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Spring Semester 2013 Media Highlights

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School board should commit to downtown, International School

by Michael Christoff, The Cleveland Plain Dealer
May 12, 2013

The board of the Cleveland School District is poised to make history, just days from now. On Tuesday, it will vote on a resolution that would set aside proceeds from selling its current headquarters on East Sixth Street near Mall C and dedicate them to planning and building a new school downtown.

More than 80 years ago, the school board sent a deliberate and symbolic statement when it selected the location of its headquarters. Those board members voted to become part of the Group Plan of public buildings of Cleveland. They formally committed to the development of downtown. Current school board member Eric Wobser wants the board to reinforce that commitment to downtown, and introduced the resolution as a means to that end.

The entire school board should pass the resolution and renew that crucial and longstanding commitment to downtown by directing the proceeds toward educating students there. A downtown school has the greatest potential to serve a diverse student body with accessibility to East- and West-Side neighborhoods, as well as those living downtown. This is an incredible opportunity for the district to leverage and contribute to the momentum building in downtown Cleveland.

More specifically, there is an opportunity to use the proceeds to build a home for Campus International School, a partnership between the school district and Cleveland State University. Campus International School is already a shining example of what can take shape all over the city under the bold plan to transform schools that Mayor Frank Jackson successfully pressed the state legislature to pass and that voters supported last fall, known as the Cleveland Plan. This public school opened its doors in 2010 as a kindergarten-through-second-grade school and will grow to 12th grade by adding a new grade each year. Enrollment at the International School is by lottery. In 2012, the school outgrew its leased space at
East 30th Street and Prospect Avenue and moved to a building on CSU’s campus. Now teaching kindergarteners through fourth-graders, it will outgrow its current space at the end of next school year.

This school and its students, teachers and staff deserve to keep going and growing. With the proceeds from the sale of the district’s headquarters, a proposed expansion plan could take root.

The school district has adopted a portfolio model for schools, meaning it will provide a mix of public schools; charter schools; single-gender schools; those focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics; others geared toward the performing arts; others that immerse students in different languages; and still others where senior citizens present lessons, mentor, teach and guide. The schools are developed around strong curriculum visions, civic assets and community partners. The one essential and non-negotiable requirement: They must offer all of Cleveland’s children quality education.

Campus International School was created to offer the world-renowned and rigorous curriculum called International Baccalaureate. The 310 students learn Mandarin every day. They walk to performances at Playhouse Square and to urban community gardens. They leverage their proximity to the cultural amenities downtown and their important relationship with Cleveland State University at every opportunity. They use all of downtown Cleveland and the campus of Cleveland State as extra classrooms, making the very young students at the school impressively aware of the world around them. Their test scores are better than the state average, and the school was recently rated effective by the state. Word of the school’s success has spread and demand for spots is strong, with a waiting list of more than 70. Most importantly, these students -- who come from a variety of backgrounds -- thrive.

The school board must pass the resolution to set aside the one-time money from the sale of its headquarters for education downtown. As a past resident of downtown and current civically active Cleveland resident, I hope the board will see the incredible opportunity to capitalize on the momentum building downtown and the success at Campus International School to give a growing number of Cleveland School District students a truly remarkable educational option.

Michael Christoff is the chairman of the advisory board for Campus International School and an architectural designer in Cleveland.

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