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Investment Schools gear up for new year, more hard work

Principals at CMSD Investment Schools convened quietly Thursday to prepare for a year in the limelight.

The 23 schools are low performers targeted for special intervention under The Cleveland Plan, CMSD’s state-approved blueprint for reform. The schools have become the most watched component of the sweeping plan, Chief Executive Officer Eric Gordon told the principals at the start of a three-day summer institute.

“Our community is placing the bet on you,” Gordon told the group, which was gathered at the Hilton Garden Inn near Progressive Field. “When people ask, ‘Is The Cleveland Plan working?’ they specifically ask about the Investment Schools.”

It will take two to three years to bring about lasting change, the CEO said, but the first 13 Investment Schools are showing signs of progress.
Two more high schools and eight elementary schools are poised to begin their first year as Investment Schools. Teachers who wanted to remain at the schools had to reinterview for their jobs and sign letters agreeing to new working conditions.

Four of the 10 schools have new principals, with two more to be appointed. Chief Academic Officer Michelle Pierre-Farid said 50 percent to 60 percent of the teachers will be new to the schools, .

East Tech High School is filling 21 teaching positions, about 60 percent turnover, said Temujin Taylor, one of the two co-directors, or principals.

Taylor said he and Co-Director Paul Hoover are adding new perspective by hiring recent college graduates and teachers with three to five years of experience and mixing them with more experienced faculty. He said the two principals also might hire a handful of teachers from out of state and Teach for America, which helps staff schools in low-income communities with educators who may have switched from other fields.

Investment Schools are part of three-pronged CMSD strategy that calls for turning around existing schools, starting new models and lifting good schools to greatness. Of the three, the Investment School work is the most difficult, Gordon told the principals.

“It’s a unique leader who can do school turnaround,” he said. “You are very unique leaders. There are other great principals who will not succeed in turnaround.”

The Investment School principals institute is covering subjects like parent engagement, community and media relations and the "wraparound," or community support services that are being tailored to each school. The institute will continue Friday and conclude Monday.