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Grant to aid CMSD, charter collaboration


CMSD’s cooperation with charter schools has earned the District and partners a $100,000 grant from a program supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The one-year planning grant, announced Monday, will help deepen the relationship and expand the number of high-quality school options available in the District. The collaboration is part of The Cleveland Plan, a state-approved blueprint for education reform.

Cleveland joins the select ranks of Gates "compact” cities. CMSD and charters will work together to turn around low-performing schools, improve services to special-education students and expand charters’ access to District buildings. 

Traditional public schools often regard publicly funded, privately managed charters as enemies, but Cleveland is becoming known across the country for breaking barriers, said Stephanie Klupinski, CMSD’s new executive director of charter school partnerships.

 “The Cleveland Plan is a pretty solid statement of willingness to work with charters,” she said.

The National Association of Charter School Authorizers awarded the grant to the District, in collaboration with existing charter partners at the Breakthrough Schools and the Cleveland Foundation.

The grant was announced at a meeting of the Cleveland Transformation Alliance.

The Transformation Alliance assesses the quality of District and charter schools, communicates to parents about quality school choices, ensures fidelity to the citywide education plan and monitors charter sector quality and growth. Its board includes representatives from CMSD, the Cleveland Teachers Union, charter school authorizers, business, foundations, parents and educators.
The Transformation Alliance hosted a reception for charter operators before the meeting at the Centers for Families and Children. Perhaps 10 groups were represented, including several with no ties to CMSD.

CMSD sponsors or partners with 13 charter schools that meet District standards. The charters share 1 mill from a 15-mill property tax that voters approved in 2012.

But Klupinski said the number of charters in the city may exceed 70. The grant is intended to help recruit 10 or 15 more charters that will become founding members of the compact.

The grant will pay to hire a project manager who will serve as an organizer, facilitator and researcher. Ultimately, CMSD and charters are to reach a District-charter compact agreement and adopt an agenda aligned to the goals of  The Cleveland Plan.

 Klupinski previously worked as a manager for Hawaii’s charter school commission, the state’s only charter authorizer. Before that she was vice president of legal and legislative affairs and a lobbyist for the Ohio Alliance of Public Charter Schools.

Klupinski said increasing the number of charters that work with CMSD will require persuasion in some cases. She said some charter schools are reluctant to get involved with the District, believing the relationship would jeopardize their autonomy.

 In June, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation of Houston awarded $1.5 million to CMSD to streamline and simplify its registration system, with the idea being that the system would eventually include both District and charter schools. The foundation gave $1.375 million to the Transformation Alliance for outreach that could increase the number of children in high-performing District and charter schools.