Cleveland Heights-University Heights Board of Education meeting highlights 5-2-2023

MAY 2, 2023 work session


  • School climate overview
  • Safety planning
  • Social and emotional supports
  • Multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS)
  • Climate root cause analysis (RCA)
  • Enhancing communication
  • Board comments


Present were President Beverly Wright, Dan Heintz, Malia Lewis, James Posch, and Jodi Sourini. Also present were Superintendent Elizabeth Kirby and Treasurer Scott Gainer. The meeting lasted about two hours fifteen minutes.

School climate overview 

The superintendent gave an overview beginning with a May 2022 survey by the Institute for Educational Sciences followed by statistics for the district. She and the administrative team then presented the steps being taken and initiatives being considered to improve the school climate. This overview and the district’s plans to address the issues are summarized in a PowerPoint, which was presented at this meeting and is available on BoardDocs on the agenda for this meeting.$file/2023.05.02%20May%202023%20Work%20Session%20-%20Climate.pdf

Superintendent Kirby reviewed types of disruptive behavior, fighting and violence, and harassment. She noted that the district considers pre-fighting behavior, such as arguing and bullying, as fighting violence and presented data from the past seven years on disobedient/disruptive behavior, fighting/violence, and harassment/intimidation.

The greatest challenge in the middle school population is disobedient/disruptive behavior. This trend is attributed to school closings and online learning during the COVID crisis.

The superintendent, Board President Wright, and seven union members have met and agreed to provide more training next year for teachers and staff on the student code of conduct, revisit possibilities of metal detectors, use a monthly summit meeting for discipline review, meet quarterly as required by the Office of Civil Rights, provide refresher training on de-escalation, and revisit alternative educational models for students with severe social-emotional-learning (SEL) behavioral needs.

Multiple climate planning teams in the schools have reviewed the data and developed next steps.

Safety planning

Dr. Paul Lombardo, assistant superintendent, presented the threat assessment management (TAM) plan that has been developed to provide authority, tools, and information to anticipate and prevent violence at all locations and activities. Each building has a team trained under the nationally recognized Comprehensive School Threat Assessment Guidelines. Threat assessment documents are available on Infinite Campus:

George Petkac, director of business and operations, presented the Ohio K-12 Safety Grant Program, which provides a total of $1 million in grants — $100,000 to each school in the district. Money is also obligated for additional cameras at those locations, replacement of exterior doors, and installation of safety glass film on entrance windows. Additional grant applications have been submitted including initiatives for Ohio peace officer training, a camera management and mapping system, and smoke/vape detectors. Mr. Petkac emphasized the need for all management systems to be up to date.

The Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI) has trained staff to de-escalate situations. [According to its website, CPI is a leader in evidence-based de-escalation and crisis prevention training, including for the educational environment.] Two CPI trainers are being added from the district safety and security team, and four CPI trainers are being recertified.

The city of Cleveland Heights offers two police officers to the district, one during the day and one at night. The district is still working to secure a school resource officer, which is a law enforcement officer who is trained and committed to work in a school.

Social and emotional supports

Dr Felisha Gould, assistant superintendent, presented the social and emotional supports presently in the schools. Social workers and counselors provide social emotional learning (SEL) lessons, facilitate small group and individual counseling sessions, partner with caregivers, assist with developing and implementing behavior plans, and support teachers in managing difficult behaviors.

Multi-tiered systems of supports (MTSS)

Paul Rusinko, student services coordinator, presented a MTSS that is a framework to align academic, behavioral, social and emotional learning, and mental health supports to benefit all students. Student Assistance Support Teams review student academics, attendance, and climate data. They discuss needs and determine interventions.

Root cause analysis (RCA) 

Karen Liddell-Anderson, director of student services, presented the climate RCA performed for the secondary schools. To conduct the RCA, committee members agreed on a task, followed the 4-step RCA consensus-based process, determined underlying sources of the problems or concerns, proposed solutions, and determined next steps. In identifying contributing issues, it is important to identify root causes that are within the district’s control.

Three root causes have been identified:

1)    Community partnerships and wrap-around services that could offer support services and resources geared toward the emotional needs of students are lacking. 

2)    Not all school-level staff are trained in using conflict resolution and de-escalation techniques or strategies. Not all students are taught conflict resolution skills. 

3)    The Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) framework is neither fully executed nor implemented with fidelity across all district schools.

An elementary school climate RCA will be conducted in May. Then the RCA committee will condense, prioritize, and rank solutions from the districtwide, secondary, and elementary RCA and propose the finalized next steps to the superintendent.

Enhancing communication 

Cathan Cavanaugh, supervisor of communications, presented recommendations to enhance school communication. She stressed the importance of keeping Infinite Campus updated so parents receive important messages.

Board comments

Board members agreed that the middle schools need immediate attention. The school climate problems need work and will not change overnight. Ms. Wright stated that the culture must be changed, and it is the responsibility of both the community and the schools.

Upcoming meetings include a regular board meeting on May 9 and a work session on May 16.

LWV Observer: Rosemarie Fairman.

Documents for all board meetings can be accessed from the Board of Education webpage: Go to “BoardDocs” in the menu; on BoardDocs go to “MEETINGS” in the top menu; click on “Agenda.” Board meetings are livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel ( and recorded for later viewing.

Other notes:

These acronyms may help when reading the PowerPoint slides for the climate work session or viewing the board meeting video.

TAM – Threat Assessment Management

CSTAG -Comprehensive School Threat Assessment Guidelines 

SRO – School Resource Officer (specially trained police officer)

SEL – Social-Emotional Learning

NSPRA – National School Public Relations Association

RCA – Root Cause Analysis

CPI – Crisis Prevention institute

MTSS-Multi-Tiered Systems of Supports

PBIS- Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports

SCOC – School Code of Conduct

PLP – Personal Learning Plans

DLT – District Leadership Team

TAP – Teacher/Administrator Partnership

Restorative Practices  – a field that studies how to strengthen relationships between individuals and in social connections within communities.

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Volume 16, Issue 6, Posted 9:32 AM, 05.15.2023