About the Observer

The Heights Observer is not an ordinary newspaper; it is a nonprofit publication for residents of Cleveland Heights and University Heights.

The Observer has no writing staff; it is written by you—the readers.

Individuals throughout the community decide what stories they want to write, then submit them for publication. Anyone in University Heights or Cleveland Heights is welcome to contribute regularly, occasionally or even just once.

Read Full Story
Volume 11, Issue 1, Posted 2:17 PM, 01.02.2018

Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Campus vision closer to reality after recent developments

The members of the Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Campus team are pleased to report that all relevant parties are engaged in active discussions over the immediate future of the Coventry site and our proposal to build on its success as a center for arts, education and community gatherings.

On Nov. 20, the Heights Libraries Board of Trustees authorized Executive Director Nancy Levin to enter into negotiations with the P.E.A.C.E. Campus group about partnering to take possession of the Coventry property from the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District. School districts are limited by law in how they can dispose of unused buildings and land; cities and libraries are two entities to which districts can transfer ownership. But this is not just a legal maneuver—the library’s formal involvement is a welcome and promising development.

Read Full Story
Volume 10, Issue 12, Posted 11:20 AM, 11.30.2017

Vouchers are bad for most

I have two adult children that I love more than anything in the world and always have. They went to Cleveland Heights-University Heights public schools and received an imperfect but great education. I worshiped some of their teachers, tolerated others, thought some administrators knew what they were doing and didn’t care for others. All in all, CH-UH schools and my family were a good fit. I never thought about sending them to a different system.

Read Full Story
Volume 10, Issue 11, Posted 2:26 PM, 11.01.2017

Flags are being stolen from Forest Hill Church

Since February, two flags have flown on the steps of Forest Hill Church, Presbyterian, at the intersection of Monticello and Lee boulevards: the “rainbow” flag which celebrating LGBTQ persons, and the green, black and red flag known as the “International African Flag” or the “African-American” flag.

Four times since February, the African-American flag has been stolen.

Perhaps the flag was taken by a white supremacist. Perhaps some young person, who thought it was a good-looking flag and wanted it for a dorm room or apartment, took it. Or perhaps someone who believed that these two flags should not be in the same space removed it.


Read Full Story
Volume 10, Issue 10, Posted 11:01 AM, 09.12.2017

What matters to you in our council members?

Our homes are our sanctuary from the world. But our contentment there can be hard fought.

We’re busy, consumed with thoughts about jobs, kids, repairs, bills and doctors’ visits. Pricking that contentment are outside issues as well. Streets with damaged trees; sinking sewer grates; broken curbs; cracked, crumbling surfaces; and empty storefronts and homes. But your calls to [Cleveland Heights] City Hall go nowhere. Council members don’t respond to your calls or e-mails.

Read Full Story
Volume 10, Issue 10, Posted 2:10 PM, 09.29.2017

An appreciation of Cumberland Pool

My earliest memories of Cumberland Pool go back to the middle 1950s. In those days water was fed into the pool with considerable force through two above-ground sculpted lions’ mouths on the pool’s east side. People of a certain age will remember ropes (as in “get off the rope”) at the north and south ends. But before the ropes there were chain-link fences in the pool separating the deeper from shallower water. During the middle and late 1960s I worked as a lifeguard and swimming instructor there.

We had rules covering just about everything, mostly dealing with what you could not do or must not bring (food, toys, suntan lotion, training equipment, reading material, and much more) into the pool area. Who remembers having to present your feet for inspection prior to emerging from the locker room?

Read Full Story
Volume 10, Issue 9, Posted 11:03 AM, 08.22.2017

Coventry P.E.A.C.E. park is an essential community asset

The Coventry P.E.A.C.E. playground was created 23 years ago by a group of passionate and engaged citizens, in collaboration with the school board and city of Cleveland Heights.

Since that time, Coventy P.E.A.C.E., a nonprofit organization, has endured. Its volunteer members are stewards of the park, caring for the grounds, gardens and play equipment through biannual park work days.

Coventry park is really a campus, as it encompasses the multi-use Coventry School building, the park itself, the ball field, the P.E.A.C.E. arch, the Coventry Village Library and the south entrance to Coventry Village.

The park serves at times as a soccer and Frisbee field, a summer movie theater, an amphitheater for Shakespeare plays, a great sledding hill for little kids, a gathering place for a drum circle, a concert venue, a place for outdoor yoga classes, a reading garden for library patrons, a place to meet neighbors, a place to make friends and a place where one can just “be.” Per square foot it is the most-used ground in Cleveland Heights.

Read Full Story
Volume 10, Issue 8, Posted 1:31 PM, 07.31.2017

Heights Observer local candidate policy

With the November election approaching, the Heights Observer is publishing its policy for contributions by candidates for local office.

As a community newspaper committed to equal access for everyone, the Observer is unique among publications in providing opportunity for any member of the Cleveland Heights and University Heights communities to raise and discuss issues of local interest.

At election time, however, this commitment creates a challenge in managing the finite space that is available for community members who are running for public office.

The policy, approved by the FutureHeights Board of Directors, is designed to address that challenge. It states the following:

  • The August-November issues of the printed publication will not carry any editorial contributions from known candidates for office.
Read Full Story
Volume 10, Issue 7, Posted 10:39 AM, 07.17.2017

Opinion: FutureHeights declares its intent to become the CDC for Cleveland Heights

On April 21, the FutureHeights Board of Directors unanimously and enthusiastically approved a resolution declaring the intent of the organization to become the Community Development Corporation (CDC) for Cleveland Heights. FutureHeights has been in discussion with city leaders about becoming the CDC for more than a year, and feels that now is the time to move forward.

Consistent with our name, for 15 years FutureHeights’ mission has been to promote a vibrant and sustainable “future” for Cleveland Heights (and University Heights, since 2008), through innovative ideas and civic engagement.

Read Full Story
Volume 10, Issue 5, Posted 12:19 PM, 05.01.2017

It's hard to recommend teaching as a profession

My holiday tradition for several years was to go backpacking overnight between Christmas and New Year’s with Boy Scout alums from my days as scoutmaster. For the last several years, we seem to get a better turnout if I host a party at my house instead. This year, one of the young men, who is in his mid-20s, and I discussed whether he should go into teaching. This would have been an easy discussion years ago, but now it is not so simple.

Read Full Story
Volume 10, Issue 3, Posted 2:55 PM, 02.28.2017

County overvalues Heights properties

Has the county valued your home accurately for property tax purposes? In other words, does the value comport [compare?] with other properties that have sold on your street? Do you think that your home would sell for the amount at which the county has valued it? If the county's appraised value seems out of line to you, you are not alone. There seems to be a pattern of overvaluing homes for property tax purposes in Cuyahoga County, and this miscalculation by the county could be costing [homeowners] thousands of dollars.

Read Full Story
Volume 10, Issue 3, Posted 3:00 PM, 02.28.2017

Forest Hill Home Owners association enforces covenants and protects housing standards

The Forest Hill Home Owners association (FHHO) is a nonprofit founded in 1950. Forest Hill spans both Cleveland Heights and East Cleveland, containing 991 single-family residences and a small number of apartment buildings. It’s important to understand that FHHO does not possess the mechanisms of a modern HOA—mandatory dues, the ability to make repairs and bill the homeowner, or the ability to easily attach liens to properties. FHHO does, however, have standards relating to siding, roofing, landscaping and general exterior maintenance that go beyond both Cleveland Heights and East Cleveland housing standards.

FHHO views its relationship with Cleveland Heights as a strong and productive one. Cleveland Heights has been responsive in assisting FHHO to address non-operational vehicles, broken streetlights and damaged fire hydrants.

Read Full Story
Volume 10, Issue 2, Posted 11:20 AM, 01.24.2017

Forest Hill residents consider autonomy

With the recent recall of East Cleveland’s mayor and city council president, along with that city’s struggles to stay afloat, some residents in the neighborhood of Forest Hill are voicing support to secede from East Cleveland and Cleveland Heights in favor of forming an autonomous municipality, The Village of Forest Hill.

These homeowners believe the creation of a self-governing entity is needed to combat the growing number of neglected and abandoned homes that are plummeting property values and contributing to a negative perception of Forest Hill as a neighborhood on the brink.

A number of toxic houses, many of which have been vacant for years, continue to blight Forest Hill—a direct result of the 2008 housing crash, foreclosure crisis and incompetent oversight. 

One of the most egregious examples is the home at 15922 Forest Hill Blvd., in East Cleveland. This eyesore has sat vacant for more than a decade.

Read Full Story
Volume 10, Issue 2, Posted 10:35 AM, 01.17.2017

How CH-UH district evaluates its teachers

How often should teachers be evaluated to make sure they are continuing to grow and improve in their job? The state of Ohio does not give us much of choice in CH-UH about how often, or what should be scrutinized, even though we control some aspects of teacher evaluation locally.

Teachers must undergo two cycles of observations per year. These cycles make up the teacher-performance part of the evaluation. Each cycle comprises a pre- and post-conference, a full-length lesson, and short walk-throughs. Before the pre-conference, most administrators require the completion of an extensive worksheet as well as a detailed lesson plan. During the pre-conference, teachers must explain what they will be doing and why, how they determined what to do, how students will be grouped, what data supports the differentiation that each student will receive, and on and on and on.

Read Full Story
Volume 10, Issue 1, Posted 11:50 AM, 01.03.2017

A school nurse's job is complex and essential

In the CH-UH school district, we have six school nurses. The salaries of these individuals have been highly criticized by levy opponents, even though they are on the same pay scale as social workers, counselors and program specialists. The argument has been that we should not have to spend so much for nursing services. It may be helpful [for critics] to know what our school nurses do and what they are responsible for before making assumptions about their worth.

Our school nurses have Bachelor of Science degrees in nursing and are registered nurses. More than half hold master’s degrees in education, and all are licensed as school nurses—a rigorous certification with many requirements, including a 300-hour practicum with a licensed school nurse.

All district nurses had at least 10 years of experience in nursing before CH-UH hired them. They are responsible for the welfare of every child in our schools, as well as for the adults.

Read Full Story
Volume 9, Issue 12, Posted 6:05 PM, 12.01.2016

Don't be fooled by levy opponents' misleading claims

Several [opinion] articles in last month’s Observer cited so-called “facts” about the Cleveland Heights-University Heights school levy (Issue 109). We are writing to correct just three of the false or misleading arguments of levy opponents.

First, levy opponents love to compare graduation rates from 2006 to today, but they do so in misleading ways. They don’t explain that they're comparing 2006’s five-year graduation rate with today’s four-year rate—and so today’s rate is understandably lower. They omit [mentioning] that, in 2007, the state made the graduation test significantly harder, which lowered graduation rates across Ohio. And they simply ignore that the district's four-year graduation rate has gone up four years in a row to 85.7 percent—much higher than the 83 percent statewide average.

Read Full Story
Volume 9, Issue 11, Posted 12:22 PM, 11.01.2016

An public school insider's perspective

Between us, my husband and I have lived in many exciting cities, both in the U.S. and abroad. We are so grateful to have landed in the wonderful community of Cleveland Heights, with all of its richness, diversity, convenience and complexity.

Our family has been enriched by our use of the public schools, where we've encountered a community of interesting citizens contributing good to our society. By serving as good neighbors and using the public schools, we are investing in the future viability of this community.

Because we experience the public schools every day, we see the real, tangible work occurring within them, and we see beyond the state's very narrow definition of quality and success. We see all kinds of children learning and growing together. We've witnessed progress in many areas in recent years, and we advocate and work together for further improvements.

Read Full Story
Volume 9, Issue 11, Posted 12:19 PM, 11.01.2016

Setting growth targets for students

I have never really been a football fan, but now that I have a daughter at University of Michigan, I find it impossible not to pay attention, at least a little. As I wrote this article, an Ann Arbor steakhouse was offering patrons a percentage discount by whatever point spread Michigan might win over Rutgers. Michigan won 78-0, which is a little more than was expected.

How did the restaurant decide to make this offer? Did [the owners] look at data and then gamble how much they could afford to give up in profits versus the advertising they would get? Looking at past games with Rutgers, coupled with the individual players’ abilities, could they have predicted the point spread?

As I wrote this article, teachers in the Cleveland Heights- University Heights schools were setting targets for how much our students will grow this year.

Read Full Story
Volume 9, Issue 11, Posted 12:17 PM, 11.01.2016

Please leave the leaves

Nature can help us improve our lawns and landscaping if we mulch and leave our leaves in place this fall. As leaves fall, rather than raking or blowing them to the tree lawn, run over the leaves several times with your lawnmower to work them into the soil. Be sure to chop the leaves finely so they don't clump up and smother the lawn. (You can watch this being done in a video created by Good Nature Lawn Care: http://whygoodnature.com/why-not-to-rake-your-leaves-this-year?q=leaves.)

Chopped leaves create a natural compost that’s good for your lawn. Chopped leaves will improve the tilth of your soil, allowing the roots of your grass, trees and shrubs to grow stronger, longer and deeper. Leaves add carbon to your soil that will act as a sponge for water, allowing roots to breathe during wet times and holding moisture during drought. Leaves feed soil microorganisms that create a strong, diverse, symbiotic soil community to improve your entire landscape.

Read Full Story
Volume 9, Issue 10, Posted 11:15 AM, 10.24.2016

Advocate, alum and mom is 'All In' for Heights schools

As a graduate of Heights High and mother to one current and one former student, I am a firm believer in our community’s public schools. My belief, however, is not blind; it is based on what I have seen and experienced as a parent and advocate over the past 13 years.

My older son graduated from Heights High last year and has just begun college, where he continues to build upon what Heights instilled in him: the confidence to pursue his passions. Each year when football season ended, he would jump headlong into school and theater. Between the Heights drama department, clubs, sports, and community theaters, he had a wealth of opportunities to grow as an athlete and a performer, and he took advantage of all of it.

My younger son has had a dramatically different experience. He was diagnosed with a brain abnormality known as Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum (ACC) when he was 7 months old. He faces numerous challenges, including difficulties with learning, language, motor coordination and understanding social cues.

Read Full Story
Volume 9, Issue 10, Posted 12:08 PM, 09.30.2016

Real facts about school funding

There is a false belief being perpetrated about tax levies for the CH-UH school district.

To begin with, in over 90 percent of the districts in Ohio, operating tax levies expire after 3–5 years. Those districts have to go back to voters to request the same millage level (such as a "replacement" levy), or to increase the millage to cover unexpected, often short-term, expenses (typically called "addition" levies), every 3–5 years. The reasoning is that the districts are supposed to have demonstrated good stewardship of the money they are given to educate children in order to keep getting that much money or more "additional" money.

Once a levy is passed, the dollar amount that millage provides [to] the district remains unchanged during the life of that levy—typically 3–5 years.

Read Full Story
Volume 9, Issue 10, Posted 12:04 PM, 09.30.2016

A teacher suggests ways to help your student

Many parents and guardians want to support their students in school, but may not always know what to do. School is not the same for students today; what students are responsible for has changed significantly over my career teaching in the CH-UH City School District.

Here are a few tips for parents and guardians to help the students in their care:

Organization: Students may require help staying organized. Sometimes they need help creating a system where they can find their work.

Help students by asking these questions: Do they know how to use a folder or notebook? Do they have a single place where completed assignments go? How do they remember what was assigned—are they using a planner or some other tracking tool?

Read Full Story
Volume 9, Issue 10, Posted 12:03 PM, 09.30.2016

Why conservatives should vote for the Heights school levy

Why should political conservatives consider voting FOR the Cleveland Heights-University Heights school levy this November? Here are a few reasons why doing so is consistent with conservative principles and why I, a lifelong Republican, am voting FOR the levy.

Conservatives care about fiscal responsibility—and this school board is committed to fiscal responsibility. The district has negotiated hard with local teacher and governmental employee unions and limited their raises in recent years. The district has closed schools in the past decade to eliminate overhead. The district took the unpopular step of laying off teachers and eliminating teaching positions this spring to right-size staffing. It is clear that the district is committed to spending taxpayer resources wisely.

Conservatives prefer local control over governmental [entities]. In public education, Washington and Columbus do not dictate to our community—we get to decide right here what kind of schools we have.

Read Full Story
Volume 9, Issue 10, Posted 11:58 AM, 09.30.2016

School district has a spending--not funding--problem

The CH-UH school board fails to provide a fair communitywide explanation for a tax increase and needs to show more concern for the broader interests and health of the 60,000-person community beyond the roughly 5,400 student families, and including the children who are not attending district-run schools. Data [from] the CH-UH district’s financial report or the Ohio Department of Education Department (ODE) provides a fuller picture.

In 2015, the unemployment rate in the district was 6.7 percent, which is higher than national and state levels. In Cleveland Heights, the median family income has dropped to $49,056, far less than half the compensation of the average school administrator. The figure was $58,028 in 2006. The district is getting poorer, and smaller. Population in Cleveland Heights has decreased, from 50,769 in 2006 to 46,121 in 2015. For a home valued at $100,000, the 2015 property taxes were $3,920, compared to $3,203 for Lakewood, [another] inner-ring suburb. There is no doubt that high taxes are a deterrent to families seeking homes in the district, which puts an even greater burden on the remaining residents.

Read Full Story
Volume 9, Issue 10, Posted 11:57 AM, 09.30.2016

Cedar Lee parking deck could host a dog park

As the United States becomes increasingly urbanized, the need for public space also increases, and, as people have moved towards denser urban centers, their canine companions have come along. According to a Humane Society report, 60 percent of households have at least one dog, and 15 percent have three or more. Dog parks are a community need. 

The first "official" dog park opened in Berkeley, Calif., in 1970. Since then, the number of "bark parks" has risen steadily, with the number of off-leash dog parks having increased 20 percent in the past five years.

Read Full Story
Volume 9, Issue 9, Posted 11:03 AM, 09.01.2016

We have a chance to speak out against too much testing

Should my dentist’s performance be rated by how many cavities I have? Or my physician be evaluated based on my body mass index? Of course not. Yet, 50 percent of each teacher’s evaluation in the Heights and throughout Ohio is based on how well students perform on tests. Some of the measures used to determine whether there is sufficient student improvement are standardized state tests. This method for evaluating teacher performance is one of the causes of excessive testing in Ohio. Much of this mandated testing is really about rating and ranking teachers, schools, districts and communities instead of determining how to improve student learning.

Students in our school system are learning, but some students start further behind. Some children enter kindergarten in our district and don’t know their colors, can’t recognize letters of the alphabet, or don’t know their own first names. In many cases our dedicated teachers are able to help bring these children up to grade level by third grade—an amazing accomplishment.

Read Full Story
Volume 9, Issue 9, Posted 11:19 AM, 09.01.2016

CH-UH teachers and students earn top scores

Congratulations are in order for the teachers and students of Cleveland Heights-University Heights schools.

Numerous studies have shown that scores on standardized tests (what much of our State Report Card grades are based on) do not reflect the quality of a school’s education so much as they reflect the socioeconomic background of the particular children in a school.

The report card’s only real measure of how well teachers are teaching and how well students are learning is called “Value Added," which means pretty much what its name says: how much academic value was added to a child’s educational life in the course of one school year?

Read Full Story
Volume 9, Issue 9, Posted 11:16 AM, 09.01.2016

CH-UH district seeks support for November levy

The Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District will place a 5.5-mill operating levy on the November 2016 ballot. This request, the smallest in more than 20 years, is necessary for the district to continue meeting its mission, which, according to the district’s website, is “to provide a challenging and engaging education to prepare all our students to become responsible citizens and succeed in college and career.”

CH-UH voters last approved an operating levy five years ago, in November 2011. The levy was expected to last three years but, through careful spending and strategic cuts, the school board and administration have stretched those dollars over five years.

Because state law freezes the dollar amount going to school districts at the time of last approval, district budgets are unable to keep up with regular cost-of-living increases.

Read Full Story
Volume 9, Issue 8, Posted 6:39 PM, 07.28.2016

CH Teachers Union provides summer professional development for members

When I was in college, the big joke among those pursuing teaching as a career was “what are the three best things about being a teacher?” The punchline was “June, July and August.”

Most teachers I know look forward to summer, but few are sitting on the beach eating bonbons for nine weeks. Many teachers spend a week or two cleaning up their classrooms, and do the same with their houses; then, it is almost time to set up classrooms for the start of school. Teachers are also required to take graduate-level courses to be eligible to renew their license every five years. Almost all teachers who stay in the profession earn a master’s degree.

Members of the Cleveland Heights Teachers Union (CHTU) have the opportunity to learn from their colleagues after they have earned a master’s, in the Educational Research and Dissemination (ER&D) program. The American Federation of Teachers, CHTU’s national affiliate, developed ER&D more than 35 years ago. Since 2003, CHTU has been sending teachers to the eight-day national training program so that they can prepare to teach the material to colleagues locally.

Read Full Story
Volume 9, Issue 8, Posted 6:36 PM, 07.28.2016

Businesses should bear some education costs

In his May opinion piece, “An argument against standardization in education,” Ari Klein makes an excellent point that not all students need to take Algebra II. I would like to put his ideas into a larger context.

Let me start by relating my personal experience. I recently retired from a 43-year career as an actuary. Actuaries have a well-deserved reputation as the geeks of the business world. In STEM fields, geekiness is more the norm, but in business we actuaries stand out, or, more accurately, disappear into the woodwork. I studied math in college, and when I applied for my first job, my math degree was a necessary qualification. I also had to pass three-hour exams in both calculus and statistics, and in other subjects more directly related to actuarial work—10 in all in my time—to obtain my professional credentials.

You might think I spent more than 40 years solving equations and calculating probabilities. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Read Full Story
Volume 9, Issue 7, Posted 9:36 AM, 07.01.2016

Understanding school funding: House Bill 920

No matter where you live in Ohio, regardless of whether or not you have children or whether or not they attend public schools, you will be asked to vote periodically on a local school levy. You might as well understand why.

House Bill 920, the Ohio law that outlines how public schools are funded, is complex and confusing. But it has a huge impact on all of us.

H.B. 920 was passed in 1976, during a period of unprecedented inflation. Home values were soaring every year, sometimes by double-digit percentages, and property taxes were growing at the same alarming rate. The state legislature attempted to lessen the burden on homeowners by freezing the dollar amount paid to school districts and libraries at the 1976 level; not at the rate or percentage, but at the actual dollar amount.

Read Full Story
Volume 9, Issue 7, Posted 9:20 AM, 07.01.2016

How my family views education in the Heights

The next school year will be the first in 16 years that my wife and I will have no children in the CH-UH public school system. Our two daughters attended our schools from kindergarten through graduation from Heights High, just like both of their parents, and their paternal grandparents (my mother is an alum, but moved here in 10th grade). Our experience was similar to that of many other Heights families—our girls thrived and excelled in our schools. Certainly, there were moments when we were concerned about one issue or another, or that teacher or something else, but they both received a good education.

There are other lessons that our kids learned beyond academics by attending CH-UH schools. They navigated challenges that one doesn’t learn in a classroom, but does still learn at school, mostly about how to get along with others—how to play together on the playground, get along with others during lunch, and how to work on academic teams.

Read Full Story
Volume 9, Issue 7, Posted 9:27 AM, 07.01.2016

Support Cedar Lee businesses during construction

I hope Cleveland Heights residents will join me in supporting our Cedar Lee businesses over the next few months. While the new streetscape construction is exciting, and will create a more attractive, safe and inviting district, construction activities will certainly disrupt “business as usual.” It will be dusty and traffic may be inconvenienced. However, I am confident the result will be worth it for our city.

Let’s work together to ensure the businesses that have continually invested in one of our best mixed-use districts are healthy when the ribbon is cut on the new street. Make sure to visit the Cedar Lee website (www.cedarlee.org) to see where parking is available, and consider using back streets into the district to minimize frustration and traffic. Please be patient.

Read Full Story
Volume 9, Issue 7, Posted 9:46 AM, 06.28.2016

Support transit in Cleveland Heights

The Cleveland Heights mayor and City Council have sent a letter to the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) pointing out deficiencies in transit service for Cleveland Heights and other eastside communities, and noting how proposed cuts in service will further exacerbate deficiencies (see below).

It could be helpful if Cleveland Heights residents sent endorsements of this letter to RTA General Manager Joseph Calabrese (jcalabrese@gcrta.org) and GCRTA board members prior to June 7. The RTA board is due to vote on proposed cuts at a special meeting on that date.

Here is a link to a website that provides RTA board members’ e-mail addresses: http://www.riderta.com/board. Please note that RTA lacks funds to continue operations at current levels so it must make some cuts, but the problems go beyond that. 

Thank you for your support.

Here is the letter CH City Council sent, which clearly explains the issues:

Read Full Story
Volume 9, Issue 7, Posted 1:14 PM, 05.30.2016

We must retain and attract school district employees

In the beginning of May, about one month after being laid off, one of our CH-UH teachers was recalled to her assignment by administration. She refused the recall because she had gotten a job in another district—one of the more wealthy districts in Northeast Ohio, where it is unlikely that she will have to worry about being rated poorly on teacher evaluations for low student growth measures. The teacher is young and great at her job, enthusiastic and vibrant in her classroom. And we lost her.

We wish her and all of the teachers who will [no longer] be working in our school district well, and we will miss them. It is our loss. Of course, this is not the first time someone has left CH-UH employment, and won’t be the last.

Read Full Story
Volume 9, Issue 6, Posted 10:39 AM, 05.30.2016

Engaged learning does wonders for students

After 18 years of teaching in the Cleveland Heights-University Heights school system, I took a year's leave of absence to rejuvenate my teaching enthusiasm by exploring ways to engage students with meaningful, hands-on learning experiences.

I taught special education at Heights High for most of my career and, regrettably, saw firsthand the problem of student disengagement. I also saw that outdoor, hands-on activities engage and motivate students. When I take a class outdoors for a lesson, learning comes alive and students become more engaged in learning. Outdoors, the learning experience becomes more real and more accessible. I believe the Heights community can be the catalyst to enable our schools to embrace hands-on outdoor learning experiences.    

Read Full Story
Volume 9, Issue 5, Posted 5:30 PM, 04.29.2016

An argument against standardization in education

When I started teaching math in the CH-UH school district in 1988, the requirements for graduation included one, then two, math classes, neither of which had to be Algebra I. Some kids took the Algebra I (geometry through calculus) courses, but others chose Basic Math, Applied Math, or Business Math. In Ohio today, the lowest level of high school math is Algebra I, and all students must take four years of math, including Algebra II. The assumption from the great state of Ohio is that every child should be ready to attend a four-year college, if they so choose.

I have often wondered why it is that everyone needs so much formal math (strange coming from someone who actually likes math and teaches Algebra II). I wonder how many people actually use Algebra II skills in daily life or in their jobs. My wild guess is that it is probably a small percentage of the population.

Read Full Story
Volume 9, Issue 5, Posted 5:45 PM, 04.29.2016

Public money for schools is lining private pockets

Who pays for our roads? We do, from a combination of different taxes. Roads are part of the infrastructure we require as a society. I know that I will not get a chance to drive on all of the roads that my taxes support, but I assume that other people do and that they are there for the common good. What if these taxes were used to pave golf lanes on a private country club, or a church or synagogue parking lot? Is that the same? Is that what public money is meant to be used for?

Somehow, in the twisted thinking of our state legislature, tax money collected for our school district is diverted to several private enterprises over which our district has no control, and financially supports students the district does not serve.

Read Full Story
Volume 9, Issue 4, Posted 9:19 AM, 03.28.2016

Should real estate websites steer home sales?

Heights Community Congress (HCC) has written here before, alerting readers to what we’ve dubbed “educational redlining,” whereby websites like Zillow.com influence homebuyers to pass up that nice house in a moderate-income community in favor of that also nice house in a more affluent community, based on a color-coded comparison of public school test scores.

We pointed out the research-supported fact that—of course—schools in the more affluent community have higher test scores, because academic achievement has been shown to correlate highly with family economic status, making test scores not a true measure of school “quality.”

We contend that evaluating a school district entails far more than a red, yellow, or green dot. It’s a matter of seeing and experiencing for oneself or, if that’s not possible, listening to someone who has.

Read Full Story
Volume 9, Issue 4, Posted 10:36 AM, 03.10.2016

Creative collision can help cure urban decay

More than 50 years ago, the proposed Clark-Lee Freeway rumbled toward the Heights louder than a stampede of lost buffalo. Fortunately, a group of community organizers stopped the proposed highway. Their victory spawned the founding of the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes, on the site of what would have been the intersection of crossing highways.

When a communitywide conflict results in a communitywide asset, it’s a creative collision, of sorts, demonstrating the innovation and resourcefulness of our beautiful cities. The Nature Center is celebrating its 50th anniversary this summer, and I'm thankful for its legacy.   

As Cleveland Heights struggles to cure pockets of urban decay, we face a similar crisis. Instead of hearing the rumbling hooves of a misguided highway proposal, our city's urban decay is more like the silent, disease-spreading mosquito.

Read Full Story
Volume 9, Issue 4, Posted 9:44 AM, 03.03.2016

Are constitutional rights a local issue?

Is amending the U.S. Constitution a local issue, and, if so, how?

Ever since an initiative by Cleveland Heights citizens placed Issue 32 on the November 2013 ballot, some residents have asked that question. Two city council members expressed opposing views on it at a Jan. 21 public hearing, where residents testified about abuses of corporate power and the corrupting effect of money in politics.

Issue 32 stated: “Shall the proposed ordinance entitled ‘Political Influence by Corporate Entities,’ establishing annual public hearings before City Council on this subject, and sending a summary of the public hearing to Congressional and State representatives, and calling for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution declaring that only human beings, not corporations, are legal persons with Constitutional rights and that money is not the equivalent of speech, be adopted?” (Emphasis added.)

Read Full Story
Volume 9, Issue 3, Posted 11:46 AM, 03.01.2016

Choice in education benefits the community

Choosing the appropriate type of education and school for our children is a fundamental liberty. In Cleveland Heights and University Heights, options range from public schools to parochial schools, private schools and homeschooling. Unfortunately, for many families, the tuition of parochial and private schools eliminates these options. The time commitment required by parents for homeschooling eliminates that option as well, leaving many families a single alternative—the public system.  

There are a variety of reasons parents desire a choice in education: It may be that a child is not thriving at a particular school; a child may be having social problems with a particular group of children; parents may disagree with teachers and/or the curriculum being taught; they may desire a more faith-based approach to learning. It also may be that parents are opposed to the national Common Core Standards now used in the public schools, and are seeking a more creative, locally based approach. Ohio’s EdChoice Program gives families who reside in underperforming districts some alternatives in their choice of schooling.

Read Full Story
Volume 9, Issue 3, Posted 11:49 AM, 03.01.2016

CH Teachers Union embarks on listening initiative

Most people probably think that teachers are better at giving information than receiving it. Over the summer, the leadership of the Cleveland Heights Teachers Union had discussions about what we don’t know, including what the parents of our students want from teachers and the schools. We have always worked closely with parents through PTAs and in other ways, but we figured it could be interesting to dig a little deeper and have conversations to see what common interests we have with parents of varying backgrounds.

We came up with a way to find out more through small listening sessions with parents at as many schools as possible. Teams formed and trained to meet with parents and ask four questions:

Read Full Story
Volume 9, Issue 3, Posted 11:41 AM, 03.01.2016

Deny the petition to rezone Vandemar Street homes

At its Jan. 15 meeting, Cleveland Heights City Council acknowledged receipt of a petition to rezone the two occupied residences on Vandemar Street closest to the Center Mayfield Theater, from residential to commercial (C-2). The rezoning is so that they can be demolished, along with the Center Mayfield Theater and Mayfield Noble Building, to make room for a 16-pump Circle K gas station/convenience store.

The planned gas station is destructive. It would turn two occupied homes; two buildings that, until last year, housed four businesses, including a day care; and a historic building into one large gas station. It would turn two backyards and a small playground into a “greenspace” between the convenience store and the neighboring house. (I do not expect this “greenspace” to be just as well-kept and family-friendly.)

The draft for the Community Vision section of the impending Cleveland Heights Master Plan (www.clevelandheights.com/master-plan) sets a course for development in our city. It says lots of good things. It says we want walkable business districts. It says we want to “continue to promote the preservation of historic homes and buildings.” It says cleaner and greener.

Read Full Story
Volume 9, Issue 3, Posted 10:18 AM, 02.23.2016

Making the case for Tiger Nation

I was probably one of the biggest skeptics when the CH-UH school district starting using “Tiger Nation” for everything. At the time I didn’t think anything needed fixing, or that there was a need for a unifying brand. I have deep roots in the community and it seemed like an affront at first. My family has been sending students to the Heights schools since the 1920s. My wife and I are both graduates, along with both of my parents and now our daughters. With all of that history, as well as working in the school system for more than 25 years, it took me a while to warm up to the whole Tiger Nation initiative. 

I have spoken to fellow residents, who are strong CH-UH school supporters, who don’t understand what Tiger Nation means and don’t feel it connects them to the schools.

Read Full Story
Volume 9, Issue 2, Posted 11:23 AM, 01.29.2016

Form-based zoning code fosters revitalization of urban places

Can urban design terms like “walkability,” “place making” and “high-quality public realm” save our cities? The answer lies in our ability to harness their value.  

The other day, a friend described her husband’s aggressive but loving questioning of her day as “har-asking”—a blend of the words "harass" and "ask." It made me laugh, because it described my style of caring. It’s a good fit for this line of questioning.

Living in a first-ring suburb, we’re familiar with the challenges of our post-industrial cities: the downward spiral caused by accelerating infrastructure costs and a shrinking population. Fortunately for the Heights, an invisible asset was left behind by B.R. Deming (a founder and developer of Cleveland Heights) and it can be harnessed to pull us out of our descending path.

Read Full Story
Volume 9, Issue 1, Posted 10:23 AM, 12.31.2015

Teachers union promotes consumer awareness

T-shirts are often available for fundraising, group cohesion, and to show commitment to a common cause. Over the years, I have become choosier about the T-shirts I wear because sometimes the message on the shirt is overpowered by its origin.

When I look at the label on many T-shirts, I am uncomfortable with who might be making and assembling the fabric, and under what conditions, and who is printing the shirt. I know that it is virtually impossible to place these kinds of standards on everything I wear, but for me, and many people I know, trying to be socially conscious consumers of printed T-shirts is important.

The T-shirts that the Cleveland Heights Teachers Union designs are always printed at a union shop on a union-made shirt. Some argue that this practice is prohibitively expensive. That has not been our experience. Our T-shirts cost less than $8, even when we buy a small number of them.

Read Full Story
Volume 9, Issue 1, Posted 10:17 AM, 12.31.2015

Inner-ring suburbs create community development corporations

Community development corporations (CDCs) first emerged in the 1960s in the most distressed neighborhoods of central cities. They now number in the thousands. In the city of Cleveland, they took hold in the late 1970s in several neighborhoods, and now there are several dozen in Cleveland, all supported by the city.

Cities like Cleveland also have created economic development departments to retain and attract businesses to strengthen their tax bases and gain jobs for residents. Many suburbs, including Cleveland Heights, have followed suit. Currently, though, the Cleveland Heights economic development director’s position is vacant.

Some of the inner-ring suburbs have also created CDCs. These are nonprofit corporations with their own boards which work with their city government but also offer separate advantages.

Read Full Story
Volume 9, Issue 1, Posted 10:14 AM, 12.31.2015

Residents participate in survey on future of Severance

A preliminary tally of responses to a survey undertaken in association with the recent FutureHeights community forum on the future of Severance Town Center showed results that most will not find surprising.

Of the 318 completing the survey, about one in 10 reported having attended the forum, and a slightly higher number said they watched the video of the event that is viewable at www.futureheights.org. Nearly 80 percent reported going to Severance at least monthly (42 percent reported going there at least weekly), and, though the focus of both the forum and the survey was the future of the retail center inside Severance Circle, both were set in the context of the entire district, which includes the struggling center and the mostly viable properties outside the circle.

More than 90 percent said they went to Severance to shop, and more than 70 percent cited government services as reasons for going there. Forty-one percent reported going there to shop for groceries at Dave’s, and smaller percentages of respondents reported going there to eat, for medical services, or to bank.

Read Full Story
Volume 8, Issue 12, Posted 10:52 AM, 11.24.2015

CH-UH schools seek to offer more wrap-around services

When I was growing up in Cleveland Heights in the 1960s, I remember that Taylor Elementary was not only a school my older siblings attended, but also a place where the Cub Scouts met, I attended summer day camp, and my family played volleyball one night a week. 

Students and families in the CH-UH public schools have access to a treasure trove of services outside of the normal curriculum, including after-school programs, partnerships with community agencies, referrals to health and mental health services, free- or reduced-price lunch programs through the federal government, and countless others.

On Oct. 28, Superintendent Dixon and I took a small team of community members and district staff to Columbus, to learn how Cincinnati has coordinated “wrap-around” services into its schools.

Read Full Story
Volume 8, Issue 12, Posted 9:44 AM, 12.01.2015

Making Ohio a Right to Work state would weaken Cleveland Heights Teachers Union

Think about these three scenarios regarding buying an ice cream sundae:

  • The first person gets a sundae with a cherry on top and pays full price.
  • The second gets a sundae, doesn’t want the cherry, and pays full price. In fairness, the ice cream clerk rebates five cents for not taking a cherry.
  • The third gets a sundae, doesn’t want the cherry, and refuses to pay anything.

These three situations exemplify the laws in different states pertaining to collective bargaining agreements.

Paying full price are union members. They pay dues and are represented in their relationship with their employer, and with their state and national parent organizations.

Read Full Story
Volume 8, Issue 11, Posted 2:58 PM, 10.29.2015

Passage of Issue 8 is critical to the Heights and the county

On Nov. 3, Cuyahoga County voters will have the opportunity to continue to invest in Cuyahoga County’s critical arts and culture community by renewing the penny-and-a-half per cigarette tax they originally approved in 2006. In the decade since voters passed the levy by a resounding 57 percent, our arts and culture sector has helped fuel Cuyahoga County’s revitalization.

Since grants funded by the arts and culture levy were distributed in 2007, more than $125 million has been awarded for operations and projects to more than 300 organizations operating at more than 2,500 locations in every corner of the county. These include everything from museums and cultural institutions to small community theaters, nonprofit galleries, nature centers and much more.

Read Full Story
Volume 8, Issue 11, Posted 2:46 PM, 10.28.2015

City takes step in the right direction for water in Cleveland Heights

On Sept. 21, Cleveland Heights City Council authorized City Manager Tanisha Briley to negotiate an agreement with the Cleveland Water Division. The vote was unanimous among the six council members present. (Melissa Yasinow was absent.)

The City of Cleveland Heights has taken a significant and potentially historic step.

For the past 110 years, since the introduction of piped water and indoor plumbing, Cleveland Heights has been a master meter community. This means the city has purchased water from Cleveland and resold it at a marked-up rate to residents and businesses. Unlike tax increases, which must be approved by voters, and service fees, which are authorized by city council, water rates can be raised at the discretion of the city manager and her staff.

Read Full Story
Volume 8, Issue 11, Posted 9:27 AM, 10.27.2015

Mayor Wilcox urges CH voters to vote for Issue 53

Over the past four years, the state of Ohio has slashed the state’s local government fund and eliminated the inheritance tax that resulted in $7 million in cuts to the City of Cleveland Heights budget, leaving the city with a significant financial hole. We currently face a $2.6 million deficit for our 2016 budget. 

We have done our best to offset these losses through belt tightening, staffing cuts and regional cooperation. In the past decade we have reduced our staff by about 19 percent and since 2007 by 15 percent—or about 100 employees in total. In 2014 and 2015 we have taken many actions to cut our budget—and find efficiencies.

Read Full Story
Volume 8, Issue 11, Posted 10:13 AM, 10.20.2015

CH council candidate Nadas explains "change of heart" in now supporting passage of Issue 53

I began my campaign for city council with a set of ideas on how best to tackle the challenges facing our city. However, I have stated many times that I do not have all the answers and invite suggestions from all of our residents as community input will be vital to the success of any actions taken to get Cleveland Heights back on the right track. Over the past several months, I have had the opportunity to speak with many different people and have been challenging myself to not just come to the table with my own ideas and solutions, but to also embrace the will of the people, as if I am elected I will be representing that will. In that spirit, I have come to change my view on Issue 53, the 0.25 percent income tax increase, and now support its passage.

Read Full Story
Volume 8, Issue 11, Posted 10:16 AM, 10.20.2015

Redlining is taking aim at public schools

Real estate websites like Zillow.com are popular places to check out homes for sale. With every home listing, Zillow.com even provides a color-coded rating of nearby schools. Sounds helpful, doesn't it?

Heights Community Congress (HCC) took a deeper look into this practice and found that the ratings are provided to Zillow by a website called GreatSchools.com. The ratings are based on [school] test scores, which research consistently has shown correlate highly with students' socioeconomic status rather than reliably measuring school "quality."

Read Full Story
Volume 8, Issue 10, Posted 1:56 PM, 09.30.2015

Teacher shortages are predictable

I have a difficult time encouraging young people to enter the teaching profession these days. This was not always the case. I am proud to be a teacher, enjoy my students, feel invigorated by always trying to figure out ways of reaching young minds, and feel satisfied when I can offer counsel to students. Over the years, things have changed. It is not at all the same profession as when I started, close to 30 years ago.

Read Full Story
Volume 8, Issue 10, Posted 1:50 PM, 09.30.2015

Cleveland Heights should take advantage of Ohio's transparency initiative

Earlier this month, I went to a meeting regarding Ohio Checkbook (www.ohiocheckbook.com), which is Ohio's transparency initiative. It is spearheaded by Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel, and is supported by his predecessor and political opponent, Kevin Boyce.

Launched in December 2014, Ohio's open checkbook allows taxpayers to see how their money is spent by the state—its sole purpose is to EMPOWER TAXPAYERS TO MAKE POLITICIANS ACCOUNTABLE.

Do you feel empowered in Cleveland Heights?

This program is setting the standard for government transparency in the country and has brought Ohio's transparency rating from #46 to #1 in the nation.

This program is blind to partisanship; taxpayers have a right to know how their money is spent. The government is a STEWARD of our money. The information about how our money is spent belongs to the people, not to the government.

Read Full Story
Volume 8, Issue 10, Posted 10:42 AM, 08.25.2015

Ohio's state report card does not measure what counts

We live in a time where everyone demands accountability. For public schools this has been twisted into making comparisons between different schools and students using some supposedly standard measures. Many of these measures are based on high-stakes tests that purport to test what students should have mastered at a particular point in time. Other measures report on graduation rates, gap closing and student progress. In fact, there are so many categories on which to report, we often get lost in the mud of numbers. The more numbers there are, the more we blindly accept their legitimacy.

Read Full Story
Volume 8, Issue 9, Posted 11:22 PM, 08.31.2015

Alphabetize the Heights

“Google is not a conventional company. We do not intend to become one.”

Larry Page stated as much in his first letter to shareholders, and repeats this important thought when announcing that the concept of Google that existed before Aug. 10, 2015 would now be known as Alphabet. Everything previously known under the domain of Google, from Web search tools to self-driving cars, will be under the new Alphabet umbrella.

Alphabet’s structure allows for —oversight and guidance from its founders, while companies under the behemoth—Google X, Calico, Nesteach operate with their own CEO.

Read Full Story
Volume 8, Issue 9, Posted 11:18 PM, 08.31.2015