Why is Cleveland still struggling to fill school crossing guard positions? Carl Monday investigates

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - For the past four years, Cleveland 19 has been documenting the alarming lack of crossing guards at the start of the school year in Cleveland.

According to the city, there are 322 school crossing guard positions. As of Aug. 8, 44 of those positions had yet to be filled.

Nine of the positions have been vacant since 2015.

"The traffic up hear is real heavy," said Randi Calhoon, the mother of a Cleveland Metropolitan School District student. "The kids think it's probably OK to just, you know, without anyone out here to help them, which is very dangerous."

Melissa Diefenderfer isn't taking any chances with her 7-year-old son. She walks him to and from Nathan Hale, a Pre K-8 school located at a busy intersection on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive; an intersection that doesn't have a single school crossing guard.

"They should have them," said Diefenderfer. "Kids are too young, they can get hit. There's no excuse."

Interactive map of all vacant and filled crossing guard posts in the city of Cleveland as of Aug. 8, 2018. Zoom or select icons to see specific location. (Data source: City of Cleveland)

All crossing guards are hired through the Cleveland Division of Police on the recommendation of the city council member in the ward where the school is located. Our review shows 12 of the 17 council members still have positions open in their ward.

Ward 2 Councilman Kevin Bishop has 10 crossing guard vacancies in his ward. He declined our request for an interview, but in a written statement said:

"My office is working diligently alongside Public Safety to fill the vacant school crossing guard positions in Ward 2. In an effort to ensure the safety of our children, over the past few weeks, there have been a number of applicants referred from my office, to the Public Safety Department. I also encourage anyone interested in being a school crossing guard to call my office at (216) 664-4945."

Last year, Ward 8 Councilman Mike Polensek blamed the hiring delays on the city's Bureau of Community Policing.

"If you appoint a person, it could be six months before that person is hired. Think about that," Polensek said in a 2017 interview. "Today it could be six months before that school guard gets here. It's ridiculous!"

In a phone conversation this week, Polensek said the hiring process hasn't improved.

"It's ultimately safety," said Ward 15 Councilman Matt Zone. who is the chairman of the council's Safety Committee. "Making sure our children get to and from school safely, it's a priority issue."

While the 44 crossing guard vacancies are an improvement over the 77 vacancies at beginning of last school year, Zone says the city's hiring system is dysfunctional.

Last school year, the city of Cleveland told Cleveland 19 News that the hiring process had been upgraded an online process, which is "faster and more efficient than past practice."

Zone says  the Cleveland Metropolitan School District should be in charge of hiring crossing guards.

"I believe the best place to do this would be in the school district. Allowed to be housed there," Zone said. "Can you imagine if parents of children were asked by their schools to be a school crossing guard? They'd have a vested interest."

Cleveland Safety Director Michael McGrath said he has been trying to turn the hiring over to the schools for years, without success.

Is it something CMSD would consider? We've reached out to the school district but have not received a response.

We also reached out to the city of Cleveland to find out what changes, if any, have been made to the crossing guard hiring process since last year.

While the city has not responded to our questions, the Division of Police and Mayor's Office sent out a news release late Thursday regarding crossing guard jobs.

"Crossing guards serve an important function in our community by keeping its most valued asset safe – our children," said Mayor Frank G. Jackson in the release. "Adults looking to give back to the community or who enjoy working with children are encouraged to apply."

The city says crossing guard duties include helping children safely cross streets to get to their public, parochial and charter schools for about an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon. Compensation is $20.50 per day and employees are eligible for health care through the city.

If you are interested in becoming a school crossing guard in the city of Cleveland, you can contact your local councilperson's office or the Division of Police at 216-623-5577.

Some of the employment requirements include:

  • style="text-align:justify;">A high school diploma or GED
  • style="text-align:justify;">Completed criminal background check
  • style="text-align:justify;">Successfully completed drug test

Once an applicant is hired, the city says there is a required orientation and training session that must be completed.

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