How to walk to school

When my husband and I moved to Cleveland Heights from Chicago nearly six years ago, we assumed we would send our son to the local public school. We wavered after hearing mixed messages about the schools. We agonized over the question: Should we send our son to private school? After three years of back and forth, I still wanted to send my son to the public school. My son could make friends in the neighborhood. He could walk to school. I wanted to invest my energy in the community and its schools.

Now the decision is made; my son will go to Fairfax Elementary in the fall. Any doubt that lingered was replaced by inspiration after I read, How to Walk to School: Blueprint for a Neighborhood School Renaissance, by Jacqueline Edelberg and Susan Kurland. It describes the work of families in a Chicago community and a visionary school principal. Together, over five years, they transformed the Louis Netttlehorst Elementary, one of the worst performing public schools, into one of the best. Kurland was the new principal and Edelberg a neighborhood mom.

Our situation is far rosier. However, the book, How to Walk to School, inspires with an outline for thinking big and doing better, for more effectively mobilizing and organizing our community to support our schools and the students who attend them. If we work together, we will benefit our students, our neighborhoods and maybe even our property values.

I challenge us to live up to the model of the Nettlehorst community. Ours is an impressive and progressive community with a broad and beautiful mix of people and resources. Let us bring the best of all we have to offer to better support all of our schools.

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Join us for the following events sponsored by Reaching Heights, the Heights Libraries, the Heights PTA Councils and others.

  •  Jacqueline Edelberg will speak at 5 p.m., June 15 in the auditorium of Cuyahoga Community College, Metro campus for the City Club in the City. There is no charge, but reservations are required. Call the City Club at 216-621-0082.
  •  Reaching Heights will hold a community meeting with Jacqueline Edelberg at 7 p.m. on June 16 at the Lee Road Library. 
  •  Heights Libraries will hold discussion groups on July 14, and August 19, both at 7 p.m. in the Brody/Nelson Room at the Lee Road Library.

To get involved, or for updates, contact Joan Spoerl at

Joan Spoerl, M.A.T., is an early childhood consultant and proud resident of Cleveland Heights.

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Volume 3, Issue 6, Posted 12:25 PM, 05.18.2010