Residents bring concerns to student safety summit
by Chuck Hoven
(Plain Press, September 2006) On August 7th, at the first of four community summits on student safety, City of Cleveland Chief of Education Tracy Martin and Cleveland Municipal School District CEO Dr. Eugene Sanders promised that the city and the school system would review transcripts of the meetings and written comments submitted and come up with four or five new policy initiatives to improve safety and security in the Cleveland schools.
Over 150 people attended the summit at Cudell Recreation Center on West Boulevard at Detroit Avenue. Parents and community residents raised concerns about discipline in the schools, and the need for alternative schools to provide special attention to students with disciplinary problems.
City of Cleveland and school district officials talked about the need for school personnel and students to respect each other. A number of speakers talked about the need for better communication.
Noting the emphasis on communication, a teacher from Max Hayes High School suggested a place to start. She said individuals calling the administration building for help often found that phones went unanswered or calls went to a voice mail system that was difficult to navigate. She said phone communication at individual school buildings was also a problem.
George Lovejoy, a Cleveland Heights resident who grew up in Glenville, emphasized the need to involve students in decision-making. He suggested that CEO Dr. Eugene Sanders have meetings at various schools with just the CEO and the students in attendance. If the CEO asked students “How can I make this school better for you?” at such a meeting, Lovejoy suggested “they will tell you a lot.”
Miriam Baez, a parent of five children in the Cleveland Municipal School District, stressed the importance of parent involvement in the school system. She said the schools need the parents help in the school buildings. “Parents have got to get involved,” she said.
The City of Cleveland’s Chief of Education Martin urged parents and community members interested in getting involved in the schools to contact Melanie Brazil at the Cleveland School District (574-4915)..
Community activist Wanda F. McCord, a member of the Cleveland Education Committee, summed up the goal of the summit as “ How do we create safer and more respectful schools?”
Deputy Chief of Secondary Education Lincoln Haughton said, “We have to make each school an oasis for learning” where students can obtain the necessary critical thinking and life skills they need to become successful adults. Haughton said safety and security were necessary to create that school environment.
Asked about the responsibility of the school system for students on their way to and from school, Haughton said the school system considered students their responsibility from the moment they leave home for school and from the moment they leave school until they arrive at home. While the district will call Cleveland police to respond to incidents occurring outside of school property, Haughton said the district will devote resources to investigate incidents that come to its attention involving students on their way to and from school.
Members of the Near West Side’ Somali refugee community brought a number of safety concerns to the meeting concerning students attending Gallagher (K-8) and Lincoln West High School. Sharon McDonald, Deputy Chief of (K-8) Education for the Cleveland Municipal School District, suggested one way to reduce violence against the Somali community would be for members of the community to have an opportunity to share positive aspects of their culture at a school function.
Sheikhabdi Aweys, a member of the Somali community and Cuyahoga Community College student who came to the meeting to help translate, says that often students from the Somali community are beaten up and end up missing school while going to the doctor or hospital for their injuries. Parent Ukash Osman says he is concerned not only about safety and transportation, but also about the need for someone in the school that can understand the students when they are trying to communicate that they have a medical problem. Osman says members of the local Somali Community speak the Maamay language.
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