Next steps for Millikin and school facilities plan on agenda for Aug. 7 BOE meeting
The former Millikin Elementary School. Photo by Chris Hanson.
Members of the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Board of Education (BOE) have a full agenda for its next regular meeting which takes place at 7 p.m. this evening at the Board of Education Building, 2155 Miramar Blvd. in University Heights. Among the items for discussion are potential next steps in the school facilities planning process and a proposal to lease the former Severance Millikin School to the City of Cleveland Heights, which could then sublease it to Mosdos Ohr Hatorah.
On July 17, the BOE voted unanimously against putting a facilities bond on the November 2012 ballot, negating its 3-2 vote on July 3 that had endorsed Plan C and moved to place it on the ballot. The reversal has left many in the community wondering where the process stands. Meanwhile, the status of the vacant Millikin building has remained in the public conscious as Plan C proposes the closing of three additional school buildings.
Attorneys for Mosdos Ohr Hatorah, the Orthodox Jewish school, and the CH-UH City School District have worked out a lease proposal for the former Millikin Elementary School.
Alan Rapoport, attorney for Mosdos, plans to speak at the Aug. 7 meeting. He said, “We’re at an interesting point. I think this is a good deal for everyone.” Attorneys from Squire Sanders represent the CH-UH school district.
According to Rapoport, the proposal is for a non-binding letter of intent that he stresses is not final. “It creates momentum in the direction of a lease agreement,” said Rapoport, “but we still don’t feel we have all our questions answered.”
Doug Heuer, superintendent of the CH-UH district, stated, “The board is not taking action on a lease. They are acknowledging a set of parameters under which the lease will be negotiated. The board received this information in their Board of Education Information Packet on Friday of last week. I’m certain the board will be asking several questions tonight.”
The proposed lease agreement is for an initial 30-year lease at $1 per year, and then two consecutive 10-year lease options, at “fair market rent.” The proposal stipulates that Mosdos will make at least $1.5 million in permanent improvements to the school within the first 18 months.
The area being leased would not include the stables, said Rapoport. They would be retained by the school board.
“The board will be asked to approve a resolution to authorize a non-binding proposal for the lease of the Severance Millikin School to the City of Cleveland Heights and a sublease from the City to Mosdos Ohr Hatorah," said Steve Shergalis, director of business services for the district. "This arrangement allows us to avoid the requirement for a district “right of termination” clause, which is required according to Ohio case law but was unacceptable to Mosdos since they would be asked to make permanent improvement investments to the building.” A termination clause would allow the district to take back the property without notice, if it needed the the property.
The lease proposal was signed by Mosdos representatives on July 31, and the proposal now requires approval from the board of education. "If the board approves the resolution," Shergalis said, "Mosdos and the district would await the city’s agreement to participate in the proposed transaction before collaboratively drafting the lease document based on the terms provided."
Patrick Mullen, executive director of Reaching Heights, a nonprofit that promotes citizen involvement in the CH-UH public schools, also plans to speak during the public comment portion of the Aug 7 meeting.
Reaching Heights, a nonprofit that promotes citizen involvement in the CH-UH public schools, and FutureHeights, a nonprofit that promotes building community through civic engagement, held a meeting last week to discuss possible next steps in the school facilities planning process. Members of the BOE and the school district administration attended and listened to members from both groups.
In his statement, Mullen, speaking on behalf of both citizens’ groups, will ask the BOE to take several actions regarding school facilities: resolve the Millikin issue, more actively engage both CH and UH city councils, reopen Plan C for revision, and more fully engage citizens by endorsing the creation of a lay facilities committee. “Although several specifics need to be worked out," said Mullen, "I envision a citizens committee along the lines of the lay finance committee that assists with operating levies.”
Both FutureHeights and Reaching Heights encourage Heights residents to express their opinions about the current school facilities plan and become involved. For more information, contact Reaching Heights at 216-932-5110.
Deanna Bremer Fisher and Kim Sergio Inglis
Deanna Bremer Fisher is executive director of FutureHeights and publisher of the Heights Observer. Kim Sergio Inglis is the editor-in-chief of the Heights Observer.