Richard Shaw reflected on his service to the Cleveland City Schools with pride as he hung up his board of education hat in light of the recent city elections.
“I’m proud we got along and things were accomplished,” he said in a recent sit-down interview with the Cleveland Daily Banner. “I think that is what a school board is supposed to be ... it worked out well for the kids and for the people of Cleveland.”
Shaw worked alongside fellow board members Tom Cloud, Peggy Pesterfield, Steve Morgan, Dr. Murl Dirksen and Dawn Robinson on the city schools’ large and small issues for the past four years. (George Meacham joined the board in 2011.)
According to Shaw, the board never made a decision in a haphazard manner.
“I don’t think the public believes that, but everything done in that school board, along with the director of schools, is well thought out and well planned,” he said. “They know what they are doing. I think that was the surprise I got being a part of the school board.”
Shaw began his lifelong relationship with education in 1951. He began as a student in grade school before progressing to the collegiate level. His degree then allowed him to tackle the complexities of the high school classroom as a teacher.
The school board remained a bit of a mystery to Shaw during his time as a teacher. Sometimes he viewed the seven-man board in an adversarial light— primarily during discussions on raises. Most of the time he felt the board provided its teachers and schools with what each required to educate the students.
Added Shaw, “It was just a different situation — management and labor. We were employees of the school board. We worked for the school board.”
Shaw retired from education with 30 years under his belt in 2008. He decided to keep his name in the game by running unopposed for one of the two at-large positions in 2010. His new position provided him with a new perspective on education.
He first realized being a school board member was about more than just policy.
“It involved finding out what the school system needed,” he said. “It was interesting to see how the board operated, the dynamics of the board and how we got along with each other. That was a learning experience for me.”
Shaw learned quickly his fellow board members were willing to give him a helping hand as he learned the ropes.
He also realized how little in-house fighting went on between his board members.
“This board seems to have one mind,” Shaw said. “There is very little controversy. In fact, I think we have very few ‘no’ votes when we take action.”
The board members seemed to agree the “most important resources” in the school system were the teachers and support staff. Attention was then placed on the building and maintenance of school equipment. Shaw said the third objective of the board was building a strong relationship with the Cleveland City Council.
According to Shaw, the city’s governing body has responded well to the city schools’ requests. The school system pointed out the need for a new elementary school. Council made endeavors to meet the request before the need for a new gym at Cleveland High became apparent.
“They helped us with the (half-cent) sales tax, which has just been a godsend,” he said. “We don’t have to go to them every single time we need a new bus or we need this.”
Shaw gave credit to Director of Schools Martin Ringstaff for keeping the board informed about what transpires in the school system. He pointed to the agendas at the board meetings, including numerous emails and lists of data Ringstaff regularly provides the school board.
Added Shaw, “If anything happens, [the school board] knows about it. If there is a problem with a bus in the morning, we will get an email explaining it.”
Ringstaff similarly kept the school board informed as each one of the long-term goals was addressed. Shaw said he was proud of everything the board and Ringstaff had managed to accomplish in his four years.
“I wish I could continue that, but Charlie is a pretty good man,” he said. “He will do a good job. He will be all right … I wish him luck. I wish him well.”
Shaw said he believes Charlie Cogdill will be welcomed by the board and offered any help necessary.