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.


derek said...


I was disappointed with the answers (or lack thereof) given there as well.

derek said...

I hit send before I was done...

I am a Cleveland Public Schools grad myself and I was fortunate enough to have teachers that believed in me and cared about my education. There are a lot of teachers, such as MaryBeth here, that care about getting their students experiences that will help them later...even though it's so hard to do so with the limited resources that are available.

I think that education has to be radically changed. Public school these days are geared towards mediocrity which is sad because there are so many excellent youth out there. Some may be able to fix cars in no time flat while others haven't seen math they can't handle. We need to pay attention...I repeat, PAY ATTENTION to our students by giving them smaller classes, more teachers , more access to experiential learning and better assessment tools (SCREW THE OGT!). Dispense with grade levels and base progress on what a student has learned. What good is all of the technology and knowledge that we possess if we can't use it to help our kids?

So many people have, in the words of Desi Arnaz, have lots of 'splaining to do.

Debs said...



From reading a few of your posts, you are really up against it in your area. However, despite the lack of funding, resources, support etc. you have managed to do a wonderful job. You should be so proud that one of your children had the courage to stand up and speak in front of such an audience. You encouraged her to do it and had obviously taught her to think for herself.

You are one of the greatest resources that education department has!