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Cleveland Schools, Crooked Superintendent, Wicked Mayor, and our Youth
by nelly Friday, Dec. 26, 2003 at 2:11 PM

The situation in the Cleveland School District needs serious debate and attention. Please read this important article and start a lively conversation on the problems facing our community and our children, why is the city neglecting our youth, and what can we as activists do about it.

Cleveland Schools, C...
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In this article I would like to give some voice to the problem of the Cleveland Public School District. I will discuss the issues of low graduation, the mayoral control of the school system, and the many problems that plague the failing district. Education is an important issue, one that is rarely debated and discussed in activist circles. And although it is a very tiring issue it needs to be discussed and debated, people have to get involved and struggle for student rights. The children in America are getting the worst treatment in schools. Inner city schools are plagued by violence, dilapidated schools, and horribly oppressive restrictions. Therefore this article is also a call to action, to urge people to get more involved with the schools in their communities. The youth of America deserves better. Also, I will raise some questions about the economy and the education process.
Firstly I would like to talk about the state of the Cleveland School System. I would also like to state a few things about the media first. As it is known the local media is not completely independent of its corporate sponsors, as well as the knowledge that most of our local news coverage is highly conservative. This being the case we rarely see any information about our failing school system on the news, and only rarely do we catch a blurb of something in the local papers. It’s sad that we have to turn to the Arizona Republic to learn that Cleveland has been ranked as the poorest school district in terms of graduating students.

A national study in 2001 proved that in Cleveland “just 28 percent of the class of 1998 earned a diploma. A stunningly low 23 percent of white students graduated -- far lower than any other district studied -- while 26 percent of Latinos and 29 percent of blacks graduated.” (1) But there is more shocking news: “Cleveland was one of five districts among the 50 largest in America to manage an overall graduation rate below 50 percent, joined by Memphis (42 percent), Milwaukee (43 percent), Columbus, Ohio, (45 percent) and Chicago (47 percent).” (2)

Voucher programs, heavily encouraged by the Bush administration and supported by many mainstream conservatives, have been installed in Cleveland. But it has been proven that only 7 percent of students are using these vouchers, and studies have shown that students don’t fair any better at higher income schools then in the public schools. NewsNet5 reported in late December that “students in the Cleveland voucher program performed on the same level as their public school peers, according to the final part of a five-year Indiana University study.” (3) Furthermore: “The study found little variation in the class sizes and teacher experience that voucher students and public school students encountered. It also found that white and Latino children were better represented in the voucher program than black students.” (4)

How much has this voucher program cost the city of Cleveland? Over 1.5 million dollars! And this is where the money problem begins. The Cleveland School System spends millions of dollars to educate some 50,000 students in the Cleveland School District and yet Cleveland is the poorest school system in America. The Cleveland school system is currently operating at a $60 million deficit. (5) Where is the money going? Not much information is available on where most of it is going, but some information is plainly visible. Apparently the school system feels the best way to decrease the number of student drop-outs is by fixing up the schools, such as the new $6 million dollar gymnasium at East High, and millions of dollars on outer renovations. I write outer renovations, because the system has chosen a clever way to deceive the public by renovating the outer façade of the school, while either covering up the mold and wholes with pain, or in general not putting any effort at renovating the inner structure of the schools. The textbooks, however, are rotting away in the hands of the students, some classes are too large, and there is a host of many other issues.

Who is the Superintendent?

Barbara Byrd Bennett is the CEO of the Cleveland Public School system. Ever since the city voted on the levy that transferred control of the schools in the hands of the mayor, Jane Campbell has kept Bennett around despite the very low success rate of the Cleveland schools since her first day on the job in 1998. Bennett was raised in Harlem, New York, and became the superintendent in Brooklyn; during the state of educational emergency in 1998 she was hired by former mayor Michael White to salvage the failing system.

Barbara Byrd Bennett

Since acquiring her position in 1998 the only significant improvement that has occurred in the past 5 years is the ten percent increase in high school graduation, which only by a slight margin removed Cleveland from the state of emergency school list.

In June of 2003 Barbara Byrd Bennett fired 52 assistant principles and 172 school teachers because of the budget crises. Only days later she was given a $54,000 bonus for her work, raising her salary to whopping $270,000! Such a bonus is not normal for CEO’s, especially for CEO’s where company is suffering greatly, especially when the company is a school district. A $54,000 bonus is more than a single teacher’s yearly salary. Nevertheless Jane Campbell, the mayor of Cleveland, signed off on the bonus.(6)

Another issue that is raised is the conflict of interest that Barbara Byrd Bennett has run into, and the city has done nothing about. Bennett’s son in law is employed by the city school district. This is in clear violation of the law which states: “"At no time shall an administrator responsible for the employment, supervision and evaluation of an employee be directly related." (7) But nothing has been done, and nothing will be done because nobody knows about this and people like to keep things quiet.

Our superintendent receives awards for her “excellence” and is praised. But I am not pleased with her work, and I am disgusted with her salary and bonus. Our children are dropping out and doing drugs while she is “delighted” about her “well deserved” income. If you wish to contact the superintendent, or the school district, their phone number is (216) 574-8500

Schools in general

I write with some experience on this subject. I was a student at the public schools in Cleveland, and today I teach in Cleveland public schools. Every day I am a witness to the conditions of our public education. Everyday I see how teachers handle their work and how students learn and educate themselves. The majority of Cleveland schools are very poor with very bad maintenance.

The poverty of the city plays a major role. Because many children who attend the local schools are raised in a poverty stricken neighborhood with violence and drugs it is difficult for them to accustom their minds to a disciplined regime of studying and training themselves. To many children the idea of going to college does not even enter upon the mind, and the majority knows that they will probably leave school, like their brothers and sisters, before they graduate. It is a story of survival most of the time, because while you’re at school you can’t earn a living, you can’t buy yourself anything, you’re just wasting time. If you’re out of school you can get a job, or find other ways of earning money, and do what “you want”. It is sad cold truth. Children in the schools want to learn, but their options are limited, their neighborhood does not harvest the culture of education, and the schools themselves do not give the necessary empowerment that the child needs to believe in himself/herself to achieve success.

Unfortunately, I think that the schools will stay in such horrid conditions as long as the system goes unchanged. The schools will stay in such horrid conditions as long as the neighborhoods and the city remain in poverty and depression. Nothing will change if we keep electing self-serving mayors and CEO’s, and as long as we look the other way and not want to deal with our city. I urge everyone to think about these things. This article was written quickly and so there is of course a lot more that could be said about the condition of our schools, and I welcome these stories. Let us start a debate about our education system, and not just locally, but nationally. It is a fatal system, which I believe will eventually dismantle before reformed.

I would like to thank Katherin Trava for giving me the photographs from John Marshal High School in Cleveland. Please look at the conditions of some of our schools from these exclusive Kleveland/Social Nerve photographs.

Article written by: Comrade X
Date written: December 26, 2003
For: Kleveland/Social Nerve


original article address:

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by Ms. Johnson Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2004 at 9:23 AM

I have wondered time after time what happened to all of the money the schools were awarded? And as for Barbara Byrd Bennett the high paid leader I don't even know where to begin!!! How can you accept a leader title when you don't return phone calls instead you mail a response. I am a tax paying parent who became very upset 1-27-04 when with the Icy conditions she thought it was ok for our children to be out walking and trying to get to school safely!!! I have a problem with the rude workers down at the Board of education too (Cheryl the rude operator and Carolyn who answers Byrd's calls!) It's sad but what's to be expected if you take away transportation for Middle School kids who knows what you'll do next. I here that if she doesn't close the schools she gets a BONUS when is the money not an issue?
Maybe someone can Email me back because I agree something needs to be done and maybe we can form some kind of parental group because this is ridiculous!!!!!!!
A Concerned Parent/ Pissed Off Tax Payer

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Call for Investigation!
by Social Nerve Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2004 at 3:19 PM

We call for an official investigation to be done by the Board and the city on why Barbara Byrd Bennet and the select "team" did not close the schools on January 27 2004, when every single other school system closed their schools due to the high risk of accident on the road because of the ice storm. Later in the day some schools were let out early because of the increasingly bad conditions. Over 300 school systems in Northeast Ohio were closed for January 27.

Though it has been said that there is nothing in her official contract about getting a bonus, it is obvious that the "super"-intendent (Bennet) wants to push the dangerous limit to make Cleveland have absoluty no snow days this school year.

Invesitigate! Why were the children of Cleveland put at risk?

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Cleveland school board prefers secrecy
by Elle / plain dealer Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2004 at 4:31 PM

Cleveland school board prefers secrecy

01/26/04 Ebony Reed and Janet Okoben Plain Dealer Reporters

The bigger the issue, the more likely Cleveland school board members are to hash it over in secret.

Instead of having board committees that meet publicly - as most Ohio districts do - Cleveland school board members meet in something they call work groups.

The work groups are appointed without fanfare and have less than a majority, or quorum, of the board's nine members.

Their private discussions have yielded recommendations for major decisions of the full school board, most recently a $75 million deficit-reduction plan and potentially extensive changes in student bus service. Margaret Hopkins, who became board president in August, firmly believes in using work groups. She argues that traditional standing committees - for finances or transportation, for example - allow board members to become expert only in certain subjects. Most of the time, she prefers holding public discussion in informal sessions of the whole board before its formal monthly meetings. But when a specific issue arises that requires lengthy research, Hopkins quietly appoints members to a private work group - usually without saying publicly who is on it, or even that it exists.

One recent example is a work group assigned to plan budget cuts. Board members Louise Dempsey, Magda Gomez and Lawrence Davis were appointed to it last fall. They met privately three times in October, along with three administrators, and then presented the school board with a proposal for $75 million in cuts. Their plan was made public for the first time just hours before board members voted unanimously to accept it Nov. 4.

That group's responsibilities have since grown. Hopkins has asked the three board members to continue working together on contract negotiations with the district's labor unions. The work group system appears to violate the state's law on open meetings, said David Marburger, an attorney who represents The Plain Dealer. Whenever the majority of a committee - even a committee like a work group - holds a prearranged meeting, it should be held in public, Marburger said. Lisa Marie Ruda, district chief of staff, says the work groups can legally meet in private because Cleveland schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has created all of them, so they aren't subject to the public-meeting laws. "That's laughable," Marburger said. "That says Barbara Byrd-Bennett can subordinate the members of the school board. No. It works the other way." The private meetings infuriate regular board meeting attendee Jim Lardie, who runs an advocacy group called For The Children. "Hopkins keeps saying, 'Mr. Lardie, it's within the law,' " he said. "The point is not whether it's in the law. It's whether it is right." The CEO Transportation Task Force, which included board members Rashidah Abdulhaqq and Wiletta Milam, was a variation on the work group. It included not just board members, but also parents and others that Byrd-Bennett appointed. The group met eight times in private and held two public sessions before recommending millions of dollars in cuts to bus service. The full board has yet to act on those recommendations. Jim Lanese, a John Carroll University education professor and former Cleveland schools research and analysis director, said Cleveland's aversion to committees is a byproduct of mayoral control.

The school board was extremely political in the past, and new leaders are probably trying to avoid repeating that, Lanese said. But for parents, the board's pattern of always voting unanimously - as well as meeting privately in work groups - might make it hard to evaluate policies and procedures, he said. Hopkins has cited the research of Atlanta-based organizational expert John Carver as one of the reasons Cleveland does not use standing committees. Carver has argued that such committees often try to "micromanage" school systems and usurp the superintendent's role. But he told The Plain Dealer that he has no objection to committees that limit themselves to collecting information. He also does not support consistently unanimous votes. "They are squelching their own dissent, or voting on issues that aren't important enough for dissent," Carver said. The Cleveland model is unique among Ohio's large, urban districts. Board members in Akron, Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton and Toledo split up into committees that meet publicly, according to officials in those districts. In Youngstown, the board's seven members sit on three-person committees whose meetings are open to the public, said Board President Jackie Taylor. "It's not private, and we do not close doors," she said.

To reach these Plain Dealer reporters:, 216-999-4848

add your comments

problems are easier than solutions
by kris Thursday, Jan. 29, 2004 at 3:21 PM

i understand everyones disgust with the cleveland school system, but i'm not seeing any solutions here.

as for the 1/27 day and not closing, i don't know why they stayed open exactly. i think one reason may have to do with the needs of parents in the shcool district. if you want to call your kid in sick you can, but if you can't make arrangements for your kid to stay home then, well, you have to send them to school. i don't know if that has anything to do with it, but i imagine some parents would have had trouble figuring out what to do.

as for the overall problem, what's a solution? community control of the schools failed, mayoral control is barely faring better, so what should we do? the whole education system (in this country let-alone cleveland) needs radical overhaul.

personally, if i had kids i would home-school them. i've often even thought of starting up a home-school co-op. this way, parents could share the responsibilities of home-schooling with other parents and maybe their kids could be spared the life-draining experience that is going to school.

at any rate, it's just another one of the giant problems that no one person can remedy. (although i would HIGHLY recomend raising teachers' salaries).

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depends where you look
by x Thursday, Jan. 29, 2004 at 4:04 PM

sure it's easy to say that to mention problems is much more easy then mentioning solutions, but in fact there have been many solutions offered, not just to the cleveland school system, but the whole education system in america, there are volumes written on this topic.

basically, the whole of american education system was re-designed from the 1950s to create generation after generation of workers, it is evident in the skills the school offers, it is evident in the way textbooks are arranged, and basically it is obvious to anyone who has had any enqouter with foriegn education.

the education system in america produces and produces workers, who are less interested in education and more in gettting the best sneakers, and the best car, it is therefore producing a laborers, in the simplest economic sense. the education system, though failing with our children, is in fact benefiting the capitalist system overal in america, it is not effecting it in any negative way.

as for solutions, the start would be give the money back to the citizens of cleveland and have them choose where it goes, not the super-intendent, and not the mayor. secondly, i think you don't realize how much anger there is among parents, who are not happy with their children having to walk in such conditions. of course it's not a "big deal" that the kids had to go to school on 1/27, but it is a big sign of what goes on in the minds of the leaders of the school system. it is pure capitalist thought, for example byrd-bennet runs the system as a company, and she is a ceo. why didn't they close the schools? well a number of reasons, firstly is greed. Why should the company pay teachers who are not going to school on a snow-day? No, we'll make them show up! secondly, it is true that the bonus will go to bennet if there are no snow days, even though it is not in the contract (imagine the public outcry if it WAS in the contract!).

as for home-schooling, I think to some degree it is ok, and to a large degree it is bad, mainly because children do not learn how to interect with children thier own age, form friends in the classroom, and build an inner outlook on the world. i would see a public citizens school forming, that is a home-school environment, where children do not specifically abide by the laws and regiments of the federal school system, but are educated by a group, or collective, of postiive, social minded, teachers. i can see that kind of a school producing promising results.

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home school options
by kris Friday, Jan. 30, 2004 at 4:33 PM

i totally agree with a community based home school idea. in fact, i think it's the best possible solution. while i don't like the idea of diminishing public schools (for those who can't choose home schooling), withdrawing some students would ease up the work load of the teachers and disperse the responsibility of education.

i was just talking to a friend of mine, a mother of two, who was telling me about a home school co-op in cleveland hights. it's great, but it's not in cleveland, where we actually need one.

any educators out there want to start up a cleveland home school co-op?

add your comments

by x Monday, Feb. 02, 2004 at 10:29 AM

yeah, i can see something like that happening very soon, and probably in the next 20 years, or even sooner, we will see these kinds of schools popping up all over America, simply because I think parents and children will realize that the federal education system as-is is hopeless. i do believe in a strong federal education program, only if it was beneficial to the minds of the students, as it is in Europe, as it is in China today, as it was in the Soviet Union, and basically even as it was in pre 1950s USA (the period between 1930-1950 where there was a strong classical education system).

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education and revolution
by kris Monday, Feb. 02, 2004 at 2:50 PM

it's also essential if there is ever to be a revolution in this country. i mean, we could have chaos at any time, but if people can't even read or think rationally then we can't really ask them to help with the "revolution".

it also goes hand in hand with the "if you can't beat them replace them" theory. the less we rely on the federal government, the less relevant they become.

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Stupid Parents...Stupid Kids
by Jose Friday, Mar. 26, 2004 at 3:50 PM

Let's face it....The majority of Cleveland parents are dumb as rocks....

Poverty isn't the result of racism, big business, or corrupt politicans....

It's caused by a culture in the so called "minority" communities where children having babies is the norm...period. That's on them and their parents, not society.

These people think they can be as wreckless as they want and Mr. Taxpayer will pick up the bill.

Well whine all you want. Mr. Taxpayer is moving and taking his and her taxdollars. So screw you!

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no way jose
by kris h. Friday, Mar. 26, 2004 at 4:53 PM

i'm afraid you're entirely wrong jose. poverty is a direct result of racism, big business and corrupt politicians (and so much more). while the educational levels of average cleveland parents may not impress you that much, it's most likely due to their own inadequate educations.

think about it, poor kids go to poor schools. poor schools are underfunded, don't have enough teachers per student, not enough materials (shit, even my health book was twelve years out of date, and i went to a good public shchool), etc...

inner city youth also have to deal with the problems of that environment (drugs, gangs, general social pressures), all these things lead into poor kids staying poor, and an inadequate education only encourages that.

your complaint seems to be more out of insecurity and knee-jerk reactions than thinking through the issues of poverty. hey, maybe you didn't get a very good education either?....

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wrong view
by x Friday, Mar. 26, 2004 at 5:42 PM

I completely disagree with you Jose. Perhaps you are right, in that poverty isn't soley the result of racism, it is, however, the result of economic conditions, and when (under capitalism) there is wealth, then there is poverty, and thus the minorities suffer from poverty the most. Why do you think that is, Jose? Is it inherent in the minorities to be poor? Is it genetic? I don't think so, it's the economic situation that puts these people in such unfortunate circumstances. There have been studies on this, books have been written. Even conservative economists agree that poverty is not the problem of the minorities but the whole system in general.

I think that it's not part of the poor culture to have as many babies as they can. In fact that's a pretty prejudice statement. It is true, statistically, that poor minorities have more babies while in high school, and it is true that it is because of the lack of education. That is the fault of society.

Just as it was a fault of society when those kids walked into Columbine one day and murdered 13 classmates and a teacher, so it is the fault of society when children join gangs, have unprotected sex, etc. Just turn on the television set and look at the violence, the sex, the racism, etc., that the media vomits out into the minds of children everyday . . . don't you think that affects kids?

As for the government and taxes, I'm sorry but I think the government should take care of all students to the best qualitity standards. Why should a rich district give all the opportunities and economic advantages to its students and a poor district give their children nothing but detentions? Poverty is not an excuse for inequality, but sadly that is part of poverty's definition.

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Voucher system
by Psych 1 Monday, May. 03, 2004 at 10:13 AM

I have to say that I am somewhat perturbed by the comments generated by this article. I believe that people need to stop pointing fingers and start working together to better our children. Community schools and voucher programs have been in place for several years and have had more than enough time to prove their effectiveness. Bottom line, the facts speak for themselves. Research has shown they are not any more effective. .

These schools are hiring teachers right out of school with not much experience and what you will see happening is a deprofessionilzation of the Educators. Teachers should be getting paid what they are worth. Cleveland city schools pays their teachers starting out with no years of experience 36,000. The beginning salary at these Charter schools is sadly 10,.000 to 15, ooo dollars less.

Most poor innercity parents can not afford the 200 tution charged even by these federally funded charter schools. David Brennan and his hope academay schools made such a profit that he donated 4 million dollars to his favorite school in Akron.

Public Education should remain public not private because that will continue to perpetuate a class system in education for youth. Only the richest kids will go to the best private schools and the poorest kids will remain in these not any more effective charter schools.

I work in Cleveland city schools and am also starting a family with a man who works in these charter schools. we both differ greatly on our viewpoint.

People do you actually think that George Bush cares about you. Please he only cares about keeping the class system in place to keep our minorities in a constant state of survival instead of bettering our future. I think any president would have risen to the occasion after 9/11.

I am very disgusted with all of the commentators about this article. Stop pointing fingers and start electing people who will work together.

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Stop Politicizing and get to the point..
by Steve Saturday, Jul. 17, 2004 at 5:25 AM

Look, people need to stop politicizing the public school debate by pointing fingers at one politician or another. I seriously doubt that George Bush, or really any wealthy american wants to keep poor people down. That sort of conspiricay victim oriented fear doesn't solve any problems. Rather, we need to point our fingers at the parents in Cleveland. I'm sick of people looking to the gov't to handle all these problems, it's obvious that they can't! And we aren't willing to go to a more socialist system like many european countries and pay like 50% tax, so the gov't doesn't have the money now, and won't in the future. Parents in cleveland need to get their act together. Fathers need to stay with their families and get jobs. All parents need to get off and stay off drugs. Teach your kids to read at a young age, nuture their curiousity and desire to learn, don't kill it. And, I agree with what has been metioned above, the administrative control over the schools needs to be transparent and reformed. People who aren't doing their job should be fired, period. If you can't be reached by phone, ever (some really can't, it's stupid) you should be gone. The voucher program is blamed for budget issues, and sure, it could be a factor, but what about unecessary administrative positions??

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Response to Kris's Comments
by Pepe~ Saturday, Jul. 17, 2004 at 3:03 PM

Ms. Kris,

Poverty has nothing to do with racism.

I can show you examples of poverty all over the world where racism played no roll.

The greatest factor in poverty is personal choice--not that people choose poverty--but one's ability to make good incremental choices throughout life.

There is a direct coorelation between people who cannot control their desires and financial success.

Racism is a too easy scapegoat. It allows people to avoid personal responsibility, the real culprit.

It's very easy to map out two scenarios. 1) Girl gets pregnant at 16, doen't graduate high school, has no meaningful work skills--on welfare. 2) Girl remains a virgin, graduates from high school, goes to college or technical school--gets skills, gets job--self supporting.

No racism involved. Two different outcomes. Happens every day.

add your comments

Response to Kris's Comments
by Pepe~ Saturday, Jul. 17, 2004 at 3:05 PM

Ms. Kris,

Poverty has nothing to do with racism.

I can show you examples of poverty all over the world where racism played no roll.

The greatest factor in poverty is personal choice--not that people choose poverty--but one's ability to make good incremental choices throughout life.

There is a direct coorelation between people who cannot control their desires and financial success.

Racism is a too easy scapegoat. It allows people to avoid personal responsibility, the real culprit.

It's very easy to map out two scenarios. 1) Girl gets pregnant at 16, doen't graduate high school, has no meaningful work skills--on welfare. 2) Girl remains a virgin, graduates from high school, goes to college or technical school--gets skills, gets job--self supporting.

No racism involved. Two different outcomes. Happens every day.

add your comments

by Robin Rodgers Thursday, Nov. 25, 2004 at 12:31 AM

We are in the beginning stages of creating a homeschool co-op for homeschoolers in NE Ohio. If anyone is interested in helping, please contact me.

add your comments

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