Rumor has it…

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There is a lot of misinformation and reactionary language out there, as Cleveland Heights folks try to catch up what University Heights has been up to the last several months. First off: this is not a ‘sudden development’ as some have called it.

Read my prior posts to get the chronology since May, 2014. It’s been a slow, painful bleed out, and we desperately need a tourniquet.

But now a little time on some fair corrections.

Why not use South High in Cleveland?

The idea to bus CH-UH students to South High school in Slavic Village was suggested by a resident and passed along to the BOE by the Mayor in May. The Mayor then made inquires into the possibility with officials in Cleveland. The resident, the spouse of a Zoning Board member reiterated that this was his idea at the Zoning Board meeting July 9th, and that he still thought it viable, embracing it as a regional solution.

Other residents have wondered how this would impact the safety and security of our students, given that Slavic Village is historically less stable and safe than the one surrounding Wiley. Additionally, CH-UH does not provide bussing for our high school students. Issues around cost and equipment capacity make the proposal generally prohibitive.

What about the empty Walmart at Severance?

A member of the BOE stated that this is idea “would be even more expensive and we wouldn’t want to put kids in an environment with no windows that wasn’t designed for education.” This is assuming that Walmart and the developer, Pinetree, would be open to these discussions…2 years ago. Bottom line? We are not merely housing students for 6 hours each day, 180 days of the year, we are educating them.

There is not room for 2000 students at Wiley.

Yes. Hence, adding modular units. About 1600 CHHS students and 318 staff will be at Wiley for two years. 500 Wiley students and staff occupied the property up until this past June. Wiley’s total capacity is 700 people. The Wiley campus and the city will see a daytime net gain of about 1420 people during Fall 2015 – June 2017.

Wiley is going to inherit all of those police calls and arrests that Cleveland Heights Police handled at the high school.

This one is hazy. The numbers in that Police Chief Hammett presented on Tuesday were rather stunning, and enough to scare someone not concerned with context. There were many more calls to CHHS than to Wiley over an annual period. We are talking about 11 – 13 year olds versus 14 – 18 year olds. Understood.

I would have liked a more detailed breakdown. How many of those calls were during schools hours and just after versus during evening and sporting events, when a large influx of students from other schools and cities is on campus? The district has already allowed for this potential spike in security needs, and Wiley will host only afterschool volleyball and basketball practice, and the three-day run of the annual musical. Sporting events like football, swimming, basketball and other crowd draws will be held at CHHS or alternate sites.

I take the Chief’s point that no matter the call, someone must respond. Then there is court time and related-to-arrest duties, which I don’t deny are essential to quality police services. In the current atmosphere of fear, though, I wish more care had been taken to contextualize those arrests numbers, so people could see what we are really talking about, crime wise.

“No one in UH knew that Wiley would be closed.”

I knew. My neighbors knew. I know because we sometimes fought about it. Yet these were the opening remarks of the Mayor at both summer Planning and Zoning meetings. An Issue 81 Levy co-chair confirms that “We met with UH City Council on 6/12/13 at 5 pm. Key to the discussion was our decision to keep Gearity open and close Wiley. [BOE President] Ron Register also reached out to the Mayor directly. We offered multiple tours.”

At least 3 UH City Council members publicly endorsed Issue 81.

The intention for the Wiley property as a swing space was also written in several public forums in advance of the election.‬ Just a few:

June 2013 Lay Facilities Committee Summary Report

Sept 03, 2013 Heights Observer Article ‬

How little attention are you paying to miss personal invitations, public forums and explicit media callouts? There is only so much canvassing, campaigning and information sharing that can be done. Eventually, the responsibility must lie with individual citizens and leaders to gather information about issues that will affect them and their constituency. That is one’s personal civic duty, to cast an informed vote. As a leader, it is one’s professional responsibility to endeavor earnestly, to help citizens understand the issues if they appear unclear.

Reductions in police force in UH are to blame for understaffing now.

Perhaps, but consider the valid reasons for the cuts. On Tuesday, the Mayor explained that police staffing levels changed a few years ago based on changes in workload data. Prior police workload assessments included the John Carroll campus, students and staff. JCU has their own police force now, so their numbers and area are no longer included. Thus a reduction at the city level was possible.

Why not station Cleveland Heights police officers at Wiley?

This has come up many times. UH has a formalized agreement for mutual aid at Heights High. This means UH officers can respond to a call at the high school, if requested by CH police. I, too, have wondered why this won’t work in reverse.

A partnership with Cleveland Heights Police is possible, but includes jurisdictional hurdles that UH is not comfortable with right now. Only the highest ranking officer on duty can request mutual aid, which could be a problem when efficiency and a quick response are required.

The Board of Education could pull up stakes in University Heights and move to Cleveland Heights.

This would certainly send a message, though I doubt it would one be that would bolster relations between our two cities. I hope it does not come to that. The UH-based BOE houses a some of our district’s highest income tax paying personnel, providing both direct monetary benefit to the UH income tax base as well as nearby businesses.

The relocation of high school operations to Wiley for 2 years will also increase the tax paying staff on site from 100 to over 300. This equates a $200K increase in local income taxes for the city of University Heights. I have been unable to get an answer on how that temporary increase might be used within the project budget, but applying it to the safety plan seems the most sensible solution. The increased safety needs are temporary, as is the increase in tax income, while the larger staff is at Wiley. When the need for increased safety is exhausted, so are the funds. Clean accounting.

However those dollars are allocated, finding a serviceable solution is best for all parties, especially University Heights with so much to gain [and, frankly, lose].

Those kids don’t deserve shiny new buildings until test scores improve.

Ah, one of the greatest hits from the Issue 81 campaign last fall. Such thinking is not only offensive in its elitism, but conflates issues, while grasping for a simple cause/effect poking stick.

Consider first the scores, the report cards, the rank and punish system that does little to bolster learning. They all originate with standardized testing. The high-stakes variety so popular of late measures little more than socio-economic status. Studies upon studies have shown this. Consider this statewide finding:

In Ohio, 30-40% of per student spending in urban districts goes toward special services like free lunch programs, special learning equipment, and translation materials. Rural districts spend 20-25% of their dollars on those services. And suburban systems spend about 14%.

“If you’re a tax payer in Cleveland Heights, and you’re wondering why are my taxes so high, look at what I spend, it’s about the same as Beachwood, it’s about the same as Orange. Why when I get my report card we’re not doing as well, it’s because the costs that Cleveland Heights faces to educate its population of students is higher than in those other districts.”

Are the students in Beachwood that much smarter, the teachers that much more qualified or harder working? No. The students’ families are more affluent. We serve a unique population in our district, with some very comfortable families alongside some families trying to pull themselves into the middle class. Guess what? Our responsibility is to educate all of them.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

This means that some resources [including Title 1 funds] are allocated to meet the base level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This is not something to be mocked, or to shame parents into doing better. We simply do our best to make sure students have what they need to be ready to learn…it’s one of the tenets of public education of which I am most proud. In CH-UH, we spend more time and money providing those services than Beachwood does, because the need is greater.

It should not be missed, however, that we also educate the snot out of our kids, scoring A in every Value Added category. Meaning? We take the kids as they come, and even if they arrive behind, we give them more than a year’s worth of learning in every grade.

Goodness, I digress. If testing, education ‘reform’ and local autonomy is your jam, consider joining the efforts of the Heights Coalition for Public Education, and help address these issues and define success for our district.

Entitlement, and the elitism in the ‘show me better scores, and I’ll give you better schools’ model is my real problem. The ‘shiny new buildings’ people like to criticize aren’t meant as a reward. They are meant to bring the standard of learning capacity up to par with our regional peers.

We are the last of comparable nearby districts to undertake a comprehensive facilities improvement plan, and we do it with some people still kicking and screaming. It’s necessary because not one of the science labs met educational criteria or building code. The high school’s heating system is slowly steaming the floors to pulp. And on and on. This facilities plan is not some initiative to flex political muscles and impress with extravagance.

New facilities will provide a level playing field students have been missing for some time, while budgets were squeezed by state cuts and local factors. During that time, students have continued to excel. Our teachers do an amazing job, even within the limitations inside our facilities.

But if better scores are you’re what you’re after, I imagine there is a *better chance* of seeing improvement from students learning in up-to-code, educationally adequate buildings than in crumbling, overcrowded ones. Teachers will have what they need in their classrooms. Students will have the resources, space and support to work hard. They deserve it. If we are talking about entitlement, let end it there.

This is really just about race

God, I hope not. What does that say about me? This is my city. The company you keep, right? There have been some startling and offensive comments, and also just some poorly chosen/misunderstood ones. Both city officials and residents are guilty of this. I probably am, too. I wondered aloud in remarks at the June 25th Planning Commission meeting if we’d be having this same conversation if we were in Hudson.

As a writer, I understand the power of semantics. I readily own that this was a borderline inflammatory assertion. My intention was to point out the potential race issue that seemed to be dancing at the edges of the commentary. The tone deafness I observed then has continued in a way that has made many people uncomfortable, even angry. If this didn’t begin based on race, that’s the perception in our community now, and the city should probably prepare to deal with it as such.

Some quick statistics? The city of University Heights is 70% white, Cleveland Heights is closer to 50%. This doesn’t automatically mean this is a race issue, but it would seem like, yes, there is the potential to read the continued delays that way. This is probably why, when Planning Commission member Paul Siemborski spoke about moving the students into a city with ‘different demographics’ on October 14th, people freaked, beginning with the man in the audience who demanded “define demographics!”

I chose to believe Mr. Siemborski when he explained that he was referring to the increase in population, and increasing the daytime size of the city by 25%. Demographics is sometimes used to talk about numbers only. In common vernacular, it often connotes other details as well, such as sex, age, race, socio-economics status, etc. So, was it a poor choice of term given the tone of the discussion already taking place? Um. Big time. Racist intentions? I hope not.

Still, I stand behind my Hudson comparison, if only for one reason. Let’s look beyond race, and consider the demographic factor I point to above about Beachwood: affluence. The poverty level in Cleveland Heights is nearly 20%, while in University Heights is just under 8%. Those are certainly different demographics. Some people insist UH is scared of black kids. Maybe it’s more about poor kids. Maybe it’s neither.

But the fear is palpable, and I worry about how that translates into safety for our kids at Wiley, which will be the focus of the next post. Finally.

 

Read Rart 1, Part 2, Part 4, Part 5

Comments

  1. Garry Kanter says

    You blocked me from seeing your facebook page?
    I can’t see the hateful race-baiting smears your “civility” loving friends are posting any more?

  2. Garry Kanter says

    Does it occur to you and your crew that the misinformation you say you hear everywhere, and your “need” to correct it in October, 2014, are the direct result of the BOE’s, the campaign’s, and Reaching Heights/FutureHeights/The Observer’s decision to sell the bond issue, rather than inform the voters, in the fall of 2013?

  3. swertheim55 says

    I was the person who asked to define demographics. I have lived in UH 31 years and have sent both my children to Gearity, Wiley and Heights. I have co-chaired levies for both the schools and the libraries. I have been president of the Wiley and the Heights Orchestra and Band Parents Organizations, as well as serving on both the library and school boards. I have spent my adult life trying to bring people together to support our kids. What I heard last week at the planning commission was unadulterated racism. The worst public display of it that I have observed in my 50 years of living in the Heights. Granted the District did not come off well, but when the Mayor makes a sham out of the meeting by stating her views before it starts, a positive outcome is impossible. This mayor would not bus her children to Cleveland, but by inference those of us who do not care enough about kids and send them to public schools deserve to be sent out of district. I do not need a definition of demographics. I assure you I understand the context in which it was used. I am embarrassed and angered by my city officials. Thank you.

    • Patti Carlyle says

      thanks for your detailed explanation, and your ongoing service to our community. as a UH resident for only 10 years, my experience is less deep, but no less touched by much of what you have shared here.

      have members of the Planning Commission made comments over the past several months and meetings that i have been offended at? absolutely. embarrassingly so, as you point out. this one didn’t hit me as hard [sadly, maybe i have numbed to it all], and i wrote about it just to keep the nuance of the conversation alive in folks new to this process. for many people, “demographics” stood out, because, well…it was a doozy.

      race could very well be at play here [neck out? i think it is], but i don’t think it’s the only issue at play. if everyone’s [potentially positive] energy is focused only on the race question, and how city officials feel about race [and “demographics”] i fear the Mayor and PC members will spend the next several meetings defending themselves…and even less will get done to make Wiley ready for students next year.

      but keep talking to your neighbors! and thanks for all you do.

      • Garry Kanter says

        So you guys conclude that some folks are racists, and without any proof, publicly attack them.

        I guess “Civilty” is only required of *other* peple, but not you guys, because you’re always “RIGHT”.

        Awesome system y’all have devised. You can’t lose.

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