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Policies & Strategies
Link: Education and Community Service Printabe Version (PDF)

The goal of Cleveland’s efforts in the area of Education & Community Services is to
connect communities and their institutions in a manner that nurtures the physical, mental and spiritual life of all residents . The Connecting Cleveland 2020 Plan therefore sets forth a comprehensive set of policies for Education & Community Services that address key issues, along with strategies through which we might take immediate steps toward their implementation.It is imperative, given the seriousness of the situation and the implications of educational attainment for Cleveland’s future economic development, that interested entities work together under a coordinated plan.

  1. Schools as Community Resources. Utilize schools as centers for community education, open in the evenings and weekends for use by students as well as other neighborhood residents.

    1. Insure that school buildings are open to the community, wherever that is feasible, to supplement deficiencies in neighborhood recreation opportunities and educational opportunities for non-school-age individuals.

    2. Initiate programs that utilize school buildings to house new educational initiatives targeted to community residents.

  2. School Design. Ensure that schools are designed and sited so as to facilitate excellence in education and connections to the surrounding community.

  3. Besides providing better learning (and teaching) environments for students and teachers, making a dramatic and highly visible investment in a neighborhood’s school building has been shown to strengthen the connection between a community and the institutions that exist to serve it, encouraging active, mutually beneficial relationships, as well as other investments in the physical condition of the neighborhood.

    The new or renovated buildings should fit the character, the needs, and the aspirations of their respective communities. Many may not immediately see the link between physical and social development. But social conditions should dictate how and where we develop our structures (including schools), the design of those facilities, and how limited land resources will be used. All structures should address the physical, social, and economic well being of the people occupying them. Thus, with social indicators as a guide, physical development can be used to help counter negative social trends and address community needs.

    The Connecting Cleveland 2020 Citywide Plan espouses the principle that physical development should not be driven solely by profit considerations, but also by the needs of local communities. Assessing these needs will help us identify opportunities to develop communities that are sustainable—that is, where all the parts work together with a minimum waste of energy and resources to support the larger goals of that community. A neighborhood school presents such an opportunity.

    1. Implement the CMSD Physical Redevelopment Plan , insuring that the best possible design quality is achieved on all buildings—with the needs and goals of the local community in mind— preserving, where that proves appropriate and cost-efficient, buildings of historic character or significance.

    2. Identify key opportunities where school buildings can be integrated into natural aspects of the neighborhood such as parks, greenspaces or trails.

  4. Educational Partnerships. Encourage businesses, institutions, universities and faith-based organizations to partner with local schools in offering diverse education and training opportunities for students and adults.

    1. Encourage Cleveland’s business community to take a larger share of responsibility for the education of our future worker/citizens through corporate sponsorships of individual schools and the formation of a corporate, industrial and service sector business organization devoted to constructive and imaginative interaction with school-age children.

    2. Encourage the business community to develop more innovative and sustained relationships with the City’s public schools aimed at creating meaningful continuity and connections between students’ educational experience and their future opportunities.

    3. Encourage local faith-based institutions to work with schools, particularly in providing counseling at the high school level on teen and adolescent issues such as pre-marital sex, drug use, and alcohol abuse—not merely saying that these things are wrong, or pointing out the potential consequences for their lives and the lives of other innocent people, but helping them see these things as choices that may well close certain important doors, and shut them out of certain opportunities, forever.

    4. Link corporations, small businesses, churches, hospitals and other agencies to City schools in a host of creative initiatives including mentoring, job shadowing, internships, and site visits to real work places to see first hand what is involved in doing certain jobs, holding a job and working as part of a team on a daily basis.

    5. Encourage the active participation of the academic community, the church community, and the health & wellness community in the work of neighborhood revitalization. As critical components and examples of the way a community functions and develops, they have much to contribute to the education of tomorrow’s worker/citizens.

    6. Utilize our universities and other higher educational resources to continue attracting talented students from abroad, building on the notion that “Education is the doorway to immigration.”

    7. Ask local groups of alumni from major universities and historically black colleges across the country to create or sponsor opportunities for students currently attending their alma-maters to visit Cleveland, have a work experience here, or interview with local firms, agencies or government offices.

    8. Link our challenged schools to these world-class institutions by encouraging the latter to give graduate students academic credit for time spent working in the Cleveland Municipal School District.

    9. Create special arrangements that allow qualified Cleveland high school students to take certain classes at local colleges or universities, thus enabling them to become less intimidated by the idea of college life and more excited about the real opportunities for personal advancement and discovery that exist for them right here in northeast Ohio.

    10. Work with the Knowledge Works Foundation, the State of Ohio’s largest education philanthropy, which is currently developing innovative programs to improve college access and readiness among graduating high school seniors and identifying ways to make higher education more accessible to low-wage workers. The foundation’s Ohio Bridges to Opportunity Initiative is seeking to change workforce and education policy and practice so that more low-wage working adults can earn post-secondary credentials and the skills necessary to succeed in a knowledge-based economy.

  5. Equitable Funding for Schools. Bring about a statewide system of school funding that responds to the needs of students rather than to the wealth of communities.

    1. Advocate and work with elected officials, business and other influential leaders in Cleveland, Columbus and around the state, as well as with the electorate, to establish such a system

  6. Education Options. Provide Cleveland residents , including teens that are neither enrolled in school nor employed, with education options that include traditional schools, magnet schools, training centers, vocational schools, along with public and private institutions.

    1. Encourage and facilitate such alternative opportunities as:

      • Business education or training initiatives led by local businesses or foundations
      • Workforce development
      • Specialized training
      • Vocational education
      • Entrepreneurship or business training opportunities for individuals with resources but insufficient preparatory education
      • Restructuring of training and educational programs to focus on business and entrepreneurial education

    2. Create neighborhood educational campuses to promote lifetime learning and provide educational opportunities for adult residents that bring together various educational and training resources in a single accessible location (e.g., Kroc Center). Bringing classrooms to our communities is a critical piece of community and economic development. Education does not have to have stopped after high school for many of our residents. Lifetime learning should be an option for all neighborhood residents. Learning computer and other new skills, training for specific kinds of jobs, learning about community building, or even just expanding one’s horizons or life-coping skills all have the potential to change the lives and prospects of residents—and in the process put Cleveland in a more competitive position, which benefits all of us. The City (and residents) of Cleveland must begin to think of education as a long-term capital investment, like bridge repair or a new roadway, that can create economic benefits in both the short and long term.

      The City of Cleveland should therefore promote and, as many cities are now doing, provide places within neighborhoods for this type of activity. Large vacant or abandoned areas such as the 40-acre Coit Road site in South Collinwood, along its border with the city’s Forest Hills community, provide a perfect opportunity for a pilot project. These two neighborhoods have the lowest graduation rates in the city, and unemployment and crime rates that are among the highest in the city. By offering a combination on one campus of education, healthy recreation and job training, a site such as Coit Road could have a major impact on the social and economic condition of this community. It would be, in effect, a haven where the “people element” of community revitalization could be fostered and developed. Not developing the human component will, as we already know, in the long run cost even more.


  7. Coordinated Neighborhood Services. Facilitate cooperation between local service providers and community organizations to work at the neighborhood level to address the comprehensive needs of residents for education, training, health care, and social services.

    1. Fund and facilitate community organizing around key issues as part of the work of local CDCs. Local development corporations (CDCs) are a key link between the people in a neighborhood and the institutions, agencies and public officials that serve them. The city’s CDC infrastructure, already in place, could therefore serve as a practical way of connecting communities to pertinent entities through the conversion of selected CDCs into social, as opposed to physical, development entities. Redevelopment in every city neighborhood should be done in a fashion that is conducive to the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing—and life progress—of its residents. Organizing people around key community goals and circumstances that affect them is thus the first step in improving the quality of life in a neighborhood.

    2. Encourage community development organizations to begin to look beyond their traditional scope (housing, retail, industrial, and greenspace development) to larger goals and considerations such as access to health care and job training, or the infusion of technology to facilitate personal development; refocus the mission of CDCs that aren’t achieving their physical development objectives to allow more grassroots level interaction with residents and other agencies who deal with social development issues.

    3. Provide accessible, affordable, and high-quality childcare to families residing in the city who need it. Make childcare centers an integrated part of educational campuses and community centers at targeted locations, wherever feasible.

  8. Personal Development. Create locally based programs that foster personal development and ethics as the foundation for strengthening the social fabric of communities and ensuring a better quality of life for residents.

    “Family and individual progress do not take place in a vacuum; they are linked to community progress. All social enterprises—from common security to economic development—are built on relationships of trust and mutual dependence. Given a chance to function properly, families and communities support and sustain one another’s best efforts and aspirations.” (Source: The Cleveland Community-Building Initiative: Four Neighborhoods Begin to Address the Conditions that Maintain Poverty, Dennis J. Dooley, 1997)

    1. Protect public investment in neighborhoods by creating programs that utilize existing educational and faith-based facilities to teach and foster community-building principles and strategies. Millions of dollars have already been and will be invested in Cleveland communities. These investments must be maintained and protected if communities are to move forward and build on what is there. In particular, community facilities, such as schools, which provide a number of important services in our neighborhoods that impact the quality of life, need a great deal of attention. Because they are no one’s personal property, individuals may feel no personal responsibility for their physical condition. If these investments in the community’s future are to be protected, “Nobody’s buildings” must become “Our buildings.”
    2. Therefore, programs and services that promote a strong sense of community and social ethics become essential components of neighborhood progress. Not only can they help stem the kind of socially unacceptable behavior that leads to the breakdown of the community (and spare the City the cost of constantly policing such behavior), but such “community-building” activities can actually help create the kind of grassroots support and spirit of cooperation that makes it possible for a neighborhood to realize and sustain its vision. This Plan has embraced the idea that neighborhood redevelopment should begin with the people who live there: they need to see themselves as the reason, indeed as the collateral, for reinvestment. “Community building” means helping individual residents begin to see their stake in the common good and their part in achieving it, with the result that personal ethics become linked with social ethics and behavior: “I don’t destroy school buildings and other investments in our community because me and my family are some of the people whose future these things will impact.”

    3. Include residents in the planning process to insure that new or renovated facilities will be seen as addressing, and do in fact address, the community’s own sense of its identity and aspirations. The quality, design, and location of these facilities are just as important as the services they provide. Part of the key to achieving what we like to call “a superior quality of life” for our neighborhood is taking the time upfront to determine how these facilities and services fit into the fabric of our neighborhood, both aesthetically and socially. The local community must be included in that discussion. People who have facilities and services forced upon them, or imposed as it were from above, with all the important choices and decisions already made, rarely tend to feel the same sense of ownership or stake in the success of these enterprises as people who have had a hand in shaping them. “Community building,” writes the respected authority Lisbeth Schorr in Common Purpose: Strengthening Families and Neighborhoods to Rebuild America (1977), is about “a process of change grounded in local life and priorities. . . . .based on the belief that inner-city residents and institutions can and must be primary actors in efforts to solve the problems of their neighborhoods.” (See also “Countering Urban Disinvestment through Community-Building Initiatives,” by Arthur J. Naparstek and Dennis J. Dooley, in the journal Social Work, Sept. 1997; reprinted in Community Building: Renewal, Well-Being, and Shared Responsibility, ed. Patricia L. Ewalt et al., NASW Press, Washington, D.C., 1998.)

    4. Facilitate the purchase, renovation and conversion of older, disused structures into neighborhood facilities such as recreation, cultural arts or family resource centers offering other opportunities and resources to help foster individual, family or community progress.

    5. Work with neighborhood schools, libraries and other existing community facilities to provide residents with access to additional services and opportunities for growth of a type not currently available to them, such as guided discussions with practice on subjects like parenting or handling stress, help with job searches, resume preparation, mock job interviews with helpful critiques, or life coaching sessions by experienced individuals willing to volunteer their insights and know-how—any of which could be tied to available reading materials, thus introducing people to another resource and reinforcing their tendency to think of these facilities as resources.

  9. Community Libraries. Support full-service libraries as centers for lifelong learning and intergenerational learning in each of Cleveland’s neighborhoods.
    Over the past decade, several Cleveland neighborhoods have acquired access to an extraordinary resource in the form of new computer-equipped libraries, such as the Memorial-Nottingham Branch ( North Collinwood) and the Langston Hughes Branch (Glenville) of the Cleveland Public Library. For residents without their own computers, these new information centers constitute a tremendous resource, providing not only access to reading material anywhere in the CleveNet Library System but a connection to the rest of the world. But even such state-of-the-art libraries do not fully remedy the problem of lack of access to all of the resources needed by the residents of city neighborhoods. To help them realize their full potential, we must create a healthy and supportive setting in which people can grow and make Cleveland more competitive; other new and existing neighborhood library facilities must be also be developed.

  10. Community Health Care. Ensure that medical offices are located so as to supplement full-scale hospitals in serving residents of all Cleveland neighborhoods.

    1. Reinforce community health care needs through partnerships with faith-based institutions and hospitals to create more neighborhood health care facilities in close proximity to seniors and residents who lack adequate medical insurance. (For existing examples of such facilities, see Assets section above.)

  11. Capital Improvements Coordinate capital improvements planning between the City and the School District to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of those expenditures.

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