Sanders asks NOAH to help bring hope to Cleveland students
by Chuck Hoven

(Plain Press, June 2007) On May 5th at the Cleveland City Club, Cleveland Municipal School District Chief Executive Officer Dr. Eugene Sanders told Northeast Ohio Alliance for Hope (NOAH) members attending their annual banquet that their organization was “clearly the kind of organization I wanted to be at, attend the banquet, and talk about the district and how we can work together.”

NOAH is an interdenominational faith-based organization that focuses on issues in order “to make life better for people who usually do not have representation in the public arena,” according to NOAH president Pastor David Hunter of Bright Star Missionary Baptist Church.

Sanders referenced a scriptural theme, “where there is no hope, people perish.” He said, “Where there is no educational vision, the children perish.”

Sanders suggested a “bold new direction” was necessary to change the course of the district. He suggested that students face challenges due to family dynamics and community and neighborhood issues. Part of the plan would be a new Parent Academy, which he called “a very effective way to engage with parents in our community.” Sanders said he believes significant engagement with parents is necessary to change the school system.

Sanders said district plans call for parents of suspended students to meet with school officials prior to the student returning to school in an effort to engage parents’ help in changing student behavior.

Sanders challenged NOAH members to help the school system as it moves in its new direction. He called education a great equalizer and a gateway to opportunity for students. He said the path will be difficult, but we must “refuse to accept failure. Refuse to allow children in our community to grow up believing there is no hope.”

Revealing other elements of district plans, Sanders said four single gender academies would be created. He said girls especially have benefited from these single gender schools. Sanders proposed a residency-based school for at-risk boys.

Sanders spoke of efforts to increase the school district’s 54% graduation rate.  While the graduation rate has increased from a dismal 38% rate seven or eight years ago, he said the district still had a long way to go.

A recent Washington Post article reported on a new national online database for the nation’s schools. A look at the online data for the Cleveland Municipal School District in the class of 2003 supports Sanders concern about dire graduation rates for Cleveland students. In 2003, only 43.7% of students who entered the ninth grade four years earlier graduated from the Cleveland Municipal School System. That means only 44 of 100 ninth-grade students who entered the district’s high schools in August 1999 graduated four years later in June 2003. The database says the Ohio graduation rate in 2003 was 77%, higher than the national graduation rate of 70%.

Another revealing number in the database is the 71,616 student population the Cleveland Municipal School District had in 2003. On May 20th, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, in an article on the Bond Accountability Commission’s report on the need to scale back the school district’s building plan, said the school district’s current population is less than 54,000 students -- a loss of over 17,000 students in just four years.

To view the online data base visit: http://63.241.153.180/edweek/main.html

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