Return to Headlines

New school year puts emphasis on new (video)

 Students change classes at the new Cleveland School of the Arts
The new CMSD school year is in full swing, bringing with it more than the usual number of new things.

A new campaign, “Get to School. You Can Make It!” -- supported by the Cleveland Browns and other community partners -- aims to raise attendance. But that is just the beginning.

The District has hired 300 new teachers, mostly because of retirements and other departures. And more than 30 principals, about a third of the total, are new to CMSD, the position or their school.

Three new high school buildings, replacements funded by the District and the state, are making their debut. John Marshall and the Cleveland School of the Arts opened Monday, when a majority of District schools returned from summer break, and Max S. Hayes will follow when the rest resume classes Tuesday.

“It’s an exciting time,” said Councilman Brian Kazy, part of a large group of elected officials, clergy, alumni and others who gathered outside the John Marshall building on West 140th Street to welcome students Monday. “This is going to be the anchor of this ward and this neighborhood for the next 100 years.”

With the new buildings comes new or revised programming more geared to the modern economy.

John Marshall, which is pressing capacity with about 1,400 students, is now home to three independent schools that are starting with ninth- and 10th-graders and will focus, respectively, on engineering, information technology and civic and business leadership. Juniors and seniors from the old John Marshall will remain on campus until graduation.

John Marshall’s new schools are working hard to build relationships with community partners and partners are reciprocating.

Ian Heisey, who handles youth outreach for the neighborhood Bellaire-Puritas Development Corp., said community leaders hope to supplement the schools’ work with high-quality programming in areas like job skills.

Keith Schneider, manager of the nearby PPG Industries plan, said he will bring employees to John Marshall once a month to work with students on problem solving. The company, which produces coatings for the automotive industry, will also host students at the plant so they can see how what they learn in school “equates to the real world.”

“We’ve got 730 employees over there,” Schneider said. “We want them involved.”

Elaborate stonework from the old John Marshall was preserved and used as benches in the new 210,000-square-foot building. Also giving a nod to the past is a corridor decorated with images of notable graduates like former Ohio Attorney General Anthony Celebrezze, former state legislators C.J. Prentiss and Gary Suhadolnik and author Mark O’Donnell.

While other students wandered the halls trying to locate their classes, senior Arelys Toldeo paused and took in her surroundings.

“It’s beyond my expectations,” she said of the building. “They’ve gone all out.”

Across town, the Cleveland School of the Arts returned to University Circle after six years in temporary quarters at the former Harry E. Davis Middle School near East 107th Street and Superior Avenue.

The modern, three-story building spans 126,000 square feet filled with practice rooms, studios and a black-box theater. The Friends of the Cleveland School of the Arts hopes to raise $22 million to add an auditorium that the state would not fund.

Senior music student Richard Barrett smiled when asked to contrast the new CSA with Harry E. Davis. He said the structure is a welcome replacement for space he described as dingy and stuffy.

“It’s something else,” said Barrett, a cello player. “I feel this is a good place for the arts.”

The school, which requires students to audition, is transitioning from a school for sixth through 12th grades into a four-year high school.

About 600 students are enrolled, including 175 ninth-graders. Capacity is 775. The school draws from across the city and beyond; one student drives an hour every day from Warren in Trumbull County.

Principal John LePelley said CSA will place academics and arts on equal footing while attempting to ensure that students are better prepared for college.

He said the school also has adopted the theme, “We are CSA,” to mark the return to University Circle and remind the students of their connection to the community and the surrounding cultural and arts center.

Pre-calculus teacher Dr. Rao Padaraju said students showed up Monday with a stronger focus. He asked them to describe their contribution to the new building and heard talk of raising ACT scores, working toward graduation and earning scholarships.

“I see it already on their faces,” he said. “They really want to come up with a new attitude.”