Keep our community strong by protecting Heights schools

Most people who live in the Heights will agree that this is a special place. Our communities, with their focus on the arts and culture, and their commitment to diversity and integration, are unique among American suburbs.

One of our great strengths is a populace that values education and that invests in the education of all of its young people. Our community’s commitment to our schools has been clearly demonstrated in recent years by the strong support shown for critically important levies and issues that fund the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District. 

Citizens for Our Heights Schools is a volunteer-led community organization that works to pass those levies and issues, and we do this because we know that our schools and teachers strive to provide a world-class education to every student who walks through their doors. Moreover, we strongly believe that this community’s strength depends on protecting our schools and our students.   

As parents, we see firsthand the quality educational experience our children receive, and we also know that the CH-UH school district has done an exemplary, and widely recognized, job of managing taxpayers’ money. Thanks to exceptional administrators like Chief Financial Officer Scott Gainer—who last year was named the best CFO of any public school district, governmental agency or nonprofit organization in Northeast Ohio by Crain’s Cleveland—the district managed to stretch the dollars from the 2011 operating levy to last an extra year. 

Like school districts across Ohio, though, our district is forced to seek voter approval for a new levy this year in order to simply maintain the current level of services and programming.   

The school district is living within its means. It has cut more than $3 million in spending since 2010, including reducing staff at all levels. Teachers, administrators and all staff members have agreed to only a minimal cost-of-living increase for the next two years. Furthermore, the district administration is committed to an additional $500,000 in cuts, even if this levy passes.

But Ohio’s school funding system means that the school district hasn’t seen a penny more in annual operating funds than it received in 2011—all while costs have risen, just as they have for all of us. Not only has funding flatlined, but schools have also had to deal with state funding cuts of more than $2 million, decreased property tax collections, and the diversion of money away from our public schools to often sub-par charter schools.

Our schools have much to be proud of, including a rising graduation rate, world-renowned instrumental and vocal music programs, small class sizes so teachers can meet individual student needs, foreign language instruction that begins as early as kindergarten, gifted programming in every building, and strong extracurricular activities to engage the whole student.

This is why it is imperative that we yet again vote FOR public education by approving the May 5 levy, which, at 5.9 mills, is the smallest request the district has made in more than a decade. As the cornerstone of our democracy, a strong system of public schools is crucial to the health and wealth of our communities and all their residents. Whether or not people have children in the public schools, the successes or failures of the district impact every one of us.

Let’s protect what matters most to us. Let’s keep the Heights strong.

To volunteer or learn more, please visit the Citizens for Our Heights Schools website at

Krissy Dietrich Gallagher

Krissy Dietrich Gallagher is a Cleveland Heights resident and the parent of two sons who attend Fairfax Elementary School. As a graduate of the Heights schools and a former Coventry Elementary School teacher, she is proud to serve as one of three co-chairs for this spring’s levy. She is joined by community volunteers Patti Carlyle of University Heights, a Canterbury Elementary School parent, and Alvin Saafir of South Euclid, whose three grown daughters attended CH-UH schools.

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Volume 8, Issue 3, Posted 2:52 PM, 02.26.2015