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.

Friday, July 08, 2005

You Can Quote Me on That

I've always liked those little sound-bites of wisdom that are found everywhere, from the single snippets on the pages of a calendar, to the hundreds of literary gems compiled into books and on websites. I am usually drawn to certain individuals, who combine wit with sage advice: Oscar Wilde, Dorothy Parker, Mark Twain, and Ben Franklin.
Occasionally I've wished I was smart enough to come up with the original one-liner worth repeating -- a quotable phrase, words that would always be associated with me.

Last year I was surprised to find out I DID have that signature sentence.

A film maker was in my classroom interviewing students for a documentary about an arts program I initiated at my school. She asked students, what were some of the most important things they learned in my classes. Time and time again they answered,
"Don't do anything half-assed."
Huh?...I knew I had high expectations, I always pushed my students to do their best. I just never realized I used that term often enough to have it immediately associated with ME.
Figures. The pearl of educational wisdom my students will always remember includes a border-line vulgarity. The thing is, it is such a succinct expression for my expectations, it is certainly memorable... and it seems to be working.
Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions.
Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.

Mark Twain

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Catalyst Cleveland and Open Source Education

While re-sorting my pile of 'I'll-get-to-this-later mail', I uncovered my latest copy of Catalyst Cleveland
Anyone who is interested in education in the city of Cleveland, be it public, private, or charter, must read this publication. There are some periodicals I peruse quickly and others, like Catalyst Cleveland , I set aside time to read carefully.

This issue is one of the best. The cover story by Piet van Lier and Stephanie Klupinski discusses school violence in Cleveland.
This year, there has been a steady drumbeat of violence among youth. It began in January when a 16-year-old was gunned down near a city recreation center. In April, an 11-year-old was shot near the same area. In May, an alleged rape of a student at East Tech made headlines
The report includes school specific statistics and interviews with the police department.
Another article by Jeff Lowenstien from Catalyst Chicago reports on a study done in Chicago that found mid-level district staffers ignored the expertise of principals and teachers, using the top-down approach in attempting to improve instruction. The conclusions from the report could easily have come from the Cleveland Municipal School District. Here is an excerpt from the article which I found particularity insightful.

[The report]recommends that teachers and principals be part of the planning process for any new school reform policy. The report also calls for redefining the role of mid-level district staff to focus more on supporting schools and less on monitoring them.

To understand the complexities involved in changing instruction, district staff needs to spend more time in schools...But Azcoitia of Spry adds that visits alone are insufficient to understand teachers' and principals' work lives. "You have to show up, roll up your sleeves and work in the office or substitute for a class,"

This aligns with my contention. In order to improve the schools, the decision makers must be aware of what is going on in the classrooms.

Finally, along those same lines, Catalyst editor Charlyse Lylse writes an interesting commentary about opening up the lines of communication between city leaders and residents.

Getting a levy passed comes down to this: Those who reap the tangible benefits of education and a middle class life must convince those who reap so little of Cleveland's limited prosperity that they cannot even fathom a future of upward social mobility for their children that schools are worth their hard-earned dollars.

It's not likely that this space between can be closed in the month left before the Aug. 2nd levy vote. Still, much thought ought to be given as to how to create conversation amongst these two groups. It must be a dialogue absent of judgment but full of the understanding and mutual respect that leads to trust and restores powerful hope for the future. Perhaps Voices & Choices, the unprecedented $3-million, foundation-backed effort to conduct a regional civic dialogue, can help to achieve this.

Another move that can help close the space between is to include those with more intimate knowledge, insight and understanding of Cleveland and its diverse peoples in policy-making decisions. In the long run, that can be a major step toward policies, programs and practices that revive the vision and propel the action that is crucial to rebuilding our schools and fulfilling our children's potential.
This could be an interesting challenge for Iopen, Ed Morrison's new Open Source Economic Development organization.

What do you think Ed?

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Charm School

I received a request from a reader asking for my comments on a controversial program in my city of Cleveland Heights, dubbed "Charm School", recently announced by the mayor.

For those readers who are non-Clevelanders, I will explain the "Charm School" concept as I understand it.

Apparently the city receives many complaints, including phone calls to the police department, over what would be deemed nuisances. Loud music, unrestrained pets, neighbor kids running across flower beds, lawns being mowed at unreasonable hours...You get the picture. The folks who field these complaints noted many of them concerned renters who were unaware of the rules imposed by suburbanites to insure harmonious living. The people at City Hall also discovered that most people would comply once they understood the expectations.
The "Charm School" idea was a pro-active response, as opposed to simply reacting to annoying behavior.
The controversy arose when it was announced "Charm School" would be a requirement for Section 8 (low income) renters. An immediate cry of 'discrimination' erupted from members of the community. The poor were not the sole perpetrators of rude behavior. Bad manners cross all economic strata.
All true.
However, most of the nuisance calls involved renters, many of whom were receiving Section 8 subsidies. The City decided to make the classes a requirement since they noted the people who would benefit most from the information are the ones least likely to attend an optional program.

My response is this:
The idea of a proactive class is great. I don't have a problem with it being required
The Mayor blew it when he publicly referred to the classes as "Charm School". The implied connotation of bad manners is insulting. Had these classes been simply called Good Neighbor Information Sessions, they would have passed under the media radar and there would have been no public outcry.
It's all in the spin.

Post Script:

A reader commented that perhaps the "Charm School" moniker was created, not by Mayor Kelly, but rather by a creative Plain Dealer staffer. Upon further research, I could not substantiate a quote from the mayor labeling the Good Neighbor classes "Charm School". I did find a page from the newsletter Future Heights that may be of interest to anyone wanting more information, and lots of commentary on this subject.