Cleveland Heights-University Heights Board of Education regular meeting 3-2-2021
MARCH 2, 2021
- Public comments
- Public reading, policy group A
- Resolution to waive standardized testing
- COVID monitoring and school reopening
- Equity update
- Elementary achievement trends
- Fair School Funding Plan plank
- Five-year forecast
Present were Board President James Posch, members Dan Heintz, Malia Lewis, Jodi Sourini, and Beverly Wright, Superintendent Elizabeth Kirby, and Treasurer Scott Gainer. The meeting was called to order at 7:45 p.m. and was adjourned at 9:17 p.m.
Superintendent Kirby recognized ten students from the middle and high schools who participated in the Black History month celebration. A video of the event can be viewed on the district website.
Athletic Director Joe D’Amato has been certified as a master athletic administrator.
Social workers were recognized for School Social Work Week. Their theme was “Beacon of Hope.”
Sophomore Owen Bisker of the Superintendent’s Cadre reported on athletic team performances and successes. Owen also spoke on the safety of the hybrid arrangements now that students have returned to in-person instruction.
A parent, new to the schools and the community, explained why he and his family chose to live in the Heights and send their child to the district schools. He noted that his neighbors do not seem to know the schools or the school programs. He is impressed with the schools and said that the district’s programs and values need to be better communicated to the community.
Two parents addressed equity issues concerning the security staff. One parent stated that she appreciated Superintendent Kirby’s presentation on equity and equitable education for all students. However, she said that the contract for the security staff was inequitable and that denying hazard pay minimized the value of frontline staff. The other parent said the security guards were not treated fairly in arbitration and that their new contract does not represent a policy of equity.
Public reading, policy group A
Dr. Lombardo presented a second reading for Group Policies, policy group A for approving seven policies. A third reading of these policies next month will precede board action on the policies.
Standardized testing waiver
The board unanimously approved a resolution advocating a waiver of state-mandated standardized testing for 2020-2021. The motion will be submitted to the Ohio General Assembly. The resolution will be distributed to local school boards with the hope that other districts will support the resolution. The resolution can be found on the board of education’s webpage.
The board’s consensus is that Ohio statewide standardized testing, including the time taken to administer tests during the pandemic, will contribute to inaccurate evaluation of students, teachers, and the schools, which will impact funding.
Board members made several other points. Ms. Lewis observed that, although the federal government had not waived standardized testing for this spring, the state needs to limit testing. Ms. Sourini stated it was more beneficial for students to commit time to instruction rather than to standardized tests. Mr. Heintz stated that that the resolution was necessary because the board needed to speak to this issue. Later in the meeting, he commented, in response to community members who suggested opting out of standardized testing to make a statement, that such an action would negatively impact the teachers and school system.
Superintendent Kirby stated that she did not want standardized tests to count toward this year's state report card.
The board unanimously approved a resolution to waive all state-mandated standardized testing for 2020-2021. The resolution will be submitted to the Ohio General Assembly and distributed to local school boards.The board hopes other districts will support it.
COVID monitoring and school reopening
Superintendent Kirby said that COVID cases continue to be monitored and that staff will receive their COVID vaccination the week of March 8. The reopening committees continue to plan for the beginning of fourth quarter on April 6. Instruction will adhere to CDC health and safety guidelines. A remote learning option is available. The return to in-person learning has been positive, and people are adhering to the guidelines in place. A survey for feedback from parents and PTA leadership is being developed.
Later in the meeting, both Ms. Sourini and Mr. Posch had additional comments and questions regarding school reopening plans. Ms. Sourini noted that the pandemic has revealed the disparity between schools that have maintained in-person instruction compared to those that have not. She is interested in plans for summer that will help students to get back on track.
Responding to a request by Mr. Posch, Ms. Kirby said a plan to return elementary students to in-person instruction five days a week for the fourth quarter is coming in April. The community, libraries, and other organizations will be involved. Currently, a plan is in development for targetting student needs. Important decisions will be made for retention based on third-grade reading scores.
Regarding equity programs, Superintendent Kirby referenced the students who presented their poems and speeches at an NAACP presentation. She also was a panelist for part two of the “REAL TALK: Equity and Anti-Racism in Ohio Schools,” sponsored by the League of Women Voters.
The Equity Training Team led sessions for seven different employee groups. This is part of the district’s work to provide the staff with the opportunity to understand the impact of one's identity on themselves and others.
Elementary achievement trends
Superintendent Kirby presented the four-year trend for elementary school grades in core classes. In the 2019-2020 school year, grades of D and F increased. She said that the primary intent now is to provide students with in-person instruction to improve grades.
Fair School Funding Plan plank
President Posch referenced a Plain Dealer article that described the drain of EdChoice on the CHUH school budget. Mr. Posch said he opposes deductions [from state aid] to pay for a political program that, through incremental changes, works to defund public education. He noted that Ohio House Bill 1, the Fair School Funding Plan, is still in committee.
Mr. Posch asked the board if they would support reintroducing a plank to the Ohio School Boards Association to support Ohio HB1.
All board members supported adding such a plank. Mr. Heintz stated that it is fundamentally wrong to divert public funds to private education. Ms. Sourini said that the system was not sustainable and needed to be opposed. Ms. Wright agreed, saying "Now is not the time to throw in the towel." Ms. Lewis hoped the action would show unified support of HB1.
Mr. Gainer presented the five-year forecast and noted changes from the previous month related to supplemental contracts. The board approved the forecast, and a deficit plan will be resubmitted to the Ohio Department of Education.
LWV Observer: Rosemarie Fairman.
Meetings are streamed on the district’s YouTube channel and recorded for later viewing. They can also be viewed at: https://stream.meet.google.com/stream/8f442366-4bbd-4160-aaeb-ece0f7ab6534.