Cleveland Schools dedicated a new science wing at Cleveland High School in 2011, which added a much-needed 10 classrooms to accommodate the school’s expanding student population.
The school system now has some space for expansion and growth at the high school, and at Cleveland Middle School, but that is not true on the elementary plateau. Space has been maximized at the city’s elementary facilities, especially at Mayfield Elementary where a computer lab and drama class have been adjusted to make room for required classroom space.
The drama class is utilizing space in the auditorium, behind the curtain. The school’s two computer labs have been trimmed to one.
The science wing has been a tremendous benefit at the high school, but the school system suffered a tremendous loss late in the year with the death of long-time school board member Max Carroll. Carroll had retired prior to his death.
The board paid tribute to Carroll for his many contributions to the school system and its students by naming the science wing in his honor earlier in the year.
Carroll’s loss was also a loss of resource to the board, which had selected him to assist site committee chairman Dr. Murl Dirksen with negotiations on property that has tentatively been selected for a new elementary school.
Carroll, along with retired board member and Cleveland attorney Bill Brown, had served as the board’s site committee for many years, including the period when a site was selected on Georgetown Road for Cleveland Middle School.
The prospects of a new elementary school is just one of the challenges the board faces as it approaches the second half of the 2011-2012 school year.
The board has approved a tentative site on North Lee Highway, a portion of the old Hardwick Farm. But, negotiations on this property has stalled because the board has not received a guarantee of funding to purchase the acreage.
The Hardwick property will be located within a huge residential-retail development on surrounding property, and board members are hopeful it can become a community school.
The school board plans to visit the Cleveland City Council meeting Monday, Jan. 9, to issue an invitation to an informal meeting between the city leaders to discuss school needs.
School board members have previously appealed to the Bradley County Commission for school funding, and commissioners have taken steps for community voters to cast ballots on a resolution for a proposed wheel tax to generate revenue.
Limited space at the city’s elementary schools is only one challenge facing the city school board. The board, Director of Schools Dr. Martin Ringstaff and school administrators are also looking at possibilities of meeting energy demands, especially with the HVAC in the east wing of the high school. They are also moving ahead with renovations to the high school’s little theater.
Upland Design Group in Crossville has been retained to do preliminary plans for the little theater’s upgrade. Upland Design was the architect for the Max Carroll Science Wing.
Another huge accomplishment in 2011 was a change in the hierarchy of the administration for Cleveland schools. Former Director of Schools Dr. Rick Denning retired, and Dr. Ringstaff was hired as the new director.
Ringstaff said recently that his family is very happy to be in Cleveland, and has enjoyed its first six months.
“This is where we were meant to be,” he said.
Ringstaff said space limitations and the prospect of a new elementary school, the HVAC concerns at the high school and ongoing plans for the little theater are just a few of the challenges facing the school board, He said there is much, much more just ahead for the board in considering the future of Cleveland schools and stepping into the future of education.
He also took a moment to commend the board and its dedication to education and the future of the city school system.
“They’re a very intelligent group,” he said of board members Peggy Pesterfield (chair), Dawn Robinson, Dr. Dirksen, Tom Cloud, Richard Shaw, Steve Morgan and George Meacham.
Ringstaff hinted that all of the board’s abilities will be needed to face what is on the horizon in education, not only in Cleveland, but across and state and nation.
“We have rewritten our Race to the Top grant and we’re hoping Tennessee doesn’t follow Hawaii ‘down the river,’” he said.
Hawaii was recently reprimanded for failing to meet its Race to the Top requirements.
“We need to change our mindset and change to a more analytical-type of questions (for students),” Ringstaff said. “We need to get to a format in tracking (students), especially in the early grades.”
The city director of schools said colleges have flipped to an analytical-type curriculum, and secondary schools need to prepare for that.
“That’s how we need to standardize our questions,” he said.
Ringstaff said the city school system is planning to initiate Advance Placement (AP) at Cleveland Middle and Cleveland High schools. He emphasized that the plan is to target middle-of-the road students for these AP courses, courses which they have not had access to in the past.
“We’re going to go to Kindles, iPods, iPads and tablets, in addition to computer availability,” Ringstaff emphasized.
“We need to direct these kids to this curriculum technology. We need to provide them with the tools (early),” he added.
“For this to take off and go where we need to go (with this technology), the teachers have to buy in,” he said. “We’re also going to focus on dual-enrollment, and hope to add courses in marketing (next year) and culinary arts (in the future).”
“We have plans to take steps into the future of Education,” Dr. Ringstaff continued. “The central office staff is becoming more savvy and we’re adding data people.” He said the school system is implementing an improvement plan to asses the individual skills of each student, “down to each student and his/her overall skills.”
“We need a game plan with goals established (by the school board),” Ringstaff continued. “This will be needed if they want to move into the next phase of education. We also need a common core education team. We need to be pro-active.”
The city’s new director of schools added another compliment to the board.
“I don’t have to sell them on anything,” he said. “They know what’s going on (in education).”
“This is a great school system,” Ringstaff added as he closed a recent discussion. “It’s also a great community, and a great place for my family to be.”