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CMSD, charters get to work on collaboration

The tough part of working together started Wednesday for CMSD and charter schools, and early signs were promising.

About 40 people from the District and a dozen charter organizations turned out at the downtown Oswald Conference Centre for a meeting of the Cleveland Education Compact.

Groups representing more than half of the 66 charter schools in Cleveland have committed to exploring collaboration. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation supplied $100,000 to plan and form the compact. Cleveland is one of 26 “Gates Compact” cities across the country.
The conference center buzzed Wednesday as participants explored and signed up for subcommittees that will study collaboration on funding, facilities, special education, policy and advocacy, training, and enrollment and record sharing.

“This is very exciting,” said Lindsey Blackburn of In Partnership, who is managing the project. “This is the real work right here.”

Stephanie Klupinski, CMSD’s executive director of charter schools, said the turnout was larger than she expected. “More people and more enthusiasm,” she added.

The Cleveland Plan, a state-approved blueprint for education reform in the city, calls for giving all students access to a quality education, regardless of the provider.

CMSD has worked for some time with charter schools that meet its standards for quality, but divisions with the charter community persisted.

The District currently sponsors 11 charters, with a 12th agreement pending. It partners with seven other charters and shares a slice of levy money with sponsored charters and partners.

Some charter representatives said disputes between school districts and charters and talk of bad charters can obscure the message that compact members want to convey about their common challenges in urban education.

“We’re working to do great things,” said Samantha Sopko, director of grants and foundation relations for Breakthrough Schools. Charters in the Breakthrough network comprise a majority of those sponsored by CMSD.

A 12-member executive board will make final decisions for the compact. Half of the members are from CMSD, the other half are from charter groups.