Latest News

Millikin's wetlands and stream must be preserved

The Millikin woods. [Photograph by Deborah Van Kleef]

The fate of the Millikin school—11 acres, mainly of densely wooded wetlands bordering Severance Center—is far from settled. There is a chance, in the foreseeable future, that the land will be transferred by the Cleveland Heights-University City School District [to the city of Cleveland Heights, and then] to a private residential developer.

Losing these woodlands would also [mean losing] the only place in the Heights where we, and our wildlife, can experience the headwaters of a stream that is part of our local watersheds, Dugway, Shaw and Nine Mile. The other starting points of these ancient streams are mostly covered by the past century’s concrete, asphalt, houses and businesses.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 12, Posted 12:17 PM, 11.24.2020

Latest News Releases

Library, Cedar Lee District collaborate on holiday story walk
- , November 20, 2020 Read More
Heights Libraries seeks input from community members for diversity, equity, and inclusion audit
- CH-UH Library, November 16, 2020 Read More
- City of Cleveland Heights, November 9, 2020 Read More
"V O T E" Says Cheryl Stephens, Cuyahoga County Councilwoman (District 10)
- Cuyahoga County, October 6, 2020 Read More
Rep. Boyd to host Virtual Town Hall October 1 on resources for small businesses during and after COVID-19
- State Rep. Janine Boyd, October 1, 2020 Read More

View more news releases

LEI invites young writers to explore what's 'On the Other Side'

Teen editors collaborate remotely to produce "On the Other Side."

What's on the other side? Lake Erie Ink (LEI) is posing this question to student writers throughout Northeastern Ohio—asking them to cross over and find out. 

On the Other Side is a collection of work from students in grades 6–12. It is the fifth anthology of teen writing published by LEI, a Cleveland Heights based-creative writing nonprofit for youth. LEI will use this anthology to amplify youth voices through poetry, short stories, personal stories, and art.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 12, Posted 12:13 PM, 11.24.2020

Library creates safe co-learning spaces

Co-learning spaces at the Lee Road branch are available for students in grades K–12.

In response to the community’s need for study and tutoring spaces for students in grades K–12, Heights Libraries has created four co-learning spaces in the teen room of the Lee Road Branch.

Each space is surrounded by acrylic glass barriers and can accommodate one student and either a parent, sibling, tutor or another student, who can work together on schoolwork in a safe, socially distanced space. Two of the four spaces have computers with internet access. 

Co-learning space reservations last 45 minutes, must be reserved in advance and are limited to one per day, per customer.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 12, Posted 10:20 AM, 11.17.2020

Heights voters pass two local ballot issues

According to not-yet-official election results posted by the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections on Nov. 4, Cleveland Heights and University Heights voters narrowly passed Issue 69, the 4.8 mill school tax levy. Cleveland Heights voters also passed Issue 6, the Cleveland Heights charter amendment.

Voters approved the school levy by a margin of just 65 votes, with 14,598 (50.11 percent) voting for the levy, and 14,533 (49.89) voting against it.

The voting margin was much wider for the other local ballot issue, the CH charter amendment, with 17,753 (85.93 percent) “yes” votes, and 2,907 (14.07) “no” votes.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 12, Posted 2:29 PM, 11.04.2020

2020 Heights Observer Holiday Gift Guide

For the past 13 years, the Heights Observer has published its Holiday Gift Guide to inspire residents to shop locally for the December holidays.

Cleveland Heights and University Heights abound with independent businesses—boutiques, salons, restaurants and artist collaboratives—which enhance our local character and anchor our business districts. 

As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, many of these businesses have temporarily or permanently closed, or are operating at partial capacity.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 7:20 PM, 10.29.2020

This year, more than ever, let's shop local for the holidays

At the height of the pandemic, Walmart doubled its online sales for the second quarter (April through June) compared to last year. Its stores, which do far more business than the online operation, were having a banner year, too, with companywide sales up 10 percent in the second quarter. Those extra sales add up to new profits of $1 billion a month.

Here's some perspective: The city of Cleveland Heights, with an annual budget of $45 million, could operate for a year and then some on the extra pandemic profit Walmart made this Monday and half of Tuesday.

And that's just Walmart. At Target, second-quarter sales were up nearly 11 percent, and online sales tripled the total from the same time in 2019.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 6:26 PM, 11.01.2020

Coventry P.E.A.C.E. reaches agreement with Heights Libraries

The Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Campus includes a park as well as the former Coventry school building, now home to nonprofits and artists.

Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Campus (CPC) has reached an agreement with Heights Libraries on a 15-month lease of the former Coventry school building, which has been home to arts and community-service nonprofits for more than a decade. This agreement includes a path toward a 99-year lease, and allows CPC to sublet spaces to other nonprofits and build on its mission—to create a robust arts and culture center by supporting tenants through affordable rent and special programming.

An independent organization, CPC represents the building’s current tenants: Ensemble TheatreARTFULLake Erie InkFutureHeightsReaching HeightsCleveland Heights Teachers Union and Cleveland Arts Prize-winning artist Robin VanLear

Community residents founded Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Inc. in the 1990s, to build and maintain the Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Playground. In 2017, the organization expanded its mission to pursue the vision of an integrated campus where everyone can “create, show, learn and grow.”

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 9:50 AM, 10.27.2020

Cleveland Heights Senior Center News


It’s time for seniors to review their Medicare coverage. This year’s Medicare open-enrollment period, which began Oct. 15, runs through Dec. 7.

Medicare’s health and drug plans change every year. On Tuesday, Nov. 10, counselors from the Ohio Senior Health Insurance Information Program (OSHIIP) will be at the Cleveland Heights Senior Activity Center (SAC), to help seniors review their insurance, and answer questions about their Medicare coverage.

Access is by appointment only; call 216-691-7377, to reserve a time to meet with a trained OSHIIP volunteer. Bring your Medicare card and a list of your prescriptions to the appointment.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 6:03 PM, 11.01.2020

Growing up Black in 1970s' Coventry Village

Denise Watson standing in front of her childhood home on Hampshire Road.

When Denise Watson was in sixth grade, in 1974, the youngest of eight children, her family moved from Cleveland to a house on Hampshire Road in Coventry Village. At the time, hers was one of the only Black families in this Cleveland Heights neighborhood.

“Coventry Village was a great family place,” Watson said. “I have an image of kids doing cartwheels through front-yard sprinklers. Kids walked to the parks and playgrounds, and families actually talked to each other. We didn’t have our heads buried in computers or cell phones.”

She remembers the neighborhood as very welcoming. “All of my friends were white,” she said. “The only racial problem I remember was the fact that some Black kids at school thought I hung out too much with white kids.”

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 5:59 PM, 11.01.2020

FutureHeights awards small grants to five CH groups

FutureHeights, the community development corporation for Cleveland Heights, awarded a total of $2,825 in small grants to five groups through its semi-annual Neighborhood Mini-Grants program this fall.

“We are excited to help fund these projects that will have a positive impact on several Cleveland Heights neighborhoods,” said FutureHeights Executive Director Deanna Bremer Fisher.

Since the program’s inception in 2015, FutureHeights has awarded $30,386 to 47 groups based in neighborhoods throughout the city.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 6:24 PM, 11.01.2020

Heights Arts Holiday Store opens Nov. 1

The Heights Arts Holiday Store in 2019.

Heights Arts' 19th annual Holiday Store will open to the public on Sunday, Nov. 1. Since 2001, the store has delighted shoppers by offering truly unique gift options. This year, the Holiday Store offer more than 80 talented Northeast Ohio artists the opportunity to display and sell their work.

Heights Arts urges the community to make supporting local artists a priority this holiday season, by shopping at local arts organizations and galleries.

“This will be a critical year, not only for artists, but for Heights Arts as well," said Rachel Bernstein, Heights Arts' executive director. "The annual Holiday Store accounts for a significant portion of revenue for us. Like many arts organizations, we have suffered significant loss of visitors, contributions and revenue due to the pandemic.” 

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 6:51 PM, 10.29.2020

Wanted: an excellent mayor for Cleveland Heights

Thinking of running for mayor of Cleveland Heights? The 2021 general election is still a year off; but if that seems like a long time, consider this: petitioning starts in a little over four months. You will have from March 18 to June 16, 2021, to gather the 222 valid signatures required to get on the ballot. If there are three or more candidates, you will run in a non-partisan primary election on Sept. 14. If you survive the first round of voting, you will face a single opponent on Nov. 2.

Last month, three people who successfully ran for mayor of other cities participated in a forum sponsored by Citizens for an Elected Mayor (CEM) and CH City Council Member Melody Hart. The online audience of about 100 heard from mayors Annette Blackwell of Maple Heights, Michael Dylan Brennan of University Heights, and Georgine Welo of South Euclid about what it takes to lead an inner-ring suburb during difficult times.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 6:16 PM, 11.01.2020

Getting Personal: Attack on personal character creates greater divide

In the most recent Heights Observer e-News, Mo Lynn contributed a letter regarding the compensation of CH-UH City School District Treasurer Scott Gainer. Lynn serves as treasurer for the TigerNation4LowerTaxes committee, which opposes the upcoming district levy. 

In the letter, Lynn personally attacks Gainer as a “poor performer” who has “never submitted a balanced five-year forecast,” and is “grossly overcompensated.”  She argues that Gainer benefits from the city’s “high taxes,” and thus is personally vested in the levy passing. 

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 5:16 PM, 10.29.2020

Heights Libraries seeks new board member

The Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library is seeking a new board member. Applications, which are due on Tuesday, Nov. 10, by 5 p.m., can be requested by sending an e-mail to

Completed applications can be returned to the same e-mail address, or, applicants can drop them in a designated box outside of the Lee Road branch’s administrative office.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 6:50 PM, 10.29.2020

Weeds meet their match at 'The Walt'

A monarch butterfly enjoys the newly beautified front garden at Walter Stinson Community Park in University Heights.

Walter Stinson Community Park is a popular destination in University Heights. The playground attracts young children. The large open space draws dog walkers. Coffee seekers flock to the park every weekend. And, when we’re not in the middle of a pandemic, The Walt attracts large crowds for Fall Fest, concerts and movies.

The beautiful organic gardens at The Walt also attract all sorts of birds and butterflies. Unfortunately, the gardens also attract a wide variety of weeds.

The weeds have met their match in The Friends of The Walt, a newly created group of neighbors who have volunteered to help beautify the park. (They’re kind of like the Avengers, but without all the high-tech gadgets and elaborate costumes.)

The Friends of The Walt volunteer group formed organically (no pun intended), through the efforts of Eran Shiloh and Emma Shook, after the city organized volunteers to clean the park back in August.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 9:19 AM, 10.27.2020

FutureHeights moves leadership series to fall in 2021

FutureHeights will convene the seventh cohort of its Neighborhood Leadership Workshop Series in Fall 2021. The series is a multidisciplinary leadership development program that helps participants develop leadership skills, gain knowledge, and acquire tools they can use to help make their Cleveland Heights neighborhoods strong, safe and vibrant.

“We appreciate the value of personal connections made during these sessions,” said Sruti Basu, director of community-building programs. “We knew it would not be possible to meet in-person, due to the pandemic, if we kept to our normal, early-in-the-year schedule.”

Each year since 2015, FutureHeights has helped residents learn more about the city in which they live and connect with other civically minded people.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 6:07 PM, 11.01.2020

Annual author event will be free and online

Eliese Colette Goldbach

The Cleveland Heights Chapter Q of P.E.O. International hosted its first annual “Afternoon with an Author” fundraiser nine years ago. Traditionally, the event has been held at a lovely venue in the community, such as Notre Dame College or Forest Hill Presbyterian Church, but, due to COVID-19 restrictions, Chapter Q found it necessary to shift to a virtual setting. On Saturday, Nov. 14, at 1 p.m., it will present a free, virtual event with local author Eliese Colette Goldbach.

Goldbach’s book, Rust: A Memoir of Steel and Grit, was published in March 2020 and has received notable reviews. In it, she recounts her tenure as a steelworker at ArcelorMittal Cleveland, and shares her personal coming-of-age journey.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 6:46 PM, 10.29.2020

Back on the streets again

One of many pictures I took of flowers blooming in a yard in October. Who knew flowers still bloomed in October? I mean, other than probably everyone except me.

One of Ellen DeGeneres’s first jokes was: “My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was 60. She's 97 now, and we don't know where the heck she is.”

I was older than 60 when I started walking. That was six months ago, and, as I wrote in this column in September, I really hadn’t walked with any regularity, for any more than a couple of blocks (to the store), in about 40 years. But after doing nothing but sitting at my desk for the first two months of the pandemic—plus most of the past two years, since I developed a hearing problem; or, really, for much of the previous 38-or-so years—I knew I had to do something.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 6:53 PM, 10.29.2020

Pick up the Heights Observer along with your Bialy's bagels

Photo by Sally Kramer.

Locals know that Bialy's Bagels is the best place to get fresh bagels. Owners and twin sisters Rachel and Sarah Gross offer both walk-up and online ordering. Visit for details, and be sure to pick up a copy of the Heights Observer while you're there. The shop is located at 2267 Warrensville Center Road, in University Heights.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 6:56 PM, 10.29.2020

Luna Bakery Cafe features the Heights Observer along with fresh-baked fare

Photo by Sally Kramer.

If you’re looking for delicious baked goods, visit Luna, a European-style bakery and cafe serving made-from-scratch pastry and other fare. Located in the Cedar Fairmount district, at 2482 Fairmount Blvd., items are made fresh daily, on the premises, using the best-quality ingredients. Chef and owner Bridget Thibeault encourages everyone to support local businesses like Luna, and to pick up a copy of the Heights Observer while there. For details on Luna's menu and hours, visit, or call 216-231-8585.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 6:55 PM, 10.29.2020

Noble's community projects thrive despite pandemic

Don McBride, Bob Rank, Rhonda Mitchell and Marlene Rank installed a Little Free Library at Central Bible Baptist Church.

The pandemic may be altering the usual social patterns, but several projects in Noble are proving to be creative ways to foster community connections.

The Roanoke-Noble Mini-Park continues to transform into a garden of delights. In the spring and summer, a new, curved landscape wall enfolded new, raised beds for perennials and pollinators. The crushed brick diagonal walk was reworked to include river stone. This fall, a Little Free Library, build by a neighbor, was installed in an area dedicated for kids. Seating there, made of natural materials, is perfectly sized for shorter legs. Children can easily grab a new book from the library’s stock (targeted for them) and sit comfortably to read it. Nearby, two new adult-size picnic tables provide relaxation for adults accompanying their children, while giving the kids a space of their own.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 6:45 PM, 10.29.2020

Organized advocacy is good for our community

I moved to Cleveland Heights in 1979, drawn by its racial integration and lively civic culture—good reasons to move to an aging first-ring suburb. Here, being an engaged citizen is not only essential; it is also rewarding.

Our community is no place to be passive. Our challenges are plenty: We must end state disinvestment in municipal government and public education, overcome the lasting fallout from the housing crisis, build a truly inclusive community, maintain a viable tax base, confront climate change and economic inequality and end the glorification of exurban living. The list goes on.

We are up against a lot. Unfiltered Internet complaints notwithstanding, we have plenty of people who look out for one another, engage in debate and problem-solving, seek to understand complex issues and participate in the political process. People want our community to be a good place to live.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 6:19 PM, 11.01.2020

Cleveland Heights-University Heights Board of Education work session highlights 10-6-20

OCTOBER 6, 2020


  • Community comments 
  • Recognition of AP scholars
  • Superintendent’s update on reopening
  • Treasurer’s report 
  • Board comments and announcements


Board President Jodi Sourini and members Dan Heintz, Malia Lewis, James Posch and Beverly Wright were present. Also attending were Superintendent Elizabeth Kirby, Treasurer Scott Gainer, and George Petkac, director of business operations. After an executive session, the public meeting began at 7:30 p.m. and ended at 8:05 p.m.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 9:09 AM, 11.04.2020

Renewing our core values

The Cleveland Heights Teachers Union was established 75 years ago. I am only the fourth president of our union since 1970. Our primary role is to represent 505 teachers, counselors, social workers, nurses, ancillaries, security monitors, and other staff; but, we are also a presence in the CH-UH community, participating in community events, fundraisers, school functions and political events. Since the beginning, our vision and core values have remained the same: We are professionals whose focus is always on the students we teach.  

Our vision statement says “Cleveland Heights Teachers Union will create, enhance, and sustain optimal teaching and learning conditions through collaboration, political action, community engagement.” This means that we become involved in political races and issues that are important to public education.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 6:13 PM, 11.01.2020

LWV supports CH ballot Issue 6

The Cleveland Heights-University Heights Chapter of the League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland endorses passage of Issue 6 on the Nov. 3, 2020 ballot.

This proposed amendment to the Cleveland Heights City Charter relates to time frames for candidates to qualify for election. The League supports passage of this amendment, as it will assist the city’s transition to an elected mayor form of government, which was approved by a substantial majority of the city’s voters in the November 2019 election.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 3:23 PM, 10.23.2020

A tribute to RBG and women's rights

When RBG passed away, I, like many women of my generation, felt a loss of my personal champion for women’s rights.

When I was 18, I entered into a very brief marriage. My parents gave me the down payment and we purchased a house in Conroe, Texas, where my husband had taken a job. I, too, was working and going to school. Our FHA loan carried a monthly payment of $125. After a year, we moved back to Illinois and got divorced. I decided I could afford the payment if I moved back. My employer was willing to rehire me. So, I notified FHA that I was going to take over the payments myself. They told me I was not permitted to own a house on my own because I was a single woman. They would foreclose on me even if I paid the payments. So, I was unable to own a home.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 5:52 PM, 11.01.2020

Resident asks BOE to examine fringe-benefit expenditures

I read the following into the record of the Oct. 6 CH-UH Board of Education (BOE) meeting:

I am a graduate of Heights High (1970) and have sent children to the high school. I am here to address the recent last best offer to the teachers' union this board voted to implement at its special meeting on Sept. 29.

After that meeting I e-mailed Board President Jodi Sourini with comments and a question about the 10% SERS (State Employees Retirement System) pick up for [Treasurer] Gainer’s and [Superintendent] Kirby’s contracts. She e-mailed back: "Retirement contributions are subject to current contracts and the negotiation process with other unions. Superindentent Kirby and CFO Gainer work under individual contracts and are NOT represented by a union. Their retirement contribution terms have been decided and will remain in effect through the expiration of their contracts."

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 5:51 PM, 11.01.2020

Leave Meadowbrook and Lee space to the dogs

To the Editor:

The open green space. The designated boundaries. A contradiction? Not to four-legged friends having somewhere to share their daily news with one another, as they bark and freely leap and bound. 

What space? Why, [the intersection of] Meadowbrook and Lee! When dogs freely join together, they all have a lot to say. Whatever their dialect, their raucous cacophony brings joy to their ears and satisfaction to their biped companions. 

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 5:47 PM, 11.01.2020

Why I voted for Issue 69

I voted for Issue 69, the CH-UH school levy. I believe every child attending public school has a RIGHT to have a QUALITY education. An education filled with a variety of experiences allowing them to compete on a national stage in whatever field they choose to follow.

Those opposed to supporting public education indicate that students should “make do” with larger class sizes because staff gets cut; children should “deal with” the lack of advanced classes, career tech, clubs and activities that can spark their love of learning. Frankly, those opposed will always be against supporting public schools, no matter the size or purpose of a levy. This letter is not for them.

Public school is for all. Our public schools are majority students of color. If you believe Black Lives Matter, then I challenge you to make sure Black MINDS Matter by voting for Issue 69! I am an African American wife and mother of two daughters. My husband and I have DEMANDED that our daughters have an enriching experience—and CH-UH has delivered from kindergarten through grade 12.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 3:26 PM, 10.23.2020

Weighing in on Issue 69

Once again, we have a school levy on the ballot. Not all families who send their children to private schools are well-to-do, but they prioritize education; many receive scholarships supported by fundraising. 

Among those who are pro-levy are critics who state that some families have never tried the public schools, and have no intention of sending their children to them.

Parents refrain from enrolling their children in public schools not only for the lack of religious instruction. Can you guarantee that district pupils will use polite language, i.e., refrain from “cussing”? That they will dress in a dignified manner, covering parts of the body that should be private? That the music to which they listen won’t have any sexually explicit lyrics, or any that encourage disrespect of elders?

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 3:21 PM, 10.23.2020

Until we can change state funding, we must keep schools strong

Our district is facing substantial budget shortfalls due to our state’s flawed system of school funding, namely EdChoice. Our district is also working with districts across the state to get the state legislature to fix this, but this is a glacially slow process. In the meantime, school levies are how districts across Ohio must make up funding gaps caused by the state's flawed funding model and EdChoice.

Here’s how EdChoice works:

The state mandates student testing to assess public-school performance. However, these tests have repeatedly been shown to tell us way less about how well a school is educating its students and way more about the students’ socioeconomic background. In other words, these tests are designed to target racially and economically diverse districts like ours and declare them “failing.”

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 3:35 PM, 10.23.2020

Investing in the future

We’ve all heard so much about the upcoming school levy that I think we may be lost in the weeds. I want to get us back to basics.

Operating levies are how school districts are funded in the state of Ohio. They are not a sign of a district overspending or needing “more money” for special projects; they are simply the way that schools keep up with basic inflationary increases over time.  

Issue 69 is not about whether our school district is doing a “good” or “bad” job, or whether leadership makes decisions you agree with or not. It’s about one thing and one thing only: whether you believe that children deserve access to a high-quality education. Period. That’s it, that’s all.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 3:27 PM, 10.23.2020

Cleveland Heights City Council meeting highlights 10-5-20

OCTOBER 5, 2020


  • Public comments
  • City manager’s report
  • Police chief’s report
  • Clerk of Council report
  • Sale of bonds
  • Public works items
  • Mayoral compensation
  • October proclamations
  • Council member comments 
  • Committee of the whole meeting


Present were Mayor Jason Stein, Vice Mayor Kahlil Seren, Mary Dunbar, Melody Joy Hart, Davida Russell and Michael Ungar. Also present were Acting City Manager Susanna O’Neil, Clerk of Council Amy Himmelein, and Law Director William Hanna. The meeting lasted 45 minutes.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 8:55 AM, 11.04.2020

Vote 'no' on Issue 69

I urge every Cleveland Heights and University Heights resident to vote a resounding "No" on Issue 69—a sneaky backdoor way to raise our taxes for a lifetime, with no accountability on the part of the school board or the teacher's union.

Taxes in CH-UH are already way too high—they have the highest combined rate in the state of Ohio—not for an upper-class area with wealthy residents, nor for top-rated schools, but for a working-class community with sections of poverty—with some of the lowest home values in the region—and some of the worst schools (ranked 4th from the bottom statewide)!

It's time to say "No More” in a clear way that school board can understand, so its members stop abusing their authority to put levy after levy on the ballot, with no consideration for the economy—the pandemic—or the stress and strain that ordinary families are under—all for failing schools that are often done remotely anyways.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 3:18 PM, 10.23.2020

We must not allow anti-tax agitators to harm our public schools

As people start voting, it is important for everyone to have a clear picture of our school district’s finances. It is easy to get lost in the weeds when anti-tax agitators try to stir up confusion.

There will always be people who want to cut public services, whether it’s schools, libraries, or the post office. They will advocate for funding cuts, then blame the resulting financial crisis on wasteful spending and call for further cuts. That looks a lot like what is going on with our public schools. 

First of all, our school district’s spending is not “out of control.” The Ohio Department of Education calculates each district’s effective cost per pupil, allowing for apples-to-apples comparisons between districts.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 3:32 PM, 10.23.2020

Support for school levy is part of social-justice conversation

To the Editor:

I am a recently retired woman with lots of time on my hands. I spend a certain amount of it walking around our city. We have lovely areas in which to live in Cleveland Heights—I am fortunate to live in one of them—and I take great enjoyment in these walks. Cleveland Heights has some beautiful old homes—homes that would cost far more in other cities. The low property values compared to other suburbs balance out our somewhat higher tax rate.

What saddens me is to see the anti-school-levy signs at some of these lovely properties. Their message of “We love living in the Heights – keep the Heights affordable” rings selfish to me.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 3:15 PM, 10.23.2020

As a 'rich district' CH-UH schools get less state support

What is a “rich district”?

Multiple posts on Nextdoor have said that the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District is a “rich district.” We are not a rich district because of the beautiful houses along North Park, Fairmount, or Euclid Heights boulevards. The state of Ohio classifies us a rich district because of the taxes we have voted in to support our schools.

We are already 46% above the state average for taxes supporting our schools. As such, the state of Ohio says it does not need to contribute as much state fund[ing], since we have taken the burden on ourselves.

The question you need to start asking yourselves is how long can you continue supporting a school district that doesn’t manage its finances properly.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 3:13 PM, 10.23.2020

On behalf of our community, focus on state school funding

Whose numbers should you believe about our public schools’ financial status? Should you believe the information presented by the school district and school board, whose work is controlled by legal mandates, and is audited yearly; which has some expertise in this particular field and is committed to the noble goal of continually improving its practices and outcomes for all of the children it serves? Or should you believe in [information from] a recently created [anti-levy] group that has chosen to engage negatively with an organization in which [its members] previously had little or no interest or investment?

I’ve been actively engaged in our public-school community since my child entered kindergarten 10 years ago, developing wonderful friendships, engaging in countless uplifting and community-building experiences, and witnessing ever so much good in our children, families and staff.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 3:33 PM, 10.23.2020

The $7,074,113 EdChoice deduction was real money lost

Both Eric Silverman and James McMahon, in their Heights Observer opinions, correctly state the EdChoice voucher deduction cost to the CH-UH school district was $7,074,113 for the last school year [2019–20]. As an elected member of the school board I can tell you this amount in the prior year was $4,187,249 [2018–19] and the amount for this school year will be $9,017,250 [2020–21] (based on current data).

What is not correct: McMahon further states the district receives additional EdChoice funding from the state to offset these costs.  

I want to clarify: the district’s state “Foundation Funding” (the amount the state deducts the EdChoice voucher amounts from) was: $21,307,455 [2018–19], $19,891,985 [2019–20] and $19,891,985 [2021–22]. 

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 3:12 PM, 10.23.2020

District treasurer is grossly overcompensated

For 25 years, Scott Gainer has been treasurer of the CH-UH City School District. Since 2000, he has successfully championed six [operating] levies, for a total of more than $40 million, plus the $135-million school facilities bond. Mr. Gainer, who doesn't live in Cleveland Heights or University Heights, has himself greatly benefited from our high taxes. In addition, Mr. Gainer has never submitted a balanced five-year forecast, even though the CH-UH schools receive $22,700 per student in funding (57% higher than the state average).

Below is a summary of his contract and compensation. He clearly has a vested interest in the passing of Issue 69. 

  • His current contract expires on July 31, 2022, but Gainer and the district can mutually agree to terminate or amend it sooner.
  • Ironically, the contract states that the school board “desires to have a written Employment Contract in order to enhance fiscal responsibility and continuity with the schools.”
Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 3:10 PM, 10.23.2020

The students behind the numbers

While I understand paying taxes is a sacrifice, I kindly ask my neighbors to consider the greater sacrifice [that will have to be] made if Issue 69, the CH-UH school levy, does not pass.

I know it’s easy to make things political, or black and white, but this is not about politics. This is about supporting children—children who aren’t able to vote—and it is those children I beg you to consider when you walk into that voting booth. The ones who love going to choir practice after school as it's the only safe haven from their traumatic home life. The ones who play three sports with dreams of being good enough to go to college for free, as they cannot afford to otherwise.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 3:31 PM, 10.23.2020

No one school is right for all

One of the things that makes our city great is its diversity. The differing opinions that come with diverse neighborhoods often shine through in our politics. One big issue is whether one should support Issue 69, to implement a new tax levy for CH-UH public schools. As a parent who truly believes that children are our future, I want what’s best for our kids. My concern is that much of the jargon in support of Issue 69 is misinformative, and does not have the best interests of children in mind. 

I am a product of public schooling; I have no issue with public schools. Children who attend them deserve the best education they can receive. However, I’ve learned that not every school is best for every child. Some children are auditory learners, some are hands-on; some need a slow-paced classroom; some do well in Montessori settings; others learn best online. The list of differences can go on and on.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 6:15 PM, 10.19.2020

Issue 69 is our Netflix

Issue 69 is our Netflix.

I'm a big believer in Netflix. Back in the early 2000s, when I was young and swimming in time, there came this service that would send you DVDs in the mail and charged no late fees. 

It was revelatory. I got a real education in cinema through Netflix: "The Godfather,” "The Exorcist" . . . that "Dungeons and Dragons" movie with Jeremy Irons and Marlon Wayans—a true masterclass.

Amidst all of the children, moves, lost jobs, utilities, mortgages, and questionable binge watching . . . the Netflix bill has been paid. Every month. For 18 years.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 3:30 PM, 10.23.2020

State recommends district undergo performance audit

To the Editor:

As many have noted, we should not approve a tax increase that many of our neighbors cannot afford in the midst of a deep recession with a still-uncertain outcome. Now, there is an additional reason to “Vote No” on Issue 69, the school tax levy.

Due to its “potential to incur a deficit during the first three years of the five-year period” [based on the district’s five-year forecast], the Ohio Department of Education has recommended the CH-UH City School District to the Auditor of State as one that should undergo a performance audit.

This will review the efficiency and effectiveness of operations and assets, and identify cost-saving options for the district. Voters should not approve additional funding increases until the district has addressed structural deficits.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 6:14 PM, 10.19.2020

Correcting the actual EdChoice costs to CH-UH district

To the Editor:

I am writing in response to Eric Silverman’s opinion, published [online at] on Oct 12.

I am not taking a position on the school levy vote, and I have not supported EdChoice vouchers in the past. I respect people making informed decisions for themselves. However, informed decisions need to be made with accurate information, and the cost of EdChoice vouchers as stated in Mr. Silverman’s opinion are absolutely incorrect.

Yes, the 2019–20 deduction for EdChoice vouchers was $7,074,113. In his piece, Mr. Silverman omitted the $4,286,412 the state of Ohio funded for EdChoice vouchers.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 6:13 PM, 10.19.2020

‘Scareborough’ Road addresses Halloween during the pandemic

Scarborough homes may be displaying one of two signs this Halloween.

Scarborough Road in Cleveland Heights is known for its enthusiastic participation in Halloween. Many of the street’s residents put up elaborate displays during the month of October, and residents on the middle block of the street hang a banner on Oct. 31, rechristening the street “Scareborough,” to welcome trick-or-treaters.

Unofficial counts estimate the yearly number of trick-or-treaters on the street at more than 1,000—give or take a few sneaky ghosts and goblins who manage to go through the candy lines twice.

But Halloween 2020 will be different on “Scareborough” due to COVID-19 and the need for social distancing.

Scarborough residents in the middle block created a website to address the changes, and to offer residents resources to try to ensure a safe, fun holiday.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 11:32 AM, 10.18.2020

'Black Excellence' mural transforms Coventry parking lot

 Photo by Donte Washington

On Sept. 26, artists Jimmy Hayden and Wayne Pollard, and a Heights Libraries board member, Gabe Crenshaw, transformed the parking lot by Heights Libraries Coventry branch and Coventry PEACE Park with a mural celebrating the achievements of Black Northeast Ohioans, both past and present.

Embedded in the words “Black Excellence” are images of authors Langston Hughes and Toni Morrison; Oscar-winning actor Halle Berry; athletes LeBron James, Jesse Owens, and Rich Paul; scientist Garrett Morgan; and elected officials Carl Stokes, Louis Stokes, and Stephanie Tubbs-Jones. The mural also gives a nod to the community with the inclusion of the words “Tiger Nation,” and the logos of the city of Cleveland Heights and of the community group Safer Heights.

Crenshaw said the mural’s creation was inspired by recent events. “The most recent killings of Black people, both by law enforcement and civilians who deemed it their duty to police Black people, is what inspired me to take on this project,” she said.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 5:56 PM, 10.12.2020

Lake Erie Ink embarks on its 10th year

Lake Erie Ink: A Writing Space for Youth (LEI) is beginning its 10th year. The Cleveland Heights nonprofit provides creative-expression opportunities and academic support for kids and teens, through community after-school programs, writing workshops, and other creative undertakings.

LEI offers a range of writing workshops for Greater Cleveland youths. This year, because of the pandemic, LEI has moved its workshops and events online. 

Its popular "Stories of Suspense" workshop will be presented via Zoom this year on Saturday, Oct. 24, 10:30 a.m. to noon. One of Cleveland’s own mystery-thriller writers, D.M. Pulley, will lead it.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 3:25 PM, 10.23.2020

EdChoice math leaves district short on funding

In a recent conversation with a Cleveland Heights friend, he told me that, in his attempts to set the record straight on the website Nextdoor, in regard to the impact that EdChoice vouchers are having on the CH-UH City School District budget, he was being accused of being “anti-Jewish.” I found this odd, owing to what I know of him and what he told me he had been saying. 

Nonetheless, I figured that, as a former CH-UH school board member (2014–2017) as well as someone who is Jewish, I would take a look at the numbers myself and see why his concerns about the impact of EdChoice might be misconstrued.

I went to the Ohio Department of Education’s website for the numbers for FY2020 dated 8/31/2020. This report shows the CH-UH school district losing, to EdChoice vouchers, $7,074,113 in aid it would normally receive from the state. There are 1,404 students attending 33 different private schools. It would appear that all but two [schools] have a religious affiliation, and those two have only 19 of the 1,404 students [attending].

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 5:55 PM, 10.12.2020

Farmers to Families program returns Oct. 15

Farmers to Families volunteers helped distribute produce boxes at Heights High this summer.

The Farmers to Families program returns to the Heights, in partnership with Produce Alliance and the Hunger Network of Greater Cleveland. On Oct. 15, 22 and 29, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., families in need can receive a free 35-pound mixed box containing produce, dairy, cooked meats, and milk at the CH-UH City School District’s Wiley Campus (2181 Miramar Road, University Heights).

"We're thrilled to continue providing this service to our community," said Nancy Peppler, the district’s supervisor of Community and School Partnerships. "Especially during this time of uncertainty, I'm thankful that we can help keep food on our neighbors' tables."  

The first phase of the Farmers to Families program took place over 10 weeks, between May and July of this year, in partnership with Perfect Pact. With the help of volunteers from the school community, Heights High was the distribution point for more than 40,000 pounds of fresh produce that went to local families.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 5:55 PM, 10.12.2020

School district has a data gap

The allegation was, frankly, a little heartbreaking: “They do not cheer for the successes of our students and our teachers, and they do not, in any way, identify themselves as being part of Tiger Nation . . .”

At the Aug. 4 CH-UH school board meeting, a spokesperson from the Tiger Nation for Strong Schools PAC noted that another levy ask would be forthcoming in November. The board maintains that the influence and availability of the EdChoice voucher for CH and UH residents is the main culprit of school-funding and enrollment loss.

I listened to that sentence in the spokesperson’s prepared remarks, initially, with grim resignation and sorrow. It is an obstacle not unfamiliar to me as an urban educator—students from high-poverty, highly transient, majority minority districts are often underestimated, underserved and unsupported, not only academically, but vocationally, socially and emotionally. 

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 5:54 PM, 10.12.2020

Immigration advocates celebrate first year with online event

Americans Making Immigrants Safe (AMI) is celebrating its first anniversary with an online celebration and fundraising event on Sunday, Oct. 11, 7 p.m. A group of Cleveland Heights residents founded the nonprofit.

The event, “Cultural Connections,” will feature music by and recipes from 14 immigrants whom AMIS supported in its first year, from Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico and Jordan. 

AMIS’s annual report, to be distributed at the event, shows that the nonprofit raised $47,648.86 in its first year, and used 96.4% of that money to support immigrants; only 3.6% went to “overhead.”

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 5:46 PM, 10.05.2020

LWV endorses passage of CH-UH school levy Issue 69

The Cleveland Heights-University Heights Chapter of the League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland (LWVGC) endorses passage of Issue 69, a proposed 4.8 mill continuing tax levy for current expenses of the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District.

According to the district’s most recent five-year forecast, the district is in financial crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has generated significant and unexpected reductions in state funding, along with newly projected reductions in district property tax collections and interest income. In addition, the district is severely impacted by the state’s EdChoice voucher program, which increased deductions from the district’s state funding despite no decrease in district enrollment.

In the 2020 primary election, voters narrowly defeated a 7.9 mill levy.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 5:46 PM, 10.05.2020

Cleveland Heights launches 'All Are Welcome'

In September, Cleveland Heights launched “All Are Welcome.” Not a slogan or a campaign, the initiative includes physical reminders placed throughout the community, in the form of “All Are Welcome” window displays, bus wraps and videos, as well as discussions on social media on the theme.  

It is intended to be a celebration of the city’s diversity and a display of how much residents value its strong sense of community.

“The city of Cleveland Heights has always been a place that strives to be a city where diversity is valued, and openness, inclusivity and respect are cherished traits,” said Mayor Jason Stein.

“The ‘All Are Welcome’ initiative recommits to the ongoing tradition of our community, that we believe in the value and the importance of diversity in our neighborhoods and in our commercial areas,” said Acting City Manager Susanna Niermann O’Neill.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 5:45 PM, 10.05.2020

Cleveland Heights-University Heights Board of Education work session highlights 9-29-20

SEPTEMBER 29, 2020

Board President Jodi Sourini and members Dan Heintz, Malia Lewis, James Posch and Beverly Wright were present. Also attending were Superintendent Elizabeth Kirby and Treasurer Scott Gainer. 

Approval of resolution concerning union contract provisions

All members of the board spoke at length about the district’s financial constraints due to factors such as EdChoice vouchers and the expenses and loss of district funds due to the COVID-19 virus. Many expressed their respect for the district’s teachers.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 9:18 AM, 11.04.2020

Cleveland Heights-University Heights Board of Education work session highlights 9-22-20

SEPTEMBER 22, 2020


  • School reopening update
  • Treasurer’s report


Board President Jodi Sourini and members Dan Heintz, Malia Lewis, James Posch, and Beverly Wright were present. Also attending were Superintendent Elizabeth Kirby and Treasurer Scott Gainer. After an executive session, the public meeting began at 8 p.m. and ended at 9:40 p.m.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 9:15 AM, 11.04.2020

Cleveland Heights City Council meeting highlights 9-21-20

SEPTEMBER 21, 2020


  • Public comments 
  • City manager’s report
  • Police chief’s report
  • Recycling agreement
  • Mayor and administration compensation
  • Transfer of properties
  • Council member comments 


Present were Mayor Jason Stein, Vice Mayor Kahlil Seren, Mary Dunbar, Melody Joy Hart, Davida Russell and Michael Ungar. Also present were Acting City Manager Susanna O’Neil, Clerk of Council Amy Himmelein, and Law Director William Hanna. The meeting lasted 40 minutes.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 9:01 AM, 11.04.2020

Cleveland Heights – University Heights Public Library Board of Trustees meeting highlights 9-20-20

SEPTEMBER 20, 2020

  • Public comments
  • Financial report
  • Change in public service hours November 3
  • 2020 payroll
  • CARES act
  • Lee Road carpet
  • Washington Blvd. appropriations
  • Service & administration policy
  • Restoration of staff pay and hours
  • COVID-19 code of conduct

Present were President James Roosa, Vice President Dana Fluellen, Patti Carlyle, Gabe Crenshaw, Max Gerboc, Annette Iwamoto, and Vikas Turakhia.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 12:43 PM, 10.13.2020

CH ballot Issue 6 is one step in transition

Cleveland Heights City Hall. Photo by Deanna Bremer Fisher.

On the Nov. 3 election ballot, Cleveland Heights voters are being asked to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on Issue 6—a proposed city charter amendment that reads as follows:

“Shall Article VII, Sections 3, 4, and 5 of the Charter of the City of Cleveland Heights be amended to provide that candidates for all elected offices shall file petitions with the election authorities not later than 4:00 p.m. on the ninetieth (90th) day prior to the date set for the primary election?”

Ballot Issue 6 pertains to the city’s mayoral elections—the first of which will take place in fall 2021. In November 2019, CH voters approved ballot Issue 26, a charter amendment to change the city’s government from the current council-manager form to a mayor-council form, in which residents directly elect the city’s mayor. The winning candidate in November 2021 will take office on Jan. 1, 2022.

This year’s ballot issue is intended to clarify ambiguity in the city’s charter.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 10, Posted 11:04 AM, 10.01.2020

Thank you, from the bottom of Tommy's heart

Tommy's has been offering in-person dining on the patio at the now-closed Panini's.

This has taken longer to write than I intended, mostly because it is hard to put into words the feelings of gratitude I have experienced over the last several months.

Beginning on March 16, and through May 3, Tommy's shut its doors for the longest period ever since our 1972 opening. While we were closed, loyal customers purchased huge amounts of gift cards, without knowing when we would re-open and they could redeem them. This gesture was the first of countless, incredible displays of love and kindness. You showed up to support us when there were so many unknowns. This gesture was such a light in a really dark and scary time.

On May 4 we opened for curbside service only. We had limited staff because many were understandably concerned about returning to work during a global pandemic. Staff that did come back worked in areas with which they were unfamiliar, but they adapted and learned without hesitation. Some of them have been working with me for over 20 years, doing the same jobs, and had to learn new positions. They did this with so much eagerness and patience.

Read Full Story
Volume 13, Issue 10, Posted 10:42 AM, 10.01.2020