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CMSD, charter teachers learn side by side

CMSD and charter-school teachers came together Tuesday to discuss ways they can support children who bring trauma with them into the classroom.

compact The training session, “Reaching and Teaching Children Who Hurt,” was significant because of the topic. But the workshop also was the first concrete example of collaboration between the District and charters since the Cleveland Education Compact was formed for that purpose late last year.

More than 30 educators representing CMSD and at least 12 charter school organizations or networks participated. The workshop was part of the third annual BLUE Institute, a three-day conference for District teachers being held this week at Corporate College East in Warrensville Heights.

The Cleveland Plan, a customized set of reforms for education in the city, calls for giving all children access to a quality education, regardless of the provider. CMSD sponsors and shares a small amount of tax money with charters that meet its standards.

CMSD and charter leaders organized the compact with a $100,000 planning grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Cleveland is one of 26 "Gates Compact" cities nationwide. 

Lisa Vahey, an instructional coach with experience in urban education, spoke to the teachers Tuesday about working with children who have suffered the physical, physiological and cognitive effects of violence, hunger, lead poisoning and other trauma. She emphasized the importance of feeling empathy, building relationships and making students feel safe.
"It's not just the one traumatic event; it's living in fear of the traumatic event happening over and over again that makes it hard for children to cope," she said. "If we're not talking about it regularly, we can't solve the problem."
Teachers, who appeared to be inspired by the discussion, began drafting action plans for their schools to follow. CMSD's Portfolio Office, which oversees relationships with charter schools, collected contact information so the teachers can stay in touch with each other and receive notice of additional training in October and January.
CMSD and charter schools both serve the same pool of students and can benefit from sharing different strategies for furthering children's "social and emotional learning," said Sheila Woidke, manager of professional development and an instructional coach for the Cleveland-area Constellation charter schools.
"The more people we have moving in that direction, the better the chances it's going to make an impact," she said.  
The BLUE Institute attracted 700 teachers, including 250 who are new to CMSD. District Chief Executive Officer Eric Gordon opened the conference Tuesday by outlining The Cleveland Plan, its history and progress the schools are making under the reforms.