Word from Lowell: The core of education reform? Access and input

Word from Lowell: The core of education reform? Access and input

Lowell Perry Jr., Executive Director

Cleveland’s super group The O’Jays song “Give the People What They Want” sums things up pretty well when one reflects on the message of that tune. As I reflect on the words of that song, I hear an underlying theme that was not as apparent to me as a college student years ago, as it is now. Eddie Levert soulfully sang that the people want better education, better food to eat, better housing, as well as needing money, equality, understanding, and freedom. Giving the people what they want however, means that the people need input on how to get access to those basic requirements that should be in reach of every American citizen.

Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood initiative is hugely driven by bringing greater equity in education to the children and families of Central, so let us talk a little about that issue.  Residents of Central, and other communities across Cuyahoga County, need access to quality education across the entire cradle-to-career pipeline. In addition, they should also have input into what quality education means to them to ensure they actually receive they help they need. Perhaps one reason we continue to struggle as a society is that the “haves” have shown an annoying audacity to prescribe to the “have-nots” what the former thinks the latter needs, without involving them in the conversation.

The essence of Promise Neighborhood is truly about helping to make sure that children and families in this neighborhood have real access and input over their lives.

Our goal is that Promise Neighborhood is a resident led initiative at its core. If residents are not leading the change, then the chances for positive transformation  is greatly reduced. Or as a wise man once said “the chances are slim and none, and slim just left town.” After all, who better to say what will actually help than the end user themselves?

Based on what I am hearing regularly from residents regarding the issue of quality education, following are some questions that Cleveland needs to address to ensure that the people are indeed getting what they want:

  • Why do we continue to teach to a test in our schools? Is that really preparing kids to succeed in life?
  • Why do budget cuts routinely eliminate sports, music, and art, areas that play to the creativity of young people, and in many cases are areas that make kids want to go to school?
  • Why aren’t our kids learning about how their system of government works, or more importantly, how they can best engage to make a difference?
  • Shouldn’t young people get meaningful instruction in the area of financial literacy, like balancing a checkbook, and understanding the concept of compounding interest as a means to building wealth?

The reason we have questions like the above, is that residents were never really given a serious voice at the table when plans were being formalized and rolled out. And I am not talking about a series of town halls where anonymous folks get to speak their mind, rather than actually being involved in the actual crafting of strategies and execution. This is true for not only adults, but the kids as well. We have got to start mitigating some of this propensity for being prescriptive. In other words, doing things to and for people, rather than with them, because we think we are smarter than they are.

Before we go about “solving” all of the issues facing many of our most vulnerable citizens, such as education, doesn’t it make sense that we ask what “solving” actually means to them?

Doesn’t it make sense that they might also be able to provide important insights on how to achieve success? Let me give you an analogy. Starbucks is arguably one of the foremost experts on the subject of coffee, right? How would you like it then if you walked into your local Starbucks, or any other coffee shop for that matter, and the barista just made you what they thought you wanted based on your outward appearance without actually asking you what drink would satisfy the craving that brought you into the joint in the first place? Probably wouldn’t be happy about it I would guess. Isn’t the goal of any retailer to have a happy customer? Why wouldn’t we want happy children and families?

One simple question might help capture the meaning of all citizens having access and input in regard to the policies our various systems, including education make – is this good for our children?  We really don’t know unless we ask them first, right? So take a page out of the Promise Neighborhood playbook and begin to better involve the voice of parents and kids – before final decisions are made about their futures. I would wager that our world will become a much smoother running place with better outcomes for the next generation.

CiCLEvia: Open Streets Cleveland festival coming to Central

CiCLEvia: Open Streets Cleveland festival coming to Central

CiCLEvia begins its second summer of fun, free events starting this June and this year’s series includes an event in Central. The event series temporarily closes portions of city streets to cars and opens them to people to play, walk, and roll. CiCLEvia transforms Cleveland streets into a public space for residents to try different forms of people-powered movement and meet new neighbors and friends. Activity hubs along the event route feature programming such as Zumba, boxing, yoga, bowling, dancing, sports, and music.

CiCLEvia 2016 event banner.
CiCLEvia 2016 event banner.

This summer’s events take place monthly on Sunday afternoons from 1:00pm-5:00pm in four unique Cleveland neighborhoods:

  • ciCLEvia Metro – June 4 on West 25th Street in the Clark-Fulton/Tremont neighborhoods
  • ciCLEvia Central – July 16 on Quincy/Community College Avenues in the Central/Campus District neighborhoods
  • ciCLEvia West – August 20 on Detroit Avenue in the Ohio City/Detroit Shoreway neighborhoods
  • ciCLEvia East – September 17 on East Boulevard in the University Circle/Glenville neighborhoods

Inspired by open streets events in Latin America, known as ciclovías, ciCLEvia is a family-oriented, neighborhood-based program that is accessible to residents of all ages and abilities. “When we’re able to get outside of our cars and experience the street as pedestrians, we see our city in a different way,” says Chris Ronayne, President of University Circle Inc. “We are excited to connect Glenville and University Circle with a fun community event focusing on health and transportation.”

Planned by a coalition of health and sustainability advocates, as well as neighborhood champions around the city, ciCLEvia is a movement that began in 2016 along West 25th Street and continues to grow and connect with additional Cleveland neighborhoods. CiCLEvia promotes a culture of health through active living and sustainable transportation in Cleveland’s neighborhoods, with activities such as yoga, Zumba, boxing, dancing, live music, and more.

“CiCLEvia is a great opportunity to connect our Cleveland neighborhoods, while also highlighting their unique assets in an active and friendly environment,” says Jeff Ramsey, Executive Director of the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization. “It is a healthy way for our Cleveland residents to get out, explore their community and engage with friends and neighbors.”

Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood is partnering with CiCLEvia to bring the event to the Central neighborhood. The Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland is an event sponsor.

For more information about this exciting initiative, please contact Calley Mersmann at 216-512-0253 or email info@ciclevia.com.

CMSD summit showcases attendance strategies

CMSD summit showcases attendance strategies


The problem is plain, the effects indisputable. Achievement suffers when children miss excessive amounts of time in the classroom.

On Thursday, Cleveland Metropolitan School District convened the Northeast Ohio Chronic Absenteeism Summit, bringing together districts and other agencies to share strategies for dealing with their mutual dilemma. More than 300 people huddled at FirstEnergy Stadium, home of the Cleveland Browns.

The Cleveland Browns Foundation is the lead partner in the District’s ongoing “Get 2 School. You Can Make It!” attendance campaign. Last school year, the campaign raised average attendance by 1.5 points, to more than 91 percent, and cut chronic absenteeism by 6.3 percent, leaving it at 29 percent.

Ohio defines chronic absenteeism as missing 10 percent of the 180-day school year. CMSD’s campaign seeks to prevent students from being absent even 10 days, citing internal data indicating that is a threshold at which students grow more likely to drop out of school and score markedly lower on state reading and math tests.

Cleveland Metropolitan School District Chief Executive Officer Eric Gordon speaks at the chronic absenteeism summit.
Cleveland Metropolitan School District Chief Executive Officer Eric Gordon speaks at the chronic absenteeism summit.

CMSD is making strides under The Cleveland Plan, a state-approved blueprint for education reform in the city. But Chief Executive Officer Eric Gordon said that to make the reforms effective, the District still had to confront “one big problem.”

“Our teachers can never teach a kid who isn’t there,” he said in opening the summit. “In large numbers, kids weren’t there.”

 Chronic absenteeism, which is particularly high in low-income areas, can result from factors such as a lack of transportation and proper health care. Speakers said schools need to track attendance data and get at the reasons why students are absent.

Hedy Nai-Lin Chang, executive director of the national group Attendance Works, was one of the summit’s headliners.

Chang warned districts not to focus on their daily average attendance, saying a high figure can conceal a rotating corps of kids who are out two or more days per month. She said statistics show that chronic absenteeism spikes in kindergarten, when children are building their academic foundations and again in high school, when struggling students give up.

“We lost them in kindergarten,” she said. “But we never realized we were losing them because we were worried about truancy.”

American Institutes for Research Vice President David Osher said schools need to build relationships with parents and not wait until their children’s absenteeism reaches extreme levels.

“If your only contact with the parent is ‘David’s a problem,’ that’s not a winner,” he said.

A keynote speaker, State Sen. Sandra Williams of Cleveland, backed The Cleveland Plan but insisted it include a requirement that parents have face-to-face contact with teachers at least once a year. Nearly 91 percent of CMSD parents met with a teacher last year.

Williams talked about a new state law that decriminalizes truancy and shifts the emphasis to intervention. She said legislators are working on legislation that would increase the obligation of schools to report and prevent bullying, another reason that children may avoid school.

The summit registration list showed school, social-service and court representatives from as far away as Dayton.

Bruce Chamberlin works with the Parma Area Family Collaborative, an alliance of social workers led by the Parma schools.

Chamberlin said the social workers meet with parents whose children frequently miss school and are developing an academy that will teach parenting skills. He came to FirstEnergy Stadium to collect more strategies.

“We really want to impact absenteeism,” he said. “I want hear other ideas so we can continue to have solid prevention work.”

Neighbors in the News: Plain Dealer features Cleveland police ‘reverse ride along’

Neighbors in the News: Plain Dealer features Cleveland police ‘reverse ride along’

On Wednesday, April 12, 2017 Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood and Jan Thrope, community activist and founder of Inner Visions Cleveland, hosted a “reverse ride along” for new Cleveland Police recruits. The program is a re-imagining of the traditional police ride along as it reverses roles and enables the community to set the tone and tour stops highlighting people, places and resources they would like to introduce to Cleveland’s newest police officers. Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood and Thrope have conducted two previous ride along community tours with Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority police, which focused mainly on building police relationships and knowledge of the Central Neighborhood.

Knowing the city of Cleveland Police Department was actively working on programs to rebuild and establish relationships in the community, Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood and Thrope approached the department with the idea of taking the “reverse ride along” program city-wide.

“I was able to see the officers in a different light and I sincerely believe that we all have the same goals. Therefore, I take satisfaction in helping mold the future of the force by exposing them to the amazing assets of our community,” said Joe Black, engagement manager, Promise Neighborhood.  “We didn’t just provide a tour to recruits who are foreign to the city, we provided a tour to senior officers who had been promoted and have found themselves stuck in a building. As a result, although these officers had 10 plus years of experience, they too learned about the community. In fact, I would argue that the tour was as important to the senior officers as it was to the recruits.”

The event was featured in The Plain Dealer and on Cleveland.com:

CLEVELAND, Ohio — On Wednesday, the 49 police recruits set to graduate this week from Cleveland’s 136th police academy went on a  “reverse ride-along” program designed to take them into the heart of city’s neighborhoods to meet the people they will soon serve.

Cleveland Police recruits talk to Elle Adams at City Rising Farms in Hough.
Cleveland Police recruits talk to Elle Adams at City Rising Farms in Hough.

Much is expected of the recruits who will put on their uniforms, pin on their badges and strap on their holsters at a time when police and community relations are at a crossroads.

The men and women – most of them in their 20s – will be deployed to the city’s streets as the face of a department that the U.S. Department of Justice just a few years ago almost sued for using excessive force against citizens, violating constitutional rights, and being unable to adequately police its own.

Now, with a consent decree in place, the department is working to build community trust as it also works to change the policies and practices that lead to the federal government involvement.

All these recruits know, though, is the future.

Cleveland police Sgt. Shawn Smith, who leads the training academy, has been working for a few years with officer George Kwan to find new ways to introduce recruits to residents.

Meanwhile, Jan Thrope, a community activist and founder of Inner Visions of Cleveland, wanted to start a “reverse ride-along” program for the Cleveland recruits similar to one she and Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood engagement managers helped the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority create last year.

The timing was perfect.

When the city moved the bulk of its recruit training to the Ohio State Highway Patrol Training Academy in Columbus last year, it became even more vital to make it happen, Smith said.

“Most of this class isn’t from the city,” Smith said. “They mainly know it from attending sporting events or going downtown.”

Seventy-seven percent of the class is from outside the city of Cleveland, mainly from the suburbs, although some are from as far away as Jamaica or Colombia.

For many of the 49 recruits, the 9-hour excursion provided a first glimpse at Hough, Collinwood, Clark-Fulton, Ohio City and Central – neighborhoods they will soon patrol.

For residents in those same places it was a chance to show the recruits that the people who live there are worth protecting.

Read the full story here.

Promise Ambassadors go door-to-door to promote early learning

Promise Ambassadors go door-to-door to promote early learning

Over the past few years, Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood has become a hub for high quality early learning centers. In 2013, just 38 percent of early learning centers in Central were Step Up To Quality rated.  In 2016, 85 percent of centers had Step Up To Quality ratings. Based on Pre4Cle data, the Central neighborhood has more high quality rated early learning centers then any other neighborhood in Cleveland.

Access to seats in quality rated early learning centers has increased as well. Since 2013, nearly 200 additional seats in high quality centers have been made available. Despite all of this progress, enrollment in quality early learning programs among Central residents remains low in comparison to other communities.

Promise Ambassadors go door-to-door to inform residents about early learning programs.
Promise Ambassadors go door-to-door to inform residents about early learning programs.

An educational setting during a child’s early years can help prepare children for kindergarten and ultimately set them up for future success in school. In an effort to raise awareness of the availability of high quality early learning in Central and, ultimately, to increase enrollment, a team of nine from Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood recently did door-to-door canvassing at the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority Olde Cedar Apartments.

“The purpose of canvassing is to educate families and bring awareness to early education. Preschool enrichment has been described as one of the best strategies for academic success for children residing in urban areas,” said Tatiana Wells, early learning navigator, Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood. “I’m always amazed how unaware families are about the services offered within their community. I love witnessing their facial expression change when they learn about all of the quality early learning programs available in Central.”

During the early learning canvassing event, Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood staff and Promise Ambassadors visited more than 85 apartments and spoke with dozens of parents about why or why not their children were enrolled in early learning programs, what may be stopping them from enrolling their children and informing them about the high quality centers located in Central.

“I enjoy participating in events like this because it involves getting to know young mothers and gives us a chance to tell them about all other resources available in the community such as Care Alliance Health Center,” said Delores Gray, Promise Ambassador. “By getting out in the community more and meeting residents where they live,  we can keep informing them about daycare centers so they can know it is safe and will benefit both of them.”

During their conversations with parents, Promise Ambassadors and staff learned that many parents don’t know how to obtain child care vouchers, find the enrollment process too complicated or don’t send their children because of safety concerns. As part of their conversations with Promise Ambassadors and staff, families received informational materials and guides to free resources in the community.

For more information on early learning centers in Central, click here.

Read and Ride program expands to early learning centers

Read and Ride program expands to early learning centers

Read and Ride is a program that aims to encourage young readers to increase their reading by awarding a bicycle to students who read the most books during the school year. Currently offered at Central elementary schools, the Read and Ride program is growing to include seven Step Up To Quality rated early learning centers in Central. Beginning April 1, 2017 until May 22, 2017, families who read a minimum of three books with their children at home will be entered into a drawing to win a bicycle. For each additional book families read, their child’s name will receive another entry in the drawing at their preschool location. At the end of the program, each of the seven early learning centers will pick two names, one boy and one girl, to receive a bike.

“Early care and education centers prepare their preschool children for the transition to kindergarten, but it’s important for kindergarten readiness to start at home too. Reading aloud to a child early and often has been proven to help their ability to learn once in school,” said Tatiana Wells, early learning navigator, Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood. “Promise Neighborhood envisions that every child is ready for kindergarten and that every third grader reads at third grade level and we hope the Read and Ride program can help our community reach those goals.”

Students at Marion Sterling Read and Ride bicycle drawing.
Students at Marion Sterling Read and Ride bicycle drawing.

Through partnership a partnership between Starting Point and the Cleveland Kids’ Book Bank , each of the participating early learning centers will receive books to give to families to help increase family reading time and build home libraries. All early learning centers and families participating in Read and Ride will also receive a certificate acknowledging their participation.

For the past two years, Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood and the Knights of Pythias have hosted the Read and Ride program for first and second graders at Marion-Sterling Elementary School, George Washington Carver STEM and Alfred A. Benesch Elementary School. Last year, Central students read 612 books and 165 first and second graders participated with more than a dozen bikes being awarded to raffle winners.

“We are in our third year of the Read and Ride program for Central first and second graders and every year we see the number of participants and number of books read grow,” said Dawn Glasco, engagement coordinator, Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood. “It’s exciting that some of our youngest readers will be introduced to the program before they enter school and will hopefully continue to participate through elementary school.”


Each early learning centers participating in the 2017 Read and Ride program is a Step Up To Quality five star rated center and includes:

  • Bingham Early Learning Center
  • Early Childcare Center at Arbor Park
  • Family Life Center of Cleveland
  • Outhwaite Head Start
  • William Patrick Day Head Start
  • YWCA Early Learning
  • Marion-Sterling Pre-K

Bicycles for the Read and Ride program at early learning centers have been donated by Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood. The first and second grade Read and Ride program is hosted through a partnership between Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood and the Knights of Pythias.


Scholarships for Baldwin Wallace Health Careers Exploration Week

Scholarships for Baldwin Wallace Health Careers Exploration Week

Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood is offering a number of fully-paid scholarships to Baldwin Wallace University’s Health Careers Exploration Week happening June 11-16, 2017 at Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio. Health Careers Exploration Week is designed for students entering grades 9-12 who are interested in learning more about career options in health care, on the both the administrative and clinical sides of the industry. In addition, students stay on the Baldwin Wallace campus and experience college life.

Ta'mya Bryson listens to Hayley Gallo's pulse during Baldwin Wallace's Health Care Exploration Week. (photo courtesy of Cleveland.com)
Ta’mya Bryson listens to Hayley Gallo’s pulse during Baldwin Wallace’s Health Care Exploration Week. (photo courtesy of Cleveland.com)

The scholarships offered by Promise Neighborhood are eligible to students from the Central neighborhood and includes the full cost of the week-long experience which includes housing and meals, as well as transportation to and from the Baldwin Wallace campus if needed. Scholarship funding from Promise Neighborhood is made available through a grant from the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland.

Northeast Ohio is a hub for healthcare careers and the demand for educated healthcare professionals continues to grow. Team NEO’s regional jobs growth forecast shows nearly half the new jobs created in the next decade will be in health care-related industries. Health Careers Exploration Week is an invaluable opportunity for students to spend a week in a higher education setting with other high school students and to interact with university faculty and healthcare professionals.

During the week, each session or activity exposes students to a different aspect of health care and related career opportunities. Students will learn what their educational path could look like should they choose to purse the field. The packed schedule includes quality time in the University’s biology and cadaver labs where students are interpreting blood panels and, yes, examining the layout of organs in real human cadavers used by Baldwin Wallace pre-med and biology students. Using medical mannequins and other equipment, students also will participate in exercises led by nursing and physician assistant program faculty including suturing, infection control, blood pressure monitoring, wound care and Code Blue response.

Activities during Health Careers Exploration Week include:

HeartSaver CPR/AED Training
Heartsaver® CPR AED teaches adult CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) and AED (Automated External Defibrillator) use, as well as how to relieve choking on an adult. Instructors observe the students, provide feedback and guide the students’ learning of skills.

Examination of Human Cadavers and Removed Organs
Students will individually examine the layout of organs and other structures in three dissected human cadavers, as well as study individual specimens removed from many other human cadavers. Removed specimens include brains, hearts, lungs, G.I. tracts, urinary tracts, and reproductive tracts. Exam gloves and dissection forceps are supplied.

Learning Lab Panels and Diagnosing a Medical Condition
Students will learn basic pathophysiology and the interpretation of routine laboratory blood panels. A clinical case study will be presented, along with any requested results of lab tests, and the students will work in groups to diagnose the condition of the patient and suggest potential treatments.

Suture Technique Class with Lab
Students will individually learn and practice simple interrupted, vertical mattress, and horizontal mattress sutures on artificial wounds. Exam gloves, suture material, suture needles, tissue forceps, and hemostats are supplied.

New Technology Allowing the Silent to Speak
Students will use technology to create solutions that help children and adults who are unable to talk communicate. A hands on lab will allow students to interact with technology and create new innovative solutions to correct the sometimes “hidden” disorder of communication. An opportunity to sample the newest technological advances will be given to students. Students will also learn about the many health care professions that need to collaborate for success of this technology.

Business side of Health Care
Several sessions will be included to cover some of the leadership issues in Health Care. There are three key issues associated with healthcare today: Access, quality and cost. Students will be introduced to the Affordable Care Act and its attempt to address these three areas. Students will also be introduced to the multiple stakeholders involved in the payment of services such as insurance companies, employers, physicians, hospitals, etc. A session that discusses some of legal and ethical implications in the health care industry will also be included.

Students practice on cadaver's at Health Careers Exploration Week.
Students practice on cadaver’s at Health Careers Exploration Week.

Nursing Lab Session
Students will work with mannequin simulators and listen to blood pressure, heart and lung sounds. Also learn about EKG interpretations and experience a mock code simulation.

Public Health Service Learning Experience
The students will learn about emerging roles of public health from hands-on experiences by visiting and working with a community-based public health agency.

Music Therapy – Everyone Has a Song
The career of music therapy and how it relates to other health care careers will be presented in a lecture/experiential format. One must be an accomplished musician to be an effective music therapist, but all can participate in this session and learn about the integral nature of music experiences to our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.

Beyond that traditional medical focus, students will sample activities in BW’s speech communications disorders and music therapy programs, and gain a view of the business side of the mammoth health care industry, with help from School of Business faculty and Southwest General. They also will earn CPR certification through training lead by School of Health, Physical Education and Sport Sciences faculty.

Students will also be touring a local hospital and meeting some physicians and staff. We will have evening activities as well that have yet to be planned. This group typically goes to a Cleveland Indians game and visits Swings-N-Things Fun Park.

View and download an application to attend Health Careers Exploration Week here.

To learn more about receiving a scholarship through Promise Neighborhood or to receive support in completing the application, contact Dawn Glasco, engagement coordination, Promise Neighborhood, at dglasco@socfcleveland.org or (216) 346-5648.