Cleveland schools CEO: CMSD at critical crossroads as tax renewal vote approaches

Published: Sep. 22, 2020 at 6:09 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - In his annual state of the district address on Tuesday, the head of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, CEO Eric Gordon, called for the need to bridge the gaps in inequality to establish a long-term pattern of success.

"We all know there will come a day when COVID-19 is conquered, a day when we can go back to normal. But should we? What if this isn’t just a pause?” Gordon asked in his prepared remarks.

“What if this is instead a reset? What if this is our chance to closely examine the inequities that exist in our communities and think differently about how to address them? Indeed, this is an opportunity for all of us to examine the American experience for people of color who live in a country whose systems and institutions were designed for white people by white people. This is an opportunity to design them differently,” he said.

Gordon, now in his tenth year as CEO of the district, candidly addressed both income and racial inequality.

Simply put, many families within the Cleveland school district lacked the tools and resources needed to learn remotely.

Gordon said the districted issued 30,000 devices and 15,000 internet hotspots to help bridge that gap.

But the initial rollout of the back to school plan was met with technical issues. Gordon did not address those in his prepared remarks, but he did respond to 19 News' question about the progress being made from a technology standpoint.

“We were overwhelmed that first week,” Gordon admitted. “We’re now in the second day of the third week. Most kids and families are actively engaged with their devices. We are still working out different tools.”

He added that there were delays in receiving recently purchased equipment due to global shipping restrictions.

Moving forward, Gordon suggested some of the new tech-based learning could be incorporated into a post-pandemic world, noting specifically that one day per week could be reserved for more individualized teaching with students who are falling behind, while students at an advanced pace would take part in separate digital alternatives.

That being said, no decisions have been made regarding the more immediate future.

Gordon said plans have not been finalized for the second quarter of school, which begins late next month. Nor have any decisions been made on resuming athletics.

Both decisions are dependent on COVID-19 numbers, he suggested.

Looming in the background of it all is Issue 68, a tax renewal set for a vote in November.

The renewal would equate to $66 million for the district, potentially determining the long-term fate of Cleveland schools.

“We have nowhere else to cut but kids in classrooms,” Gordon said. “We would have no choice but to lay off teachers and other educators.”

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