?" Dark circles beneath her eyes told me she had been up most of the night.

"You know that girl, Malinda, I sit next to in your class?"

I nodded my head.

"She told me last night that she was being raped by her father and her brother. She said it's been going on since she was eleven. Her mom knows about it, but lets them do it. She said her mother blames her for what they do."

Whoa! Every moment of annoyance I ever felt toward the child I had assumed was lazy, morphed into guilt combined with horror. "We have to report this."

"I'll go down to the office, I'm the one she told. I heard the story."

"Is Malinda here today?"

"I haven't seen her yet."

"Do you think she would go with you to talk to someone? Is she ready? Does she want to get out of there? Did she say?" A million questions raced around my head. A million and one regrets. Never again would I assume anything about a sleepy student.
Knowing everyone carries baggage is one thing; knowing the contents can make you a participant in the burden.

"She needs to get out." Sara was resolute. "I told her I was going to tell the school. She didn't say anything."

With that, Sara turned around and headed down the stairs to the office.

Sara had breached the levy.
Malinda's life, previously a solitary, silent, scream, became a flurry of police detectives, social workers, and prosecutors.

Her family was tried and convicted. Her testimony in court assured prison time for her father. A minor without a home, Malinda became a ward of the county. Over the next couple of years she lived like a teen-aged refugee, bouncing from one foster home to another.

Now that she had found her voice, she began to talk.. and talk.. and talk.
The healing effect of communicating was evident as she began to share her frustrations and fears. I gave her a sketch/journal, perhaps it could be therapeutic.
Sara and Malinda had become fast friends. They made certain to keep me informed during the court proceedings, and kept me updated on the idiosyncrasies of the various foster homes Malinda was placed in. One typical day the girls came in to my room together, this time they both looked sad. Malinda was transferring to a new school in the suburbs. A family in Strongsville was taking her in.


Last week Sara appeared at my door, all smiles. It was two years since she had graduated, but she was a periodic visitor, so although I was happy to see her, I was not surprised. "Somebody wants to see you. Come out to the hall."
Curiously, I peeked my head around the corner.


"I thought you might not remember me."

"Oh honey, how could I forget you? How have you been? What are you doing?"

Malinda had just moved back to the near westside, had her own apartment, and was going to college. She looked so grown-up. A far cry from the sullen child I needed to keep waking up six years ago.

"I have to go to court in a few weeks. My father is going up for a probationary hearing. I'll be testifying against him."

"Good for you darlin'. Good for you."

Monday, October 03, 2005

A Lesson on the Hood

"Let's say you had $1,000, and you needed to double it as quickly as possible. What would you do with the money?"
The question came up in a casual conversartion with a couple of boys who stayed behind to work in the art studio, rather than go to an afternoon dance fundraiser in the gym.

"Hmmm...I would buy an old car and fix it up a little. There's not much difference between an old one thousand dollar car and an old two thousand dollar car." The seventeen year old thought for a moment and added, "I would have to make sure it didn't need expensive parts. The labor is where I would make the money, I work fast."

"If I had a thousand dollars, I would flip it." His classmate jumped on the challenge.

"What do you mean by 'flip it'?" I asked.

"You know, on the street...Buy low sell high."

"What are you buying and selling?"

"Whatever makes money the fastest. You have to sell a lot of weed to make that thousand. Crack is faster."

I raised my eyebrows, and the expression on my face must have asked "Why are you telling this to me?" because he explained, "My brother is in the business, not me...I'm going to graduate."

"In any investment stategy there are going to be risks. What do you see as the risks here?"

The kid from the auto shop answered first. "You might not see all the problems an old car has when you first buy it, and it may cost more money to fix it than you first thought."

The second young man's eyes narrowed, "When you sell rocks, your customers are crackheads. They're crazy...that's a risk. Then there's always the police. Cops and crackheads, they'll both kill you. If you start doing the crack, that will kill you too. There is some nasty dirty stuff out there. Bin Laden will 'F' you up. You have to know names. You get ripped off if you're not street smart."

I had to smile. "Street smart?"

The role revesal brought an immediate authority to his tone. "Street smart means you have survival skills. Someone can be educated in school, but not know how to take care of himself. There are things you can never learn in a classroom, you only learn them in the street. Only if you're out there."

"Like what?"

"Like hoods and territories. How deep the streets are. Names and tags."

My brow, again furrowed, brought forth further explaination.

"Street gangs. You won't survive in the hoods unless you understand how things are organized on the street. Some streets are weak and some are deep. You need to know who is selling and where. If you pay attention and keep your eyes open you will see things. You have to listen, the street has it's own language. There are signs. You can learn." My student-turned-teacher smiled condescendingly.

"Can learning about the street make me a better teacher?"

"Of course, you can't fix something or make it better if you don't know how it works. How can you teach kids if you don't know where they're coming from? It's just common sense."

"So what do your street smarts tell you about making a good investment?"

"Now that I think about it, the car is the better choice. It might take longer, but the risks won't kill you."

There was a long pause, then he asked,
"You have to pay taxes on that car don't you?"

Sunday, October 02, 2005

The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.

M. Scott Peck

Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Teacha Fashionista

"Oh my God! That is heinous!"

I shook my head as Susan grinned and held up a sweatshirt bedecked with sequined turkeys and pilgrims. The racks at Kaufmans held shirts, sweaters, jackets and vests seasonal decorated with appliques ranging from autumn leaves and conucopias, to ghosts and jack-o-lanterns, to candy canes and reindeer. Each one tackier than the next, and every one over-priced.

"Who wears this stuff?" she laughed.

"You will." I smirked. "I'm buying you that one for your birthday."

"Then, you're getting this one for Christmas."
Susan pushed aside several garments to reveal a Santa in swimtrunks and sunglasses stitched to a sweater. "You know, they make these things especially for teachers. You are the target customers...Look! She pulled out a knit vest decorated with apples.

My jaw dropped. She was right. Her statement evoked the images of my colleagues gathered in the teachers lounge in holiday attire. ANY holiday, EVERY holiday. Ties and T-shirts, jumpers and jewelry. Even shoes. Teachers take to theme-dressing like bloggers to snarking...Both are distracting and keep us from being taken seriously.

I recall a former co-worker whose attire rivaled that of the "Mimi" character on the Drew Carey show. Her September wardrobe featured pencil earrings, chalkboard brooches, and "A,B,C" "1,2,3" tights. October was resplendent with witches and scarecrows. In December, I can remember being amazed by a headband with antlers and a necklace of flashing Christmas lights. I would walk away from conversations and not be able to recall what we discussed because, I couldn't keep my eyes off of her outfits.

Every now and again I hear talk from administrators and board members about instituting teacher dress codes, and the occasional comment about having a uniform for faculty members. They should keep in mind the effect that would have on stores that deal in seasonal attire. Without the teachers, they would loose their customer base and I'm certain those places would go out of business.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

It's Back! Max S. Hayes Adult Evening Class: Welding for Artists

"I always wanted to learn how to do that."

Two years ago I came up with an idea to offer an evening class to artists (or anyone else) who always wanted to learn how to weld, but didn't want to make a career out of it. I had a number of artist/sculptor friends who were envious of my access to the shops and the technical expertise.
I asked Ron Herman, the welding instructor for the adult job-training program, if it was do-able. He said, sure, he'd like to teach the class, but I would have to get it okayed by the administration.
Several months of badgering got us the 'go-ahead', and that winter the first class of ten artists donned leather coats, gloves, and helmets, and learned to create new objects with metal and fire. The class consisted of men and women from three counties, all art professionals, working in museums, colleges, schools, and public art. They became friends, sharing their phone numbers and portfolios.

Changes in the administration created confusion the next semester, and I threw up my hands in disgust.

"Why do I bother? I set up a great program, and the know-it-alls come in and screw it up. I don't get paid extra to do their jobs or make them look good. I guess since innovation isn't in my contract I'm not gonna do anything extra. Who needs the aggravation? I give up."

This summer I met Jacqueline Comeaux, the new Director of Adult Education at CMSD. She said she had heard about the 'Welding For Artists' class that I'd initiated, and she would like to give it another shot. Her enthusiasm and vision won me over.

So, ladies and gentlemen, once again we'd like to offer you the chance to learn a hot new skill:

Welding for Artists

This is a class for adult artists interested in expanding their repertoire of sculptural skills to include welding technology. Learn the basics of oxyacetylene welding, cutting, MIG, and TIG, with an emphasis on safety.

This class is also ideal for any adult welders interested in learning advanced welding techniques.

Course begins: October 17, 2005 - November 2, 2005
Class schedule: Mondays & Wednesdays 6:00 - 8:00 pm
Tuition: $300 (Includes use of tools and supplies.)

*Returning students receive $100 discount when using own equipment

Max S. Hayes Adult Training Center4600 Detroit Avenue - Cleveland, Ohio 44102
For more Information Call:
(216) 634-2157

Register in Person:September 27th & 28th 3:30 - 7:00 pm
October 4th & 5th 3:30 - 7:00 pm
October 11th & 12th 3:30 - 7:00 pm
October 17th, 18th & 19th 3:30 - 7:00 pm

Tuition payment is due at time of registration.
Payment plans are available

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Making a Case for Technical Education

Today I recieved this comment on Monday's post:

catfood said...
I'm a bit torn on this point, MB. I believe that students need skills that will get them jobs. But I'm also a liberal arts snob, and I believe that everyone needs general, primary knowledge of the world--including arts, sciences, and social sciences. So when someone says we need a better workforce coming out of our public schools, part of me goes eeeewwww... why don't we aim for a better/smarter populace and let the jobs take care of themselves?

I'm not sure that's been tried.
I guess he got me going.
I am posting my response.

My dear catfood,

We need both; the liberal arts and career/technical training. We can't neglect one for the other. There is no one-size-fits-all education style. The college prep track just doesn't work for everybody. It is presumptuous to assume everyone should want or need that type of education.
Who is going to build, maintain, and make all your stuff unless we train people to do it?
Oh...that's right...the Chinese.

Friday afternoon I listened to economic futurist and author Watts Wacker speak at Tri-C Corporate College. He cautioned us (Americans) to wake up and pay attention to China. The Chinese have certainly been paying attention to us, and they have learned a lot. China learned how to make stuff.
First they made it cheap, then they made it well, and now they are investing in automation for manufacturing and training workers to use it. They are taking our jobs. They are eating our lunches. (And by the way, today 400 million Chinese speak English.)

The jobs here aren't taking care of themselves.
The manufacturing industry in the United States is desperate for skilled workers. Thousands of high tech manufacturing jobs in Ohio are going unfilled. Non-automated factories are closing their doors because they can't compete globally, and they won't invest in the new technology because they can't find the people to run it. Young people aren't encouraged to go into manufacturing.
Training programs have few students.

The drop-out rate in our district is about 50%, somewhat improved from the 65% of two years ago, and the unthinkable 75% a few years before that. Although school administrators rejoice at the increased numbers of graduates, very little attention is paid to what happened to those who never finished high school.
50,000 families in Cleveland are headed by dropouts. We cannot attract companies to this city because such a large percentage of our workforce is uneducated and unskilled.

Cleveland's economy was built on manufacturing. It was the industrialists who built the universities as well as the arts and cultural institutions in this city.

We still have the infrastructure.
We can easily revitalize the manufacturing industry here by providing skilled workers trained in automation and robotics. With a skilled manufacturing workforce, existing companies will be able to invest in technology, increase production, and compete with offshore manufacturers.
A skilled workforce will also enable the city to lure big manufacturers here without tax abatements.

Today's manufacturing jobs are high paying. Higher paying jobs will allow Clevelanders to support the arts, send their children to college, play (not work) in casinos, and not have to shop at Wal-Mart.
(And maybe take a course in Chinese.)

Friday, September 23, 2005

Making Change: Election '05

The invitation was last minute.

"MaryBeth, we would like to invite you to attend a discussion this evening with the mayoral candidates at the Key Club, and could you bring several students?"

Sure. I hustled around to recruit a few interested upperclassmen. Lots of the kids said they would like to go, but most of them had jobs after school. 5:00-8:00 PM are the prime working hours for high school students. I got four "maybe's".
I sat close to the door in the club meeting room to keep watch. None of my kids showed up. Too bad.
A few of the students had expressed an interest in politics. It would have been a good experience for them.

Listening to the candidates answer questions about personal thoughts and feelings, as opposed to promoting or defending their stand on the issues, presented a very different view of the personalities running for mayor. I found myself sizing them up in the same way that I look at a class full of new students.

Seated in front of me were seven leaders, seven different dispositions, seven different attitudes, seven different competencies, and seven different personal styles. While some came across as friendly and engaging, others appeared aloof, one was even angry and combative. It was easy to see who was self-absorbed, who had creative vision, who truly listened to what others were saying, who had tunnel vision, who was laid back, who was obsessive, and who needed their medication adjusted. It was interesting to see how they related with one another. Who smiled or exchanged words, and who ignored whom.

Missing from the group last night was Frank Jackson, a man I would have liked to have seen interact with this group and respond to these personal types of questions. Of all the candidates, he always came across as the most guarded in public. Seeing how he stands a decent chance of becoming my next boss, it would have been nice to be able to scrutinize him along with the others.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Educated Workforce = Economic Development

I stood in the campaign headquarters of Cleveland mayoral candidate David Lynch this past Friday, before a press conference he was holding to discuss his platform on education. I don't live in Cleveland, I can't vote for Cleveland issues, but I work here, I teach kids here, and am very much affected by the politics of the city. Cleveland's next mayor will be my boss.
I respect David for making education a primary topic in his candidacy.

For too long the city schools have been like the crazy relative the family doesn't like to talk about.
The problems seem so huge...insurmountable...embarrassing...our politicians would much rather talk about the exciting, do-able, project oriented topics. Lakefront development, convention centers, casinos, new shopping centers, arts and cultural attractions.
Creating new spaces and places is much more exciting than figuring out why 50 percent of Cleveland's students drop out of school, and how we can employ this huge demographic without high school diplomas.

Instead of fiddling with the numbers to change the city's status as the poverty leader, then rejoicing that another city has taken the lead, someone needs to take the bull by the horns and figure out how to create a workforce in this city that is educated enough to attract companies.
Tax exemptions didn't lure Toyota to Toronto, skilled workers did. Do companies want to locate in a city where 50,000 families are headed by someone who dropped out of high school?

Education reform and building a skilled workforce need to be this city's top priorities. The candidates need to concentrate on the following issues:
1. Lead abatement. The city of Cleveland has one of the highest concentrations of children with lead poisoning in any urban area. Lead poisoning leads to mental retardation. About 38% of the CMSD student population are identified as special needs. Anyone see a correlation here?
2. Improved discipline and learning in the classroom. New school funding strategies are essential to accomplish these goals.
3. Job training and adult education programs that will address the needs of the current population of city residents who are lacking the skills needed to pull themselves out of poverty.

Without education there can be no economic development. An uneducated population cannot sustain itself. When city leaders finally realize this and make educating Cleveland a primary focus, only then will we see jobs return to the city.


"Oooo...Somebody was HATIN'!"

The students were crowded around the window, looking across the street.
Parked in the driveway, just outside the garage of one of the expensive townhouses on Tillman Avenue overlooking the lake, was a black Hummer. With Krylon yellow spray paint on the passenger side, a message was scrawled in big angry letters, "FUCK YR MONEY".
The painter attacked the back of the vehicle, and the driver's side as well, with spattered lines and swirls of yellow.

"Who do you think did that? Someone from school?"

"Naw. That's a relationship pay-back."

"He made somebody pretty mad."

"It's kinda funny, actually."

"Somehow, I just can't feel sorry for the guy."

...Somehow, I can't either.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Don't be Boring

"Geeze, that kid is as smart as he looks." I muttered.

The heat and humidity were starting to get to me, eroding my patience for the goofy antics of teenaged boys.

My intern, from Cleveland State, looked across the room to where the lanky kid with the towel draped on top of his head plopped himself down on the table's edge, making faces at his classmate, who had nearly busted him upside his dome during the new teacher's lecture on shading geometric forms.

"Sit in the chair please!"
My voice reflected the testy attitude that accompanied the emerging half-headache.

"So what started the problem?" he asked.


The bewildered look on his face begged a better explaination.

"Our friend was trying to be funny. He gave a two-finger smack to the back of Vonne's head. No reason. Just out of the blue. He was bored. It nearly became a fight over nothing."

"So, how did you deal with it?"

I had solved the problem in the hallway, out of sight and earshot of my intern and the rest of the class. He was eager to hear a first-hand accounting of my classroom management skills in action.

"I had them look me in the eye, stand up straight, explain the problem, then go back in and sit down on different sides of the room. No big deal."

I sometimes forget how tricky and psychological all this stuff looks to the novice. New teachers tend to overreact to some things, and not respond quickly enough to others. Behavior management in the classroom is now so second nature to me, I really have to think hard about what it is I do exactly to make things run smoothly. Knowing what bores kids and figuring out how to keep wandering minds on track, I discovered, is much more important than knowing how to break up a skirmish. These are the things best learned through experience, however.

More difficult for me is this student teacher mentoring. Critiquing without discouraging is really tricky. I'm not very good at taking critisism, so I am very cautious when I have to point out other people's shortcomings.
Perhaps I should talk about the absolute necessity of using humor in a lecture...It's better than saying "Don't be boring."

Monday, September 12, 2005

Where've You Been?

"Hey! How are you?" The seventeen year old's face peeked around the corner of the doorway with a grin that began on his lips, and shone through his eyes.

"Great. Where've you been? I thought you might have left. I haven't seen you around."

Tossing a sketchbook on my desk, and ignoring my question he said, "Look at these."

Ten pages of sketches...Street characters, names, designs, tags...All done in that hybrid urban style of hip-hop/Latino artwork, part graffiti, born on the street, carefully studied, practiced and refined.

"These are wonderful. You were busy drawing this summer I see."

"Yeah, I couldn't do much else. I spent a lot of time in the hospital."


"The doctors think I might have stomach cancer. They say I have strange bile. They keep shoving these cameras in me. I have to get one shoved down my throat today after school. I haven't eaten all day..I'm starving."


Some days this job is really hard.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

City Kids at the City Club

This past Tuesday I was invited to bring three students from Max Hayes to a luncheon at the Cleveland City Club sponsored by the Cleveland Excellence Round Table. The featured guest speaker was Rebecca Ryan from Next Generation Consulting, who has just recently concluded a project in Akron focused on attracting and retaining young creative talent. The room was filled with leaders from Cleveland's civic and business comunities. We were the only high school invited.

Senior students, Tabatha Knight, Joella Blount, and Quadre Nichols are all bright young minds with leadership abilities. I felt this luncheon would be a valuable opportunity for them to experience a social setting outside their normal sphere. Mingling with civic leaders would help them see the possibilities they have to make a difference in their world. These are the kind of experiences that can influence the choices they make as they plan their futures. The gap between those with political influence, and the average citizen is not as impossible to bridge as it might first appear.

I've had a problem over the past several years with the media's discussion of brain drain, and brain gain.
Cleveland is busily trying to attract new bright young people, the new
creative class, to our freshly gentrified neighborhoods, while we neglect
our own children. I believe we need to grow our future, not lure it here.

Tabatha, an outspoken sixteen year old, with a mind as sharp as her tongue, listened to the discussion during lunch which focused on economic development strategies that would bring business and educated young people to the city. I could see her becoming uneasy. She leaned over the table and whispered to me.

"I'm going to make a comment."

"Good for you. Go ahead."

She raised her hand, and stared at the people around the room.

"Everyone here is talking about businesses and colleges in Cleveland, and how they are going to save the city, but not one person has mentioned the schools...the middle schools, elementary schools, and high schools, in Cleveland. Nobody is talking about them. They are terrible. They are run down, we have no books, we are losing our teachers. We need education. How can you plan to change the city and forget the schools?"

A few of the civic leaders in attendance responded by blaming the state system of school funding for the problems of the city schools.

"None of them has the answer." she whispered to me again.

Maybe the solutions will one day come from the people who have experienced the problems.
Nobody else really seems to understand.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

"What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, August 25, 2005

First Day of School "05-06"

"Did you miss me?"

"Miss you? Summer went by so fast, I hardly had time to miss you. But geeze... Come here... Stand next to me... Did you grow six inches in three months? I almost didn't recognize you walking down the hallway."

Devone's wide grin grew even wider. "I was wearing shorts the whole summer. I grew out of all my jeans. I needed to get new pants last week to come to school."

I unlocked the door to my classroom, and we walked into the room I'd been preparing since last Thursday. The furniture was dusted, new bulletin board displays were up, and books were placed back on the bookshelves.
Some things were still the same though. The windows still had the same bullet holes, broken Plexiglas was patched with the same duct tape, the same tiles were still missing from the floor and the ceiling, the speakers for the PA system were still broken, and the message "Stan sucks d--k" was still legible, scrawled in permanent marker repeatedly on several of the old oak tables and chairs.

The rest of the class slowly wandered into the room.

"You rearrainged the tables."

"Yeah. How do you like it?"

"It's okay...I don't like it when things change."

"It's easier for me to see what everybody is doing this way. You'll get used to it."

Of the twenty-nine students on my roster, only sixteen were in class. No surprise. For some reason I've never understood, a large percentage of Cleveland kids will not come to school before Labor Day, no matter when school officially starts.

Rather than review the syllabus, like teachers in suburban districts would on the first day of classes, I talked about the new programs we would be participating in this year; the extra curricular glass blowing classes, this year's new artist residencies, the new sculpture at the Soapbox Derby Park, and the Max Hayes/CIA video documentary project. Class rules, expectations, and the supply list will be covered when I have a majority of the class in attendance.

I hardly started talking when heads began flopping down on the table. Teenagers used to staying up until the wee hours of the morning and sleeping until mid-afternoon all summer, were having difficulty keeping their eyes open for an 8:00 AM class. When the bell rang to signal the end of the class period, fifteen students got up to leave. One freshly-shorn head remained, eyes closed, face squished against Formica. I tapped him on the shoulder.

"Bell rang. Time to go."

His eyes popped open. The boy stood up, and looked around in temporary confusion.

"Do you know where your second period class is?"

He pulled the crumpled schedule from his pocket, stared for a moment and hurried out the door. I set my hand down on the table where he had been sitting. An audible little shriek escaped from my mouth.

"Oh shit!"

I ran to the sink, pumped a palmful of antibacterial soap, and began to scrub. I grabbed a spray bottle of disinfectant and a paper towel and walked across the room to clean up a six inch puddle of drool from the table top while the next group of students walked through the door.

"Did you miss me?"

"Miss you? Summer went by so fast, I hardly had time to miss you."

Monday, August 22, 2005

Children First

Didja ever wonder, while walking through a school building on a hot muggy day, why the only air conditioned rooms in the building are the ones where adults spend the day...usually only one or two of them at a given time, and the rooms where thirty -forty children are crammed into tiny uncomfortable desks get no air conditioning, and often the windows don't open either. Why is it too expensive to air condition classrooms, but not administrative offices, or libraries, or community centers,or or city hall, or state and federal government buildings? What happened to "Children First"? Oh I remember, kids don't vote.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Tipping Point

You have to be tough to walk the halls of a public school in the city of Cleveland.

Overwhelming for the sheltered, sensitive, suburban adult; the masses of teenagers who pour out of classrooms at the sound of a bell, can offend every sense.
From the acrid stench of hormonal armpits and post-lunch methane emissions, to physical bumping and jostling from the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd moving to the next class, the easily offended are immediately repulsed. The F-bomb, often accompanied by a "mother" is used as adjective, verb, noun, and pronoun; in friendly greetings and menacing threats.

Those of us who choose to work with adolescents, develop a coat of emotional armor out of necessity. Our thick skin helps us to survive the highly charged atmosphere. The veteran of the urban classroom often appears unflappable. But every once in a while a chink appears in the protective coat, and something gets to you.

A number of years ago, I was teaching at a 6-12th grade magnet school. One afternoon, during class change, the halls were typically flooded with students. A social studies teacher stood by her classroom door laughing with a colleague, when she was rudely shoved by a skinny 11 year old sixth grader.

"Get the f-ck out of my way, you f-cking, fat, white, b-tch."

Her jovial face filled with rage, and spinning around, she pinned the nasty child up against the ceramic block wall and hissed.

"Don't you me FAT!"

She backed away, and the terrified boy hurried off to his next class, having learned a very important lesson.

There are some things you never say to a woman.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Where Do We Go From Here?

"There must be changes in the direction of the school system, and we need input. We need suggestions."
Cleveland School Board member, Louise Dempsey spoke earnestly yesterday, as we stood talking an a small group after a luncheon downtown.

"Oh, I have plenty of ideas."

"I knew you would!" She smiled.

"First," I said, "communication needs to be made a priority. The district administration is inaccessible. It is daunting for school employees to get their questions answered, let alone someone from the general public."

The smile became a laugh. "Your right. You can't even get people there to pick up their phones."

"And when your call goes to the voicemail system, the mailboxes are always full." I added. "E-mails don't get answered either in a lot of cases. Is it any wonder Clevelanders have so little confidence in this administration? They are inaccessible. The public feels alienated."

Earlier, at lunch, Scott Rourke from One Cleveland spoke about the need for connectivity amongst various institutions, businesses, and organizations in Cleveland. Technology can facilitate the exchange of information, but real solutions and innovation can only come about when people are engaged in face to face conversation.

It is encouraging to see the young business leaders of Cleveland espousing this new philosophy of social networking, rejecting the "silo" mentality the city has been locked into for decades. Educators should take a cue from the business community. We need to change if we are going to survive, and the first step must be open communication...The walls need to come down.

The community feels disconnected from the school district. They see schools as places to send their children, not places where they feel welcomed. The hierarchy is intimidating, and the public doesn't trust what they can't get close to.
The administration tells the media things are changing for the better, but to the regular citizens in the neighborhoods, everything looks the same...Or worse.

Cleveland needs to find new ways to engage the community in the process of educating children. A good place to begin the process would be to start answering the phone.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Byrd-Bennett Resigns

Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the superintendent of the Cleveland Municipal School District, announced her plan to resign the position today. She will be staying on only until a replacement is hired.

I always liked her, felt that she truly had the best interests of the students and teachers at heart, and am sorry to see her leave. I do feel she had few other options following the election Tuesday. Clevelander's vote of no confidence demanded a change in leadership, and she is graciously giving up the helm.

This places an even greater emphasis on education in the upcoming mayoral election. The candidates must include strategies for finding a new superintendent and administrative team, as well as the educational reform models that will be implemented.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

To the Citizens of Cleveland,

I understand.

You voted your wallets. $200/year makes a huge dent in the budget when you are struggling to pay the utilities, when the prices for everything from gasoline to cereal are on the rise. There is no economic savior on Cleveland's horizon either. Companies are moving out. Big employers are closing their doors.
As the old saying goes, "You can't squeeze blood from a turnip."

I understand.

Some voters were angry. They felt purposely neglected, so they responded...with a vengeance.

So I ask: Now what?
What do you want the schools to do?

You have a voice. You used it yesterday. You said "no".
Now keep talking. Tell us why.
Vent, rant, fume,...Then take a breath and begin the conversation.
"Now what?"
What are Clevelanders going to do about educating the children of this city? If you aren't willing to be a part of the solution, there will be no solution.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

School Shoes

"Why do we always have to get our school shoes HERE?"

Year after year, the whine would emanate from the four school-aged Miles children, packed into the backseat of the station wagon, as we made the annual drive to the shoestore on Carnegie Avenue. (David, eight years my junior, played in his car seat in the front, too young to care)

In a tone making it clear there would be no more discussion, my mother stated,

"I want my children to have good feet"

Marsal's Scientific Shoe Store had lots of pictures on the wall of feet. Black and white pictures of shoes, with the top potion of the leather cut away so you could view the toes...good toes, cramped toes, hammer toes, name it. The photographs would show side by side comparasons of feet in poorly fitting shoes next to feet in Scientific Shoes. Very compelling. Very convincing.

I would sit in one of the big comfy chairs, waiting my turn to be fitted, and stare at the feet in frames.
When it was finally my turn, Mrs. White, the smiling perfectly coiffed, sales-lady, would ask,

"Which shoes do you like?"

I didn't like any of them. I would look at the pitiful selection in my size, of about five different sensible styles, and try to decide which was the least ugly. In the end, it didn't matter what I picked, I knew the teasing would be waiting for me at school the moment I got off the bus.

"Those are some UGLY shoes!"
"Did you get those shoes from your grandma's closet?"
"Look, she's wearin' her grandma's shoes!"

When I would complain to my mother, she would answer.

"Don't worry about what the other kid's wearing their cheap shoes are saying. You are going to have good feet when you grow up."

How I longed to go to one of the other "regular" shoe stores, and pick out something that was cute and stylish.

"Those shoes are junk." Mom would say. "They start falling apart after a few months."

She was right, of course. In comparison, Marsal's Scientific Shoes were virtually indestructible.
We had tried..foot-dragging, scuffing, soaking...anything short of blatantly obvious, purposeful, destruction. It only served to make the ugly shoes uglier.
They would not tear or get holes in them, they would simply get scruffy. Nothing a little bit of old fashioned shoe polish wouldn't fix.

Elementary school teasing became unbearable taunting in middle school, when the need to be cool outweighs everything else in a teenager's world.
How could I ever be cool in Scientific Shoes?
It was impossible.

My idea for fashion salvation came to me one day, when I noticed a group of girls from Notre Dame Academy, the Catholic girls high school a few miles away, waiting for a bus. Dressed in blazers, plaid skirts, and saddle shoes, they smiled, talked, and giggled. A group of boys drove by in a car, honking the horn. They waved back.

Saddle shoes!
Marsal's sold saddle shoes.

I came home, and announced to my parents that I would like to go to Notre Dame Academy.
My mother was overjoyed; the school was her alma-mater. My father couldn't say no.

That September, I walked into a classroom full of girls, in my Marsal's Scientific saddle shoes...and nobody noticed my feet. Instead of being "the girl with the ugly shoes", I was the "new girl", who eventually became "the artist".


PS. To this day, thanks to my mother, I still have very good feet.
PPS. I also have an obscene, Imeldaesque, collection of very unscientific shoes in my closet

Cleveland Schools Tax Levy: August 2nd Election

From an E-mail exchange Monday, July 25th:

Shalom Mary Beth,

Thank you for such an intense reply.
May I quote from it?




You got me going last night, sharing Linda's post with me. I get a little passionate about these things...can you tell?

You can certainly quote me.
The disparities in public school funding, along with short-sighted government policies and the public's attitude of "why should I worry about 'Those People's' kids?" need to be talked about. The children are the big losers in the political money games being played in this town. It is their Future Cleveland that is becoming the victim of stupidity and greed..


Well, people are starting to talk.

Jeff Hess
Here is the link to Jeff's site, "Have Coffee Will Write", where he quotes my comments on the August 2nd election in Cleveland for a school tax levy.

Linda Fox
At "Right As Usual", Linda, a laid-off CMSD teacher, blogged about the Cleveland Teachers Union and thestrategyy to keep the election low-profile, in the hopes that low voter turn-out might mean fewer "No" votes.

Regina Brett: The Plain Dealer
Regina's column in yesterday's Plain Dealer echoed my feelings about Cleveland voters and the school's CEO.

Gloria Ferris
Gloria, a retired Cleveland teacher, is running for the Ward 15 Council seat. She shares her views here, in her candidate's blog.

Plain Press
This Cleveland West-side weekly published an excellent, informative, article about the levy and the issues that provoked it.


Today: Friday July 29th, Regina Brett has another great column about the school levy.
Read it here.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The RAMTEC Project

Much of my summer vacation has been devoted to my personal "out-of-the-box" foray into workforce development via manufacturing: The RAMTEC (Regional Automated Manufacturing Technology & Education Center) initiative.

Lately, people are asking how the project is coming along, so I figured it was time for an update.

I have been busy assembling the team of entrepreneural visionaries. Brilliant people with the expertise and enthusiasm to take the proposal from concept to reality.
In the meantime, my colleagues have been drafting the business plan and the financial projections.
Thompson & Hine LLP volunteered to help us prepare the business plan and structure the proposal into two entities, one for-profit and the other non-profit. These folks know a good idea when they see one.
You can read the executive summary here.

We are now in the process of putting together an advisory board to help us procure funding. As you can guess, we are actively working our networks. Talking, writing, meeting, schmoozing.
Yes, it is definitely a lot of work, but the end result will be a huge benefit for the region.
It can't happen fast enough.

Monday, July 25, 2005

How Teachers Have Fun (embarrassing, but true)

Too funny. (In a dorky teacher-sort of way)

"Get Out Your Blenders and Drink Up!"
--From Eduwonk
As promised, here is a list of 24 jargony words to drink by... The rules are simple: Each time you hear one of these often-used words from the education world, take a swig of whatever makes you happy. If you have no beverage (as often happens when these words come up) feel free to giggle, as long as you promise to do it in a manner that is completely condescending to those around you!
Get your glasses ready...

1. Rubric (Just try not to laugh the next time you hear it!)
2. Paradigm
3. Time-on-task
4. Incentivize
5. Dead white guys
6. Scaffold (as a verb)
7. Authentic learning
8. Differentiated instruction
9. Integrated learning
10. Constructivist
11. Balanced literacy
12. Highly qualified
13. Standards-based
14. Performance-based
15. Research-based
16. Scientifically-based
17. Self-directed learning (Sounds too much like something that causes hair to grow on palms.)
18. Developmentally-appropriate
19. Capacity building
20. Best practices (Mandatory group hugs, however, around anyone who uses the vernacular "stuff that works pretty good.")
21. Higher order thinking (I had a roommate in college who was really into higher order thinking. He is no longer able to produce children.)
22. Collaborate (Not unless pastries are served.)
23. Transparency (It doesn't really exist.)
24. Train wreck (When used to describe standards movement/NCLB, etc. )

-- Joe Williams

An English teacher at Max Hayes devised a similar buzz-word/jargon game to be played at monthly faculty meetings, filling up bingo cards as opposed to filling up on beverages. Administrators were at first surprised to hear the shout of "BINGO!" in the midst of a discussion about "proficiency-driven curriculum".
Eventually the players only rated an eye roll, and the educationese drone would continue.

PS. I contributed three words to the original list posted at Eduwonk.
Can you guess which ones?

An Educator's Insight

I discovered these words of wisdom in a story from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal about Willie Jude, a Milwaukee Public Schools teacher and administrator, retiring after 32 years.

• "Did my parents give me basic tools (for succeeding in school)? No, because they didn't have them themselves. But what they did have was respect, discipline and courtesy."

• The 80-20 rule - there's only so much schools can do to offset what happens in kids' lives outside of school. "Too many expect the schools to solve the problems when we only have the kids a maximum of 15, 16 percent of the time. . . . Even with extracurricular activities thrown in, few kids spend more than 20 percent of their time in school. That percent will destroy the 20. The 20 cannot carry the 80 unless something productive is happening in that 80 percent."

• "There are two major things that businesses are complaining about (related to the high school graduates). Tardiness and attendance. They go together into attitude and relationships. (Business executives say) if a kid comes in here punctually and they have a pleasant attitude, we can train them. But I can't train them if they're not on time or they're arguing with every supervisor and co-worker they come into contact with. . . ."

Willie Jude - Recently retired principal, Milwaukee Public Schools

I think I will print these out and post them in my classroom this year.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

District Sponsored Charter Schools

A reader called my attention to this editorial in yesterday's Plain Dealer:

The Plain Dealer
Ginn as principal? Sounds good
Saturday, July 23, 2005

No one can doubt Ted Ginn's ability to inspire excellence in young people.
Glenville High School's football and track coach has achieved remarkable results with his athletes, including a series of state championships. It's too soon to say whether Ginn's impressive skills can yield similar excellence in the classroom, but this much is certain: It's good that he's going to try.

Ginn is in preliminary conversations with Cleveland officials about opening a charter school in the city next year. So far, Ohio's charter schools have fallen well short of expectations, posting abysmal results even as their number has increased almost exponentially. At the same time, for-profit entities have dominated Ohio's charter market, commanding roughly half of the allocated dollars.

One entity, Akron industrialist David Brennan's White Hat Management, collected more than $100 million, or about a quarter of the state's charter-school spending. Brennan now is under investigation by the state legislative inspector general regarding his contacts with lawmakers - specifically whether he must comply with disclosure rules that apply to lobbyists.

For-profit companies have as much right to participate in the charter-school movement as anyone, but their dominance in Ohio raises serious concerns. Charters exist to provide alternatives to students and to encourage innovation. But concentrating so much money in the hands of a few can't help but stifle variety. The need for more independent efforts such as Ginn's becomes even more obvious.

Lawmakers this year capped the number of new charter schools over the next two years at 60. Unfortunately, the law included no provision for staggering the approval process to ensure that schools opening in 2006 - rather than this fall - have a few guaranteed slots.
We urge officials to address this issue, and encourage Ginn to pursue his idea. Cleveland desperately needs examples of academic quality.

CMSD will also be sponsoring another charter school, Entrepreneurship Academy, an extended day, eleven month 7-12th grade program, founded by local entrepreneur and E-City director, John Zitzner.

I will reserve my opinion of district sponsored charter schools until I can actually observe one up and running in Cleveland.
The proposed Entrpreneurs Academy as explained to me by John Zitzner would provide a very structured alternative learning environment for kids who might normally be lacking supervision at home due to family circumstances.
The potential for teacher burn-out however, is high, given the hours (8 AM - 8 PM) and school schedule (Mon. - Sat. 11 months/year). These folks would essentially be married to the school, and have no time for a personal life. I can see all kinds of problems with that, the obvious one being; what kind of person would want a job with those hours unless the pay was REALLY good? I would definitely want to run psychological profiles on these job applicants.
I spoke with John and his E-City staff about the new school, and was bothered somewhat by the administrative model as it was explained to me.
Very command/control.
We can only wait and see.

A union sponsored charter would hopefully be structured in a way that would provide teachers with optimum flexibility. I'm looking forward to watching the UFT sponsored elementary school in New York, and hope that the model designed by the folks on the frontlines of education is a great success.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Union Starts Charter School

Here is an intriguing article from the New York Daily News

It seems that the teachers union in NewYork has finally decided that "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." They are starting their own charter school.

UFT charts new
course with school


The teachers union's bid to run a charter school in Brooklyn got the final okay from the Board of Regents yesterday as 25 newly hired teachers reported for their first staff meeting.
"Now the real work can begin," said Jonathan Gyurko, the Department of Education's former charter school czar, who shepherded the union's proposal through the state's complicated application process.

The United Federation of Teachers Elementary Charter School will open in September for 150 students in kindergarten and first grade in unused space inside Junior High School 292 in East New York.

There will not be a principal, but instead a school leader who reports to a board.

Union President Randi Weingarten invited reporters to attend the first staff meeting for the school to help show the labor-management relationship the union hopes will become a model.
"It's not going to be a successful school unless the staff owns it," Weingarten said.

Charter schools are public schools that operate independent of the local school district. More than 600 resumes were submitted for the 25 teaching slots, from educators as far away as Atlanta.

Teachers said they were looking forward to breaking away from the bureaucracy of the school system and just doing what they like best: teaching.
"There is a sense of professionalism here that we as teachers don't feel in the Department of Education," said Lisa Olesak, who will teach kindergarten.

Daily News reporter, Joe Williams, commented further about the union sponsored charter school in today's post at Eduwonk.

The Cleveland Teachers Union and CMSD need to take a look at what is happening in New York, and start working together here in Cleveland. I know a whole lot of unemployed CTU members who could make a big difference in the lives of Cleveland's kids. A little more innovation and attention to problem solving could go a long way in getting the taxpaying citizens of this city a reason to support education.

I Hate Homework

Wednesday night, for the first time, I attended a Blogger Meet-up: bloggers in the Greater Cleveland area meeting over beverages discussing blogging.
It was interesting to see the faces of the folks who share their thoughts with the world. I'd met about a third of them already, since the type of bloggers who like to go to meetings are often active in other areas of the community.

The atmosphere reminded me of the turn-of-the-century salons, the incubators of the great art and literary movements of the 1900's.
Here in the twenty-first century sat a new group of thinkers. Each began to amplify their individual voice as they learned to use the technology of the internet. Coming together socially they have begun to realize the exponential increase in the power of the group to influence and inform the public -- the power to effect change.

We were given a homework assignment by the groups coordinator, George Nemeth, to post the blogs we read at least every other day.
I am a procrastinator by choice, surely an interesting case for a psychological study. I don't like rules or deadlines or assignments; making my career choice an odd one indeed. I was tempted not to participate on principle and personality.
Two days later I caved in.
I am a victim of peer pressure posting.
Now, since I see the rest of the group have already written about their 'must read' blogs, I am feeling a bit left out.

Here is my short list. I qualify it since many of the blogs I like to read are not updated daily. These are (usually):
Brewed Fresh Daily
Callahan's Cleveland Diary
Cuyahoga County Planning Comission

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Eliminating Failure

I read this report from the UK:

Teachers Suggest Changing 'Fail' to 'Deferred Success'

LONDON (July 19) - The word "fail" should be banned from use in British classrooms and replaced with the phrase "deferred success" to avoid demoralizing pupils, a group of teachers has proposed.

Members of the Professional Association of Teachers (PAT) argue that telling pupils they have failed can put them off learning for life.

A spokesman for the group said it wanted to avoid labeling children. "We recognize that children do not necessarily achieve success first time," he said.

"But I recognize that we can't just strike a word from the dictionary," he said.

The PAT said it would debate the proposal at a conference next week.
07/19/05 16:23 ET

Hmmm...How can we keep students from failing?
Better teaching? Naw...Too hard. Besides, it takes too long and costs too much.
Why don't we just eliminate the word?
Problem solved.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

"No matter how strange you are, there's something unique in you. Something that not only makes you happy, but makes the rest of us feel happy that we don't have to be you and do what you are doing!"

Arlo Guthrie

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Falling Through the Cracks. Landing in the Streets.

I read this article yesterday, written by Michael Janofsky, The New York Times.

Students Say High Schools Let Them Down
Findings of New Survey Made Public During Meeting of Governors
DES MOINES, Iowa (July 15) - A large majority of high school students say their class work is not very difficult, and almost two-thirds say they would work harder if courses were more demanding or interesting, according to an online nationwide survey of teenagers conducted by the National Governors Association.
The survey, released on Saturday by the association, also found that fewer than two-thirds believe that their school had done a good job challenging them academically or preparing them for college. About the same number of students said their senior year would be more meaningful if they could take courses related to the jobs they wanted or if some of their courses could be counted toward college credit.
Taken together, the electronic responses of 10,378 teenagers painted a somber picture of how students rate the effectiveness of their schools in preparing them for the future.
The survey also appears to reinforce findings of federal test results released on Thursday that showed that high school seniors made almost no progress in reading and math in the first years of the decade. During that time, elementary school students made significant gains.
"I might have expected kids to say, 'Don't give us more work; high school is tough enough,' " said Gov. Mark Warner of Virginia, a Democrat and chairman of the governors association, which opens a three-day summer meeting here on Saturday.
"Instead," Mr. Warner said, "what we got are high school students actually willing to be stretched more. I didn't think we'd get much of that."
The governors' survey was conducted as part of the association's effort to examine public high schools and devise strategies for improving them. Mr. Warner has made high school reform his priority as chairman of the association. His term ends on Monday, when Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, a Republican, is scheduled to succeed him.
While a vast majority of respondents in the survey, 89 percent, said they intended to graduate, fewer than two-thirds of those said they felt their schools did an "excellent" or "good" job teaching them how to think critically and analyze problems.
Even among the remaining 11 percent, a group of 1,122 that includes teenagers who say they dropped out of high school or are considering dropping out, only about one in nine cited "school work too hard" as a reason for not remaining through graduation. The greatest percentage of those who are leaving, 36 percent, said they were "not learning anything," while 24 percent said, "I hate my school." Experts in education policy said the survey results were consistent with other studies that have shown gaps between what students learn in high school and what they need for the years beyond.
"A lot of business people and politicians have been saying that the high schools are not meeting the needs of kids," said Barbara Kapinus, a senior policy analyst for the National Education Association. "It's interesting that kids are saying it, too."
Marc Tucker, president of the National Council on Economic Education, an organization that helps states and school districts create programs that are more tailored to contemporary student needs, said he did not believe that American high schools could adequately prepare students without a fundamental change in how they operated.
Mr. Tucker said American schools had been too slow to adapt high school curriculums to the real-life demands of college and the workplace. Except for that small fraction of highly motivated students with an eye toward prestigious private colleges and state universities, many more students, he said, are under the impression that just having a diploma qualifies them for the rigors of college and the workplace.

The statements made by the students who dropped out of school are words I've heard repeatedly throughout my tenure in the Cleveland Schools when I've tried to talk kids out of quitting school.
It is ironic to me that some of the smartest kids I've ever had in a CMSD classroom have been lost to the street.
We spend an awful lot of time playing catch-up with such a high percentage of students, that many times our best and brightest are bored out of their skulls. The smart kids often discover greater satisfaction hustling a few bucks or getting a good buzz than they do by coming to classes that don't challenge them.
Often they are scheduled to repeat courses they failed, not because they didn't learn the material, but because they missed too many days of school.
It's a Catch-22. In a system with a fifty percent drop-out rate, we need to come up with some new strategies to catch the bright kids who are falling through the cracks to keep them from landing in the street.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

If you don't like the way the world is, you change it. You have an obligation to change it.

Marian Wright Edelman

Sometimes things which at the moment may be percieved as obsticles -- and actually be obsticles, difficulties, or drawbacks -- can in the long run result in some good end which would not have occured if it had not been for the obsticle.

Steve Allen

The glory of friendship is not the outstreched hand, nor the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when he discovers that someone else believes in him and is willing to trust him.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, July 11, 2005

Communication Problems

As a rule, I don't use this space to complain about the Cleveland Schools, unless I have a solution to offer.

That rule is going to be broken...TODAY.

I received two letters today from the district. One in my mailbox at home, and the other, certified, which I needed to sign for at the post office. The first one was to remind me I had not returned my signed 2005-06 contract and needed to do so before July 8th. (Notice, today is July 11th) The second letter which I had to retrieve from the post office informed me that my contract would be terminated if they didn't hear from me immediately.

Before I continue, I will let you know, my contract was signed and mailed to the East 6th street office weeks ago.
We've all had things get lost in the mail, and when an item's destination is an address where hundreds of people work, I am not totally surprised to hear my contract is still out there somewhere, in the land of errant envelopes.

My frustration is with the Board of Education's phone system.

I spent over forty minutes just trying to get connected to the person I needed to speak with for only 2 minutes. My call was transferred from one office to another no less than 10 times. Twice I had to redial the receptionist because I was connected to dead-end, filled-up, voice-mail boxes. I was finally connected to the right person and instructed to fax my contract to her office.

Sadly, confusion and consternation is very typical of the experience anyone has who needs to contact the Cleveland Board of Education. If this is the way I --a district employee -- feels, how much worse it must be for people who are not familiar with the system's snafus.

The area of public relations is one place educators should look to business as a model. The district fails miserably when it comes to ease of communications and accessibility of information.

Today the Plain Dealer ran an article about an automated calling system that many districts are using to keep teachers, administrators, and parents connected. According to the article, Cleveland has been using automated calling since 2000.
I was surprised. Why is it hardly ever used? Why don't individual schools use it?
I received several calls this year from the Cleveland Heights-University Heights District, where my son attends school, notifying our family of school closings, the deaths of student several students, and the details of an emergency situation. Some schools use the system to notify parents about school events. Selected groups can get even get calls to inform them of class activities. The system can also be used to inform parents when students are absent from school.
The school where I teach still uses the old round-robin calling system for the staff when there is any emergency, including school closing. This is very ineffective. If we have automated calling -- if we are paying for the service -- why isn't the district using it on a regular basis like they do in Cleveland Heights?
The only automated messages I get from the Cleveland School District have been about the school levy.
If the district understood the importance of communication and connecting with people about the things that are important to us on a more personal level, rather than only reaching out to the families and school community when they want more money, like a mooching relative that you try to avoid, perhaps people would be more inclined to support a levy.