Cleveland City Schools invited administrators and business leaders to Candy’s Creek Cherokee Elementary School for a roundtable discussion to help shape their five-year strategic plan.
Before individual group discussions, Director of Schools Dr. Russell Dyer offered a breakdown of the school district’s demographics and what they’re looking for throughout these meetings. He specifically mentioned sharpening the focus on graduation goals and skills that businesses are looking for in a workforce.
Representatives from Cleveland City Schools were present at each table to record discussions among community stakeholders, thoughts that may be reflected in the five-year strategic plan that will be voted on in May 2020, Dyer said.
Cleveland City Schools currently enrolls approximately 5,600 students across its nine institutions. Dyer highlighted programs that help students who need support the most, like the 1,200 English-as-a-Second-Language students with Cleveland City Schools, or a current laptop program that provides 3,200 take-home computers for elementary school students who lack access to a home computer.
He also highlighted issues facing the school district, like the fact that 50% of Cleveland City Schools students are without home-internet access that would allow them to complete research necessary for school work.
Within their tables, groups reflected on what the school should be most proud of, areas that need improvement, external forces currently affecting the school, as well as predictions on what external issues might affect the students in the future, like diversity and technological advancements.
At a table with Cleveland Mayor Kevin Brooks, representatives from BB&T Bank and Cleveland State Community College, the group discussed the current need for soft skills in the workforce, like communication and organization.
Chris Standridge of BB&T made an argument for more incentives for current educators to go back to school. She said school districts should do more than pay for professional training at nearby conferences by also providing financial support for teachers to achieve a post-graduate degree during their tenure.
Brooks agreed, stating that the city could do more than “brick and mortar funding” and that a plan like the one Standridge suggested “would be easy to get behind.”
Common themes in both Dyer’s presentation and small group discussions were communication within the school and with the community.
Brooks referenced the recent inclement weather as the “perfect example” of why immediate access to the school district’s website via smartphone is useful.
“I had at least three or four text messages from people asking if school was delayed or cancelled,” he said. “To be honest, I didn’t know. I got on Twitter to find out … There’s got to be a better way.”
Cleveland City Schools currently has an app, but at the most recent school board meeting, Dyer announced a new service would be the operating medium for a new and improved app for the school, benefiting both students and parents.
Other tables discussed the need for teaching inclusivity and diversity among students. Individuals were also interested in how the school district responded to certain trends, such as vaping and drug use.
Dyer also explained some of the factors the school district is already thinking about highlighting in the strategic plan, like mental health and wellness of students and staff, improving social and emotional learning, and “teaching employable skills” to students. He added that there is an increased need for superintendents to revisit what it means to be college- and career-ready. Brooks also added that he foresees schools preparing students for jobs "that may not even exist yet," in an effort to get ahead of tech industry demands.
Dyer said the five-year plan will be used as the tool that guides decisions for the next five years, “so it’s imperative that we get the community involved in the conversation.”
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