CMSD NEWS BUREAU
Several hundred CMSD high school students came together Friday for a single purpose: making their schools and the District better places to learn.
It was the first quarterly summit of the school year for CEO Eric Gordon’s Student Advisory Committee. The Cleveland Plan
, a reform plan written into state law
, requires each of the city’s high schools to appoint a delegation and give students a say in their education.
A diverse throng emptied out of buses and streamed into CMSD's Barbara Byrd-Bennett Professional Development Center in Bratenahl for the four-hour meeting. Included were football players in their teams’ game jerseys and "Ginn Men” in the single-gender academy’s trademark white shirts and red or black ties.
Collinwood senior Cameron Jinnings, a new member of the committee, was just acquiring a feel for his duties. But the imposing two-way lineman on the Railroaders’ football team said he needed no prodding to serve.
“I like helping people,” he said. “I really do.”
Each of the more than 30 schools is asked to pick 16 students – four per grade level. Seats remain open, but 399 members have signed on.
The schools try to make their representatives truly representative of personality and student types.
East Tech junior Robert Hall had not previously participated in other school activities and could have remained below the radar if a teacher had not recognized potential and nominated him. He said he happily accepted.
“He was the first one there today with his permission slip,” said chaperone Yulanda Danielly, who as the school’s site coordinator organizes community services that help students overcome barriers to learning. “To me, that speaks volumes.”
Gordon moved between two conference rooms where students gathered as a whole, then in small groups. He encouraged them to speak their minds and not let his presence chill the conversation.
The teenagers reflected on what makes their schools good and what is needed to improve the culture. They analyzed data from student surveys on schools’ safety and academics and discussed the requirements of “college readiness.”
At a summit last school year, the first for the concept, a student complained that the District was scheduling its juniors to take the ACT college admission and placement test during school but had not adequately prepared them. The District addressed the concern, said Karen Thompson, deputy chief of curriculum and instruction.
Gordon told the students they had reasons to celebrate, including a rising District graduation rate, now at a record high of 64.3 percent. The CEO also cited what he said was an improved vibe in the schools.
But he called on the committee members to continue pushing. He said they can set an example for classmates and dispel mistaken perceptions that outsiders have about the schools’ discipline.
“There’s a presumption. They just believe we can’t and won’t behave,” Gordon said. “You – and we – can lead our behavior.”
Bronz Jackson, an 11th-grader at Lincoln-West High School, said the school’s committee helped “fix a lot of issues” last year. Now he hopes to spread the good word about the atmosphere there.
“People talk our school down; I want to talk our school up,” he said. “Coming to Lincoln-West is like being part of a big family. I want more people to see that.”
The law that set up The Cleveland Plan
requires each school’s committee to submit a written report to the principal by the middle of the school year. The principal then has to respond.
Gordon encouraged the committee members to put thought into the documents and not let their principals “off the hook.” He also urged them to join a private Facebook group and keep in touch with him.
“I want you to have a great, great high school experience,” he told one of the large groups. “This is important to me.”