Michele Pomerantz began her career in education as a first grade teacher in the Cleveland Schools in the early 1990s and developed a keen interest in how she could help make the system better, both for teachers and their students. This drive has been at the heart of Pomerantz’ two-decade plus career in a wide variety of leadership roles that have taken her to Washington, D.C., China and numerous locales in between.
“When I first graduated from the elementary education program at Cleveland State, I was focused on inspiring my students to succeed and love learning the same way my teachers inspired me,” says Pomerantz, who also received a master’s in curriculum and instruction from CSU. “I soon realized though that the educational environment was greatly impacted by the environment teachers faced in their schools and by the broader policies governing education. I decided to take an active role in changing the aspects of the system that I thought could be improved for the ultimate benefit of everybody.”
Pomerantz first got involved with the Cleveland Teachers Union working her way up to political director and coordinating teacher participation campaigns in multiple state and national elections. After serving as the director on the Cleveland Teachers Union team advocating for the 2011 Ohio Collective Bargaining Limit Repeal, she was offered a position with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) in Washington, D.C., serving as the deputy director of the office of President Randi Weingarten. In that role she traveled around the U.S. promoting AFT efforts to improve teacher training, benefits and working conditions, while also getting a crash course on how national and state education policies actually work in practice.
“The U.S. education system is incredibly complex with multiple jurisdictions and laws that sometimes work at cross purposes,” Pomerantz adds. “Through my work with AFT I learned an incredible amount about what needs to be done to reform the system and how a variety of states and school districts are making significant progress by implementing plans that have improved educational quality and outcomes for their students in ways that are fair for educators.”
In 2013, Pomerantz would come back to Cleveland to serve as a senior advisor to Eric Gordon, CEO of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, to put what she had learned to work for the city’s school children. She currently serves as an education policy liaison and assists in executing the Cleveland Plan, the comprehensive reform effort designed to improve the overall education system in Cleveland and increase higher education attainment for all children in the district. She also serves as the school district’s government relations and advocacy specialist advocating for the educational laws that best support the CMSD’s educational agendas.
She also returned to CSU, enrolling in the Center for Educational Leadership’s Education Policy Fellowship program in 2015. The fellowship is a 12-month professional development program for emerging leaders in education, with a focus on federal education policy and management training. It is sponsored by the Institute for Educational Leadership, and CSU is currently one of 16 host sites nationally.
“The EPFP helped me deepen my leadership skills and learn more about the qualities that sustain leaders during times of conflict,” Pomerantz says. “It has taken a 22-year veteran teacher and expanded my classroom skills to become a leader in education policy, while deepening my confidence and ability to analyze educational trends that maximize student growth.”
Pomerantz has continued to be involved with the program since graduating in 2016 and recently served on an EPFP delegation to China. She visited schools in Beijing, Chongqing, Chengdu and Shanghai and met with officials from the Ministry of Education to discuss educational reforms being undertaken in both nations and the potential for further knowledge exchanges and partnerships.
“Throughout my career, CSU has been my go-to place to deepen my skills and improve my understanding of the local, statewide and now global world of education,” Pomerantz adds.