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.

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