Return to Headlines

COVID was THE story but not the whole CMSD story in 2020. (Photo gallery)

Above are scenes from CMSD's year, before and after the changes brought about by COVID-19. 




What was the biggest story of 2020 for CMSD? It was everyone’s biggest story: COVID-19, of course.

But stories within the pandemic story stood on their own, stories of resilience and the District's and community’s unwavering commitment to children. And big news wasn’t always about the coronavirus. CMSD was still able to achieve some of the progress and innovation it has become known for under The Cleveland Plan.

So much went on, our annual Top 10 grew into a Top 12. These headlines made the list:


  1. REMOTE LEARNING: It has not been easy, but students and parents have adjusted as best they can to virtual learning. Teachers have done likewise, putting together creative lessons for TV and online platforms. Just before break, it all came together in a virtual concert that captured the attention of MSNBC.
  2. COMMUNITY SHOWS SUPPORT: The District kept the trust of voters, who set aside their own struggles, dismissed a secretive opposition campaign and approved a critically important levy. Some partners assisted parents by funding or running academic learning pods. Others took their school programming online.
  3. SOCIAL JUSTICE: In an open letter to the community, CEO Eric Gordon condemned the killing of George Floyd, while also holding all of us responsible for ensuring equal treatment and opportunity for everyone.
  4. WE ARE 1-TO-1: Cleveland has been ranked as the worst connected big city in the country. But CMSD made sure that every student had a device and access to the internet for remote learning, with the District providing hotspots or paying for connections to high-speed service from the nonprofit DigitalC.
  5. SUPPORTING THE COMMUNITY: CMSD distributed meals at 22 sites and connected families with other resources. CEO Gordon kept families up to date with videos, phone calls and email. With school nurses leading the way, CMSD donated personal protective equipment for frontline workers in the community, while teachers and others helped make PPE for them. (See examples from members of the Shield Team, Cleveland High School for Digital Arts and Davis Aerospace & Maritime High School.)
  6. CENTER OF ATTENTION: The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, MSNBC and CBS News featured CMSD in their pandemic coverage. (See samples of coverage here.) CEO Gordon, as chair of the Council of the Great City Schools, led a call for $200 billion in coronavirus relief  for the nation’s schools, testified before a House committee and called for rethinking America’s approach to education, including treating the internet like a utility instead of a luxury, to address inequities exposed by the pandemic.
  7. GRADS SHOW GRIT: The Class of 2020 absorbed the disappointment of missing out on traditional rites of passage and celebrated at drive-up graduations. (Families also could tune into virtual graduations on CW43.) The seniors also kept their eyes on the future, applying for Say Yes scholarships at a high rate.
  8. WORKFORCE INITIATIVE GROWS: United Airlines, in what could become a model for the carrier, said it would partner with Davis Aerospace & Maritime High School to provide flight training, internships, mentoring and technical training for students. Manufacturing advocacy group MAGNET agreed to purchase and renovate a closed CMSD school for its headquarters and lease back a portion to the District for career education and training. Cleveland State University received $2 million to create a pipeline in computer science and information technology. The projects will help CMSD and partners to continue building out workforce pathways.
  9. UNIQUE MERGER: Stonebrook Montessori, a charter school, merged with neighboring Michael R. White School to form a CMSD campus. The partnership, hailed as unique in Ohio, spared Michael R. White from closing and allowed the District to add a second Montessori option to its portfolio of school models.
  10. STRONGER VOICE FOR STUDENTS, PARENTS: The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and U.S. Department of Education combined to award CMSD more than $4.6 million in grants that the District will use to give students and parents a stronger role and voice in learning.
  11. SCHOOL, LGBT CENTER PARTNER: CMSD's School of One opened a site at the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland, a partnership that might be the first of its kind in the country.
  12. GRAD RATE HITS NEW HIGH: CMSD’s four-year graduation rate reached 80.1 percent, the latest in a series of record highs. And Say Yes to Education scholarships the grads received helped drive the first increase in post-secondary enrollment in five years.

A number of stories deserve honorable mention. Examples include: