Mayor Justin Bibb and Cleveland education leaders announce results of Community Listening Tour
Learn more and read the full report.
Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022 — Cleveland — Today, Mayor Justin M. Bibb and Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon met with a group of students to share the results of a summer long listening tour that directly engaged hundreds of parents, families, educators, students, and community members about the needs and opportunities for supporting Cleveland’s youth. The summary report is titled Cleveland’s Kids Can’t Wait: Accelerating Progress for Cleveland’s Youth.
“We are grateful to our advisory committee members, to all of those who participated in focus group sessions, and to our students we met with today” shared Mayor Justin M. Bibb. “We are fortunate to have a solid foundation to build on from the last ten years of strong leadership in Cleveland schools, and at the same time, we know there is a need for urgent and deliberate change to support educators and families after these difficult years of pandemic-impacted learning. It will require all of us to work together to make this positive change happen for our students.”
The advisory committee began meeting in May and launched the listening tour in July, with a goal of learning more about the needs of Cleveland families and community members during the Mayor’s first term through direct focus groups or listening sessions. The committee consisted of 12 community leaders, including CEO Gordon and President of the Cleveland Teachers Union Shari Obrenski.
“I appreciate the Mayor’s leadership in this effort to directly engage so many educators and families in our community,” added Eric Gordon, CEO of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. “Just as importantly, I believe what we heard, and the priorities outlined here directly complement our recovery plan in the immediate term and will help lay the groundwork for the longer-term effort to build on the last decade of progress in our schools and make further gains for our students.”
The listening tour consisted of six sessions with Cleveland teachers and principals, 14 sessions with students and families, and more than 15 sessions with community and city leaders. In total, more than 250 stakeholders across the city participated, representing all 17 wards. The feedback from these focus group sessions was collected and compiled into key themes by local grassroots community engagement cooperative ThirdSpace Action Lab, with support from the Mayor’s Office of Education.
“As a native Clevelander and alumnus of John F. Kennedy High School, it is a great pleasure to welcome the Mayor to our school to share this promising plan,” noted Dr. Terrance Menefee, Principal of John F. Kennedy High School. “As school leaders and educators over the last couple of years, nationally, school systems and districts have had to redesign and reinvent themselves to support kids through the challenges of COVID. By coming here to listen to students, and by spending months before this listening to, and collaborating with our educators and community members, the Mayor has shown he is committed to supporting us. It makes me hopeful that together we can solve the biggest challenges for our young people.”
Twelve key themes emerged from the listening sessions that community members felt will ensure our education system continues to meet the needs of Cleveland students. A few notable themes include:
- Making sure students are prepared for grade level work with greater urgency as students recover learning lost due to the pandemic;
- Providing additional mental health and wellbeing supports to adequately address student needs;
- Offering more innovative, career-oriented learning opportunities to support student postsecondary and career readiness;
- Identifying solutions to address community and school-based safety concerns and improvements to address inequities in facility quality;
- And several themes emerged around engaging and empowering parents - parents are eager for engagement and an ongoing dialogue and families desire additional high-quality and accessible school options.
More detail on all 12 themes is available in the report.
“The direct educator and parent engagement as a part of this effort is critical,” said Shari Obrenski, President of the Cleveland Teachers Union. “We believe that our educators are prepared to help bring students back from the pandemic, but they need our collective support. If this plan can help bring more resources, collaboration, and support into our schools, from and across our community, it has the potential to be a significant step forward for our students.”
Once these themes were captured, they were then analyzed by the advisory committee and Mayor’s Office to identify a set of core priority areas that the Mayor’s Office and education leaders from across the city can start to immediately collaborate and move toward action on to accelerate progress for Cleveland’s youth. They include:
- Provide all students the safe and welcoming school and community environment they need to thrive.
- Develop a plan to ensure all students have access to a best-in-class school facility.
- Strengthen learning so that all students are academically prepared for college or career.
- Build on what’s working.
- Elevate parent voices to drive progress.
Identifying these key priorities sets up the next stage of work for the Mayor’s Office of Education. Throughout the fall of 2022, the Mayor’s Office will collaborate with the school district, partner organizations, educators, and stakeholders across the city to create a more detailed plan with specific strategies for each priority area aligned with resources available to support actions. This work will be in direct collaboration with the CMSD School Board as they engage in the Superintendent search process to replace outgoing CEO Gordon over the next year.
“I believe these priorities and programs will make a big difference for young people,” said Lauryn Porter, a senior at JFK. “The more time young people can spend in programs getting them ready and developing their minds in a place where they can grow mentally and physically will help them prepare for the future.”