School News From Reaching Heights

Reaching Heights hosts annual Spelling Bee April 10

On April 10, at 7 p.m., Reaching Heights will host its 33rd Annual Adult Community Spelling Bee at the Heights High Auditorium.

In this popular event, up to 25 three-person teams compete for the coveted Bee Trophy—and earn bragging rights for a whole year.

Proceeds from this friendly competition enable Reaching Heights to support teachers, enrich students and connect the community to Heights public schools. This year, the funds raised will support the Many Villages Tutoring program and the Role Model Speakers program. 

To help support reaching Heights, form a team of three and vie for the thrill of victory!

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Volume 17, Issue 4, Posted 11:17 PM, 03.11.2024

Event connects potential employers with students

Do you need to hire employees for summer 2024? Would it help if those new employees arrived with some preparation and compensation? The Heights CTE Consortium and Youth Opportunities Unlimited (Y.O.U.) are ready to help connect businesses with talented young people who need work experience.

On Feb. 1, 40 people gathered at the Deborah Delisle Options Center to attend Heights High’s Business Connection event. A collaboration of Reaching Heights, FutureHeights, the Heights CTE Consortium, and Y.O.U., the event brought business owners, managers and community leaders together to learn about high school career and technical education (CTE) programs and youth career-development programs.

Carmen Daniel, Heights CTE Consortium’s business and community engagement specialist, highlighted the wide variety of programs offered to high school juniors and seniors in the five-district consortium comprising Cleveland Heights-University Heights, Shaker Heights, Warrensville Heights, Maple Heights, and Bedford. 

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Volume 17, Issue 3, Posted 2:55 PM, 02.28.2024

Student musicians connect with community

During the second week of summer, 75 instrumental music students from the CH–UH City School District’s middle and elementary schools were not quite ready to put their instruments away. Instead, they attended the 17th annual Reaching Heights Summer Music Camp, learning from alumni and experts in the community, that culminates in a full orchestra performance.

Every summer, Reaching Heights organizes a weeklong, affordable music-immersion experience for the district's middle and elementary schools’ orchestra and band students.

Over the course of the five-day camp, the student musicians participate in orchestra rehearsals; work in their instrument group in a master class and a sectional rehearsal; participate in a chamber group; and explore a new musical interest such as jazz, a percussion ensemble, ukulele or choir. This is all in preparation for a recital on Friday that features the chamber groups, and a final full orchestra performance on Saturday morning.

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Volume 16, Issue 8, Posted 9:25 AM, 07.18.2023

Dewey Decimators wins 7th Reaching Heights Bee

Can you spell nephelometric? Dewey Decimators, representing Friends of the Heights Libraries, can and did to win the 2023 Reaching Heights Adult Community Spelling Bee on May 10.

The team has won a total of seven Reaching Heights Bees, and most of its victories belong to spellers Chris Mentrek and Victor Rosenberg.

This year 14 teams—representing the Cleveland Orchestra Women’s Chorus; Friends of the Heights Libraries; the cities of Cleveland Heights, University Heights, and South Euclid; neighborhood groups; business districts; and school PTAs—gathered for a silly yet serious spelling competition.

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Volume 16, Issue 6, Posted 1:59 PM, 05.23.2023

Register now for summer music camp

Registration is now open for Reaching Heights' Summer Music Camp, June 12–17. This year's camp will be held at Cleveland Heights High School.

It is open to 85 young musicians, in grades six through eight, who live in the CH-UH City School District, and who have at least two years of experience playing an instrument.

The camp fee is $200, and scholarship support is available.

The one-week camp will bring together local musicians and music educators to create a fun music-immersion experience.

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Volume 16, Issue 3, Posted 10:11 AM, 02.28.2023

Pharis, others, honored for work with schools

The Reaching Heights Friend of Public Education for 2022 is Stewart Pharis, a generous volunteer and dedicated supporter of the Cleveland Heights-University Heights public schools. Also receiving Reaching Heights awards for 2022 were the Greater Cleveland Food Bank (GCFB) and four school district employees—Caryl Yoo, Edie Fiala, Wendy Burkey and Heather Higham.

“Over the past 20 years," said Pharis, "I have had the privilege of being able to work with so many terrific children, and to form relationships with the dedicated and caring adults, both teachers and volunteers, who work so hard to educate them.”

As a PTA member at Fairfax, his children’s elementary school, Pharis stepped up to serve as treasurer and co-president, and served again as secretary and treasurer of Roxboro Middle School PTA. He accepted the role as the first volunteer coordinator for the then new Many Villages Tutoring Program, and tutored at every grade level for nine years. He also assisted Joan Levin, art teacher, in creating and teaching a program that introduced fourth-graders to stained glass and the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and other Prairie School artists. 

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Volume 16, Issue 1, Posted 10:14 AM, 12.29.2022

Heights High student-athletes make National Signing Day commitments

Cleveland Heights High School student-athletes signed official college letters of intent during the Feb. 2 National Signing Day ceremony, held in front of their families, teammates, coaches and friends, inside the Heights High gymnasium.

The group comprised 14 football players, two soccer players, one baseball player, and one swimmer.

Athletic Director Joseph D'Amato said, "This is a very exciting day for our Athletic Department and student-athletes. You're looking at our next generation of athletes that are heading off to college and continuing [the] tradition we've set for success here."

The signing period for other interscholastic sports will be held in April.

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Volume 15, Issue 4, Posted 3:16 PM, 03.09.2022

Volunteer one project at a time with 'One And Done'

Reaching Heights’ new program, One And Done, provides information about volunteer opportunities with the school district. It’s for anyone willing to volunteer for projects that support Heights public schools, who can’t make a weekly or monthly commitment.

Volunteers choose which projects interest them, and the days and times that work with their schedules. These are “one and done” commitments, with no pressure to take on future volunteer work.

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Volume 15, Issue 3, Posted 10:42 AM, 03.01.2022

Communion of Saints celebrates students' achievements

The eighth-graders at Communion of Saints School have been busy completing high school applications and entrance exams. Based on those exam results, some students received scholarship offers, in various amounts, from the high schools for which they took entrance exams:

  • Brady Foss: Benedictine High School Scholarship – Merit Scholar
  • Victor Gideon: St. Ignatius High School Scholarship - Ignatian Scholar; Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin Scholarship - Prestigious Merit Scholarship
  • Charlie Hubbard: St. Ignatius High School Scholarship - Ignatian Scholar
  • Gabe Ewen: St. Ignatius High School Scholarship - Ignatian Scholar
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Volume 14, Issue 2, Posted 11:48 AM, 01.28.2021

Reaching Heights seeks new board members

In January, the Reaching Heights Board of Directors will have three open positions, and is seeking to fill them.

The board meets on the second Tuesday of each month to share ideas and consider projects that help connect the community to the Heights public schools, enrich students and support teachers.

The board comprises a maximum of 20 people, all of whom live or work within the CH-UH City School District.

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Volume 13, Issue 12, Posted 11:18 AM, 12.02.2020

CH-UH City School District updates

Updates from the CH-UH City School District are available at

Here is the most recent news:

Breakfast and lunch pickup

During the COVID-19 school closure, many children may face food insecurity. The district's food service partner, AVI Food Systems, has created a plan for meal distribution.  

Each weekday, beginning Tuesday, March 17, breakfast and lunch can be picked up from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The setup will be “grab and go” in school entrances to prevent patrons from congregating in buildings. This food is available for all children, regardless of whether or not they attend Heights public schools.

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Volume 13, Issue 4, Posted 1:33 PM, 03.17.2020

Scooter McGruder tackles reading with Heights students

On March 6, retired NFL player Michael “Scooter” McGruder visited Noble and Oxford elementary schools. As part of NFL Tackles Reading, in partnership with Church on the Heights and Reaching Heights, McGruder shared his story and encouraged students to dream big and take their education seriously.

“I graduated from Cleveland Heights High School and I got to play in the NFL, like Jason and Travis Kelce, who both played for teams that won a Super Bowl," McGruder told students. "The next successful person from Heights High could be you or you or you!”

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Volume 13, Issue 4, Posted 4:07 PM, 04.01.2020

Ohio HB 305 co-sponsor to speak on proposed revisions to school funding

State Rep. John Patterson, co-author of bipartisan legislation to remake Ohio’s school funding system, will speak at a Feb. 10 forum at Cleveland Heights High School, “School Funding in Ohio: The Possibilities and Challenges of Creating a Solution.”

The 7 p.m. event is free and open to the public.

Rep. Patterson (Democrat – Jefferson) and Rep. Bob Cupp (Republican – Lima) led a three-year process to develop state policy that complies with the 1997 DeRolph decision, which declared Ohio’s funding system unconstitutional.

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Volume 13, Issue 2, Posted 5:35 PM, 01.31.2020

Access to information is topic of school event

About 50 people from at least nine organizations joined Superintendent Liz Kirby and key members of her staff for Access to Information About the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Schools on Oct. 2.

The program used a format of three rounds of 20-minute conversations that enabled participants to ask more questions, and meet more people. It left Chris Ruma-Cullen, director of Bellefaire Social Advocates for Youth (SAY) begging for more. She met 17 people and said, “If there had been more rounds, I would have met even more new people!”

The first round focused on electronic and printed information, such as websites, e-newsletters, printed calendars, brochures and fliers. The second round moved into human connections and the communications/decision-making structure. The third round reviewed partnership scenarios and the process for realizing specific projects together.

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Volume 12, Issue 11, Posted 2:19 PM, 11.01.2019

Dewey Decimators are three-peat spelling bee champions

Congratulations to the Dewey Decimators, representing and sponsored by Friends of the Heights Libraries, for winning the Reaching Heights Adult Community Spelling Bee for the third year in a row. This year Chris Mentrek and Victor Rosenberg, missing their teammate Susan Marshall, battled through five rounds to win on the word “mnemonically,” the adverbial form of mnemonic, which means assisting or intended to assist memory.

More than a spelling competition or fundraiser, the Reaching Heights Spelling Bee is a community-building event in support of high quality public education.

Unlike traditional spelling bees, this is a team competition of at least two, and at most three, adults who put their heads together to determine their best guess of a word’s spelling.

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Volume 12, Issue 6, Posted 10:01 AM, 05.14.2019

Reaching Musical Heights returns to Severance Hall

The Reaching Musical Heights concert will fill Severance Hall on Tuesday, March 5, starting at 7:30 p.m. More than 550 student musicians in grades 3 though 12 will perform vocal and instrumental pieces for an adoring audience.

"This remarkable event is amazing to see and hear, even if you are not a family member or friend of a performer," said Susie Kaeser, former executive director of Reaching Heights. "It is an inspirational community celebration of excellent music education in the CH-UH public schools."    

Every four years since 2003, Reaching Heights, a small nonprofit that connects the community to the CH-UH public schools, coordinates this formal event in partnership with the school district.

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Volume 12, Issue 2, Posted 10:20 AM, 02.01.2019

Stone Oven and Coventry P.E.A.C.E. receive Reaching Heights awards

On Dec. 11, Reaching Heights, the local nonprofit that connects the community to the Heights public schools, held its annual meeting in the former Coventry School building, home to the new Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Campus (a collaborative of seven arts and community organizations).  

Each year, Reaching Heights invites members of the community to hear the highlights of the organization’s year and to recognize individuals and local businesses for the extraordinary support they give to the Heights public schools.

Reaching Heights' board and staff members thanked Ashlie Dyer for her six years as an active board member, vice president and president. Dyer, a Heights alumna and avid Heights Tiger, will be missed for her energy, enthusiasm and endless good ideas. Mazie Adams was introduced as the newest member of the organization’s board of directors. 

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Volume 12, Issue 2, Posted 9:46 AM, 01.29.2019

Spelling bee will benefit Reaching Heights

Join in the fun at the annual Reaching Heights Community Spelling Bee on Wednesday, April 18. This year’s bee will take place on the big stage at the newly renovated Cleveland Heights High School auditorium.

Come watch your neighbors—attorneys, professors, city council members, business owners—as they participate in a serious spelling competition to benefit Reaching Heights’ public education programs.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for this free, family-friendly event. Prior to the beginning of competition at 7 p.m., raffle tickets and refreshments will be available for purchase.

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Volume 11, Issue 4, Posted 10:31 AM, 03.27.2018

Reaching Heights connects school and community groups

On Oct. 25, Reaching Heights brought together 58 people representing 38 community groups to discuss working more closely together on the common goal of public school success. The event, Improving School-Community Communication, took place in the cafeteria of the newly renovated Cleveland Heights High School.

The program began with the construction of a communications map. On the map were large circles labeled School District, Religious Institutions, City Governments, Heights Libraries, Non-Profits and Advocacy Groups, and Community Organizations.

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Volume 10, Issue 12, Posted 11:04 AM, 11.30.2017

Reaching Heights event aims to improve school-community communications

Last spring, Reaching Heights invited 73 people—the leaders and active volunteers of groups that support public school students—to participate in several listening sessions about improving communication between the community and the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District. In all, representatives of 26 school-community groups were invited to these meetings, which resulted in a plan to reach out to more people to build stronger relationships and a sustainable communication network.

On Wednesday, Oct. 25, 6:30–8:30 p.m., the public is invited to attend Improving School-Community Communications, a meeting sponsored by Reaching Heights. This open forum will take place in the Cleveland Heights High School cafeteria.

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Volume 10, Issue 10, Posted 12:29 PM, 10.01.2017

Dewey’s Decimators win Reaching Heights bee

By round seven, three teams remained on stage at the Reaching Heights Community Spelling Bee held on April 19 at Heights High: the Noble Queen Bees, representing teachers at Noble Elementary School; the Coventry Word Outlaws, representing Mac Back’s Books, Camp Firebird/Roosevelt, and the nonprofits in the Coventry School building; and Dewey’s Decimators, representing Friends of the Heights Libraries.

Adorned in wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses and feather boas, the Noble Queen Bees misspelled “coprolalia.” Next, the Coventry Word Outlaws—dressed as Old West outlaws, and holding stuffed toy horses—misspelled “apocope.” Dewey’s Decimators, wearing green hard hats, won the bee when they correctly spelled “inveigle,” which means to entice or win over by wiles.

The winning team—spellers Victor Rosenberg, Susan Beatty and Chris Mentrek—took home the Big Plastic Bee trophy, which will be on display at the Lee Road Library until next year, and gift certificates to the Blossom Music Festival and Dewey’s Pizza on Lee Road.

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Volume 10, Issue 6, Posted 5:59 PM, 05.08.2017

Reaching Heights hosts 26th annual community spelling bee on April 19

Reaching Heights invites Heights residents to celebrate public education, and the community, at its annual Reaching Heights Community Spelling Bee on Wednesday, April 19, 6:30–9 p.m. This free, family-friendly event will take place at Heights High’s Wiley campus auditorium.

Audience members will have the opportunity to listen to a string quartet, take chances on the raffle, and buy refreshments before the competition begins at 7 p.m. Then, they can choose their favorite team and share the tension as they deliver their guesses, letter by letter, hoping for the “ding” of success.
Three judges will adjudicate the spelling competition, in which 22 teams comprising three brave adults each will endure silly antics such as team costumes and a musical round.

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Volume 10, Issue 5, Posted 7:01 PM, 04.10.2017

Reaching Heights honors community partners at annual meeting

Hellos, goodbyes and thank-yous dominated the Reaching Heights Annual Meeting in January. Two board members finished their terms and five new board members were welcomed.

The evening’s theme, Honoring A Caring Community, continued with the presentation of the Friend of Public Education award to two community members who happen to be a married couple, Dave Tabor and Saroya Queen-Tabor.

Next, Bryan Barrett, owner of Bryan’s Marathon and a Heights High alumnus, received the Outstanding Community Partner award for employing Heights students and supporting school activities.

Finally, the Reaching Heights staff and board, and the community, thanked Lisa Hunt, who resigned as assistant director of Reaching Heights to accept a parent-engagement position with the CH-UH City School District.

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Volume 10, Issue 4, Posted 10:40 AM, 03.18.2017

Reaching Heights asks school district superintendent about recent staff reductions

The recent reduction in force (RIF) of CH-UH City School District teachers and administrators has prompted questions and concerns from the community. Krista Hawthorne, director of Reaching Heights, interviewed Talisa Dixon, superintendent of CH-UH schools, to clarify the decision-making process and anticipated results of these personnel changes. [Editor's note: The Heights Observer is publishing the interview in full, below, with minimal edits.]

Hawthorne: As you come to the end of your second year as superintendent of the CH-UH City School District, how would you describe the expectations of our community for our public schools?

Dixon: My experience here has confirmed what I knew from the start—this is a strong, passionate community with high expectations for our schools. This is why I chose to live here, so I could experience all that CH-UH offers. I enjoy talking with community members when I’m out shopping, at restaurants or just chatting with my neighbors. This community is engaged with our schools and embraces our programs, and it was my goal to be a part of that. Great communities deserve great schools, and I believe we are making strides to achieve this.

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Volume 9, Issue 7, Posted 5:08 PM, 05.23.2016

Phairphax Spellerz win Reaching Heights 'Silver' Spelling Bee

The Phairphax Spellerz, representing Fairfax Elementary School, clinched the coveted plastic bee trophy in the ninth round of the 25th annual Reaching Heights Adult Community Spelling Bee on April 20. Winning team members Kate Macleod, Julie Powell and Kirsten Parkinson correctly spelled the word “perovskite”—a mineral comprised of an oxide of calcium, titanium and rare earth elements. Honoring the 25th anniversary of this fundraising event, the “Silver Bee” included a visual history projected onscreen, silver-themed spelling words, and two costumed “silver bees” who shared silver-wrapped candies with contestants and audience members.

The competition started strong with a perfect first round in which every team spelled its first word correctly. All but two of the original 21 teams held on through round three—the Musical Round—in which teams could advance in spite of one incorrect, missing or extra letter, provided they sang the spelling of their word.

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Volume 9, Issue 6, Posted 10:58 AM, 04.26.2016

Reaching Heights honors award winners at annual meeting

“Behind Every Great Student is a Great Community.” This was more than a slogan at the Reaching Heights annual meeting on Dec. 3. Ashlie Dyer, incoming board president, described Reaching Heights’s posters, hanging in businesses around the community, that advertise the slogan, and celebrate the teachers, coaches, parents and community members who represent everyone that supports Heights children. At the meeting, two members of this “great community” received awards for their extraordinary efforts.

Zoraba Ross, Heights High’s administrative principal, presented the Outstanding Community Partner Award to Zagara’s Marketplace for its decades of generosity and active support of public school students. Accepting the award, John Zagara spoke about dramatic changes in grocery retailing—competition, consolidation and consumerism—and the special role of the few remaining independent, family-owned grocery stores, like Zagara’s Marketplace.

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Volume 9, Issue 1, Posted 11:05 AM, 12.22.2015

Reaching Heights brings groups together in support of elementary schools

According to Lisa M. Hunt, assistant director of Reaching Heights, “Behind every great student is a great community!” Reaching Heights, a nonprofit support organization to Heights public schools, is launching a new project called Community Care Teams, to build collaboration among service providers to the Cleveland Heights-University Heights elementary schools.

Family Connections, PTAs, LINK Parent Ambassadors, Heights Libraries, and Reaching Heights programs—Many Villages Tutoring, Role Models, and ECAG (Exceptional Children’s Advocacy Group)—are among the many nonprofit organizations and community groups that provide enrichment services to each of the seven elementary schools in the CH-UH City School District. Reaching Heights is seeking to work with these organizations to increase the success of their efforts through better communication and mutual understanding.

“Our hope is to work smarter together and discover better ways to support each other. We want to remove any mystery about who we are, the work we do, and how the community can join us in our efforts to boost student achievement,” said Hunt.

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Volume 8, Issue 10, Posted 6:34 PM, 09.30.2015

Dewey's Decimators triumph at 24th Annual Reaching Heights Spelling Bee

By correctly spelling “harridan,” Dewey’s Decimators, the team from the Heights Libraries—Kathy Farago, Aurora Martinez and Victor Rosenberg—became champions of the 24th annual Reaching Heights Adult Community Spelling Bee, held at Heights High School on April 15. The event raised $11,000 for the nonprofit Reaching Heights.

The competition was fierce, lasting into an intense eighth round with three teams still vying for the win—last year’s defending champions, the Know Nothings, representing the Heights High PTA; Upper Case, representing faculty and staff at Case Western Reserve University; and Dewey’s Decimators.

The 20 teams that competed this year represented school and community groups who all contributed funds to join the event.

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Volume 8, Issue 5, Posted 11:44 AM, 04.21.2015

"Know Knothings" upset defending champions in Reaching Heights 23rd annual adult community spelling bee

The “Know Knothings” team, representing Heights High PTA, upset the defending champions, the Barratrous Orthographers, to win the 23rd Annual Reaching Heights Adult Community Spelling Bee at Wiley Middle School on April 2.

The winning team comprised eight-time participant Anne Kugler and seven-time participants Fran Lissemore and Jim Wright. The “Know Knothings” are two-time champions, last winning the Bee in 2009.

The champions seized victory in the seventh round, correctly spelling the word “dieffenbachia,” a genus of poisonous tropical American plants named after Ernst Dieffenbach, a 19th-century German horticulturist.

The “Know Knothings” narrowly defeated three teams that shared second place: “Barratrous Orthographers,” a team of lawyers representing Squire, Sanders & Dempsey—Bonnie Bealer, Becky Bynum and John Lazzaretti; the “Ms. Spellers,” a team of parents representing Roxboro Elementary and Middle Schools—Malia Lewis, Andrea Lynn and Brenna Lisowski; and the Coventry Word Outlaws, bedecked in cowboy hats, boots and bandannas—Cynthia Larsen, Peggy Latkovitch and Joe Mendes.

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Volume 7, Issue 5, Posted 1:01 PM, 04.08.2014

Thank-A-Teacher program enables community to recognize outstanding educators

As the school year winds down, Reaching Heights, a nonprofit that supports the CH-UH public schools, is holding its annual Thank-A-Teacher drive to recognize teachers and foster an atmosphere of appreciation in our schools.

Parents and community members can pay tribute to a Heights teacher by making a contribution to Reaching Heights in honor of that teacher. The teacher receives a note of thanks, the teacher’s principal is notified about the honor, and Reaching Heights uses the donated money to fund its small grants program to enable school-based projects at CH-UH schools.

“Teachers are vital to the success of all students,” said Patrick Mullen, director of Reaching Heights. “Reaching Heights invites the community to thank the people involved in creating safe and productive school days for our children for the work they do.”

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Volume 6, Issue 6, Posted 2:24 PM, 05.10.2013

First graders at Fairfax manage themselves and their learning

Life is packed if you are a first grader learning English Language Arts (ELA) in Debbie Van Nostran's class at Fairfax Elementary School. During a recent, action-filled 90-minute period, students managed themselves and their work as they participated in reading, writing and word play.

The morning began with the students seated on the floor in front of the classroom Smartboard, an interactive white board. They sang a song about nouns and watched a quick music video about the vowel of the week, “O.” Students enjoyed the playful repetitions and writing the letter shape in the air with their hands.

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Volume 6, Issue 3, Posted 4:37 PM, 02.11.2013

Reaching Heights reaches fifth graders as it rolls out role models program

In keeping with its tradition of enhancing the experiences of students in the Cleveland Heights-University Heights schools, Reaching Heights has introduced "Reaching Heights Role Models." The new program is inspired by Ron Ferguson, director of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University, and a talk he gave at Cleveland's City Club in the fall of 2011.

Ferguson suggested that schools could  bridge the achievement gap by bringing adults who are satisfied with their lives into the classroom. Fifth grade is a particularly effective time. Different speakers could visit monthly or bi-monthly to talk about their personal and professional journeys, and expose students to "a whole menu of possible selves."

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Volume 6, Issue 2, Posted 1:48 PM, 01.31.2013

Spotlight on Heights High Graduates: Wael ElHalaby

Wael ElHalaby
Oxford ’01
Monticello ’04
Heights High ’08
Junior at Kent State University

What’s your major?
I am majoring in nursing with a minor in music.

What do you hope to do in the future?
I see myself running a business, working a steady job, being a personal trainer, maintaining a great family and making time to play my violin for gigs here and there.

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Volume 4, Issue 3, Posted 9:37 AM, 03.01.2011

Spotlight on Heights High Graduates: Susan Wherley

Susan Wherley
Coventry ’99
Heights High ‘06
Graduate of Harvard University.

What’s your degree?
I graduated with a degree in African Studies and Health Policy.

What would be your dream job after graduation?
I interned with the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, It would be a dream to work there with the Biorisk Reduction for Dangerous Pathogens team on diseases like hemorrhagic fevers and poxes.

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Volume 4, Issue 3, Posted 9:38 AM, 03.01.2011

Spotlight on Heights High Graduates: Ashley Guy

Ashley Guy
Noble ’01
Monticello ’04
Heights High ’08
Junior at The Ohio State University

What’s your major or degree?
Double major in International Relations & Diplomacy and African Studies, minors in Spanish and Arabic.

What would be your dream job after graduation?
I’d like be to be a diplomat or ambassador to the United Nations. I would love a job that allowed me to see the world and experience foreign cultures.

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Volume 4, Issue 3, Posted 9:45 AM, 03.01.2011

Spotlight on Heights High Graduates: Miles Walker

Miles Walker
Boulevard ’02
Heights High ’09
Miles is a sophomore at The Ohio State University. 

What’s your major or degree?
My major is electrical engineering.

What would be your dream job after graduation?
My dream job would be working for Google or Nintendo.


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Volume 4, Issue 3, Posted 9:47 AM, 03.01.2011

Spotlight on Heights High Graduates: Amirah Saafir

Amirah Saafir
Canterbury ’01
Heights High ’08
Amirah is a junior at Howard University

What’s your major?

What are your plans for the future?
After graduating from Howard University, I plan to go on to graduate school to get my doctorate degree in developmental psychology and then become a school psychologist.

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Volume 4, Issue 3, Posted 9:53 AM, 03.01.2011

From the Reaching Heights Assistant Executive Director

Reaching Heights connects the community to our schools. It’s fun to attend sold-out performances like “Beauty and the Beast” at Cleveland Heights High School or other award-winning sporting or music events. This newsletter highlights work going on in our classrooms that’s just as engaging.

There’s much to share. Major changes are transforming how teachers collaborate and use data to drive instruction and meet students where they are. We share articles that focus on the work of five elementary teachers who have become Science Specialists to help elementary teachers augment the depth and scope of science education. Five recent Heights High graduates, now collegians, share memories and advice. You can read more about each school in our neighborhood newsletters and at

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Volume 4, Issue 3, Posted 9:36 AM, 03.01.2011

AVID Helps Clear Path to College

“AVID is a college prep class,” explains Heights High freshman Shailynn Strowder. “It helps me stay on track.” Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID), an elective class for credit, gives support to students with mid-range GPAs (2.0 – 3.5) to improve their academic record and prepare for college. Students sign a contract accepting responsibility for their learning by taking rigorous college prep courses, using a daily planner and maintaining a well-organized AVID binder.

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Volume 4, Issue 3, Posted 9:32 AM, 03.01.2011

Engineering Students Visit Lab

Three Heights High seniors in the Engineering Technology course visited MAGNET, a business incubator and consulting firm. Alex Fiala, Morgan Clement and David Schellenberg were paired with engineering groups that work in their specific interest area.

Alex and David were in the software and mechanical engineering group writing software and experimenting with a computer program. This computer program generated a model which was then used to make a prototype plastic tool. “The engineers designed the piece and I inputted the data and the 3D printer made the tool,” said Alex.

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Volume 4, Issue 3, Posted 9:34 AM, 03.01.2011

Division (Into Groups) Multiplies Learning

Understanding fractions is useful in keeping track of Malik Daniel’s first grade math class at Roxboro Elementary School, with students divided into many small groups and lessons divided into many activities.

The district’s elementary math framework devotes 90 minutes to math each day, divided into segments, including whole-class and small group instruction, plus time for partner and individual activities. Thoughtful lesson planning allows teachers to differentiate activities to meet a range of student proficiency levels.

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Volume 4, Issue 3, Posted 9:40 AM, 03.01.2011

5th Graders Make Sense of the Solar System

Making sense of the world around them can be tough for kids, but a recent exercise in science class helped fifth graders at Canterbury understand the scale of the universe.

Using an inquiry-based approach, fifth-grade science teacher Janice Kurtz elicited information that the students had learned in an introductory lesson. Students eagerly offered facts: The planets orbit the sun. The inner planets are closer to the sun. The asteroid belt is located between the inner and outer planets. The outer planets are much farther from the sun.

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Volume 4, Issue 3, Posted 9:41 AM, 03.01.2011

Celebrating History Through Drama at Noble

As fifth graders head for the cafeteria at Noble Elementary, several girls take a different route. They eat lunch at large tables in Nancy Eisenberg’s Art Room. The girls, members of the Young Ladies of Noble, have given up their lunch hour to rehearse a play that they will perform at the school’s celebration of Black History Month. After cleaning away crumbs and pushing tables aside, they retrieve scripts in brightly colored folders and get their pencils ready to make notations.

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Volume 4, Issue 3, Posted 9:42 AM, 03.01.2011

Want to Know How Engaged Students Are? Ask Them!

As the morning lesson ended, Oxford first graders anonymously placed pieces of laminated colored paper in a box. Students were rating their level of engagement in the morning’s learning activity.

Many chose green chips representing “Authentic Engagement,” indicating genuine enthusiasm for their work. Others chose “Ritual Engagement,” which meant that while the work did not excite them, they understood the value of doing it well. Of the five choices, no one chose Rebellion — refusing to work because the task was too hard, too easy or of no interest.

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Volume 4, Issue 3, Posted 9:48 AM, 03.01.2011

Volunteer Enriches Learning at Fairfax

The gym at Fairfax Elementary School buzzed with excitement on picture day. Mrs. Schmidt’s third graders lined up and took their places on the risers. Last to step into the picture was octogenarian Sam Wolfe, the oldest member of the class, a volunteer for six years.

After retiring from 30 years of teaching science at West Technical High School in Cleveland, he had time to use his ham radio, manage an electronics stockroom at Case Western Reserve University, and complete an eight-month walk across the United States to promote global disarmament.

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Volume 4, Issue 3, Posted 9:49 AM, 03.01.2011

Literacy Framework Engages Learning at All Levels

Our teachers work with children who struggle to become proficient readers and children who excel years beyond grade level. The district’s new literacy framework creates a structure to meet those varied needs.

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Volume 4, Issue 3, Posted 9:51 AM, 03.01.2011

Community member connects as reading tutor

Sitting at a small round table, Marian Morton uses flashcards to drill a kindergarten student on vowel sounds. Trained in the letter sound recognition protocol, she says a-a-a for the “a” sound as she mimes eating an apple and uh-uh-uh for the “u” sound while she gestures opening an umbrella.

Helping a five-year-old with pre-reading skills is a radical change for the retired John Carroll University history professor, and a valuable one.

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Volume 4, Issue 3, Posted 9:52 AM, 03.01.2011

Outdoor Learning Thrives at Gearity

Thanks to collaboration among parents, teachers, college students and neighbors, pre-schoolers through fifth graders at Gearity Professional Development School are learning about the environment in tangible and exciting ways. When environmental educator and parent Josh Hunter brought his first child to Gearity, he recognized that the extensive grounds offered the potential for many outdoor learning experiences. Two years ago he helped to organize parents and neighborhood volunteers in creating several raised learning gardens where students sow, care for and harvest vegetables.

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Volume 4, Issue 3, Posted 9:54 AM, 03.01.2011

More Time Means More Learning

“Last year I was teaching a 60-minute curriculum in 42 minutes,” says John Powaski, seventh grade math teacher at Roxboro Middle School. “There was no time for review or practice.” Not any more. Every middle school student in our district now receives 84-minute blocks of language arts and math each day. “More time together means more learning,” Mr. Powaski says.

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Volume 4, Issue 3, Posted 9:55 AM, 03.01.2011

Service Learning is Part of Life at Wiley

Wiley Middle School was recognized earlier this year by the Ohio Middle Level Association for its extensive service learning program. Service learning builds self-esteem and teaches the concept of good citizenship with active learning. “Students benefit tremendously from helping others,” explained Karen DiLillo, Health Teacher and Student Council Advisor.

The annual Leaf Raking, Thanksgiving Food Drive, and the Angel Tree Project were highlighted in the award application. Each project takes detailed planning, publicity, fundraising, and completion of the service by a dedicated group of students and staff.

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Volume 4, Issue 3, Posted 9:56 AM, 03.01.2011

Mighty Males Pursue Excellence

Teens seldom treasure neckties, but the Mighty Males of Monticello are an exception. Each new member receives a simple black tie with the golden M3 at an induction pinning ceremony. This year, one third of the male students at Monticello Middle School are proud members of this organization, started in 2003, to encourage excellence in academics, civility, and service.

“We want all of our male students to apply and participate,” said Brian Williams, Assistant Principal and one of the Mighty Males’ advisors. Strong academics are an essential prerequisite to attending events.  New members are eligible to apply each quarter if they are earning A’s and B’s in all classes. 

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Volume 4, Issue 3, Posted 9:57 AM, 03.01.2011

School News from Reaching Heights in this issue of Heights Observer

Citizen engagement is at the heart of what we do at Reaching Heights, so it’s right that we should work with The Heights Observer, home of citizen journalism in our community, to provide this four-page snapshot of teaching and learning in the Cleveland Heights-University Heights public schools. We’re an independent citizen organization that has worked for two decades to mobilize our community in support of excellence in public education in Cleveland Heights, University Heights, and a slice of South Euclid. It’s not work that lends itself to a “Mission Accomplished” moment, but it is important, and, for the most part, fun.
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Volume 3, Issue 5, Posted 11:59 AM, 04.16.2010

Six Senior Scholars Recognized

Congratulations to six Cleveland Heights High School seniors (Lewis Pollis, Alexandria Miller, Nataja Roberts, Jaiye Sampson, Erin Morris and Matt Zucker, L-R) recognized for their academic excellence by the National Merit and National Achievement Scholarship programs. Zucker is a National Merit semifinalist, while Miller and Pollis are National Merit commended students. Roberts is a National Achievement Scholarship semifinalist, and Morris and Sampson are the National Achievement Outstanding Participants. These awards, based on students’ PSAT scores, make them eligible for significant college scholarships. The National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) is a privately funded not-for-profit organization that conducts the National Merit and National Achievement Scholarship programs–annual competitions that recognize and provide college scholarships to academically talented U.S. high school students. Since its founding in 1955, NMSC has recognized 3 million students and provided over 335,000 scholarships worth more than $1.3 billion.
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Volume 3, Issue 5, Posted 10:32 AM, 04.16.2010

It's a Tie! Attorneys, Musicians Share Top Bee Honors

Reaching Heights has supported teachers by funding innovation, collaboration, and student achievement through the School Team Grant program since 1992. The 19th edition of the Reaching Heights Adult Community Spelling Bee, the main fund-raising event for the program, took place April 21 at Cleveland Heights High School. Executive director Patrick Mullen, center, holds the Coveted Plastic Bee Trophy, flanked by this year's co-champions. Barratarous Orthographers, made up of Squire, Sanders, & Dempsey attorneys Bonnie Bealer, John Lazzaretti, and Becky Bynum (L to R, left side of photo), tied with Cleveland Orchestra musicians Beth Woodside, Carolyn Warner, and Lisa Boyko (L to R, right side of photo), of O.O.P.S.A.L.A. (Orchestral Orthographers Publicly Support Annoyingly Lengthy Acronyms).
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Volume 3, Issue 5, Posted 3:01 PM, 04.16.2010

College Tour Piques Interest

With Spring in the air, thoughts turned to future Falls for 79 Height High sophomores and juniors as they toured four Ohio homes of higher learning: The University of Toledo, Bowling Green State University, The Ohio State University, and the College of Wooster.Students from all five Small Schools (Legacy, Mosaic, PRIDE, REAL, and Renaissance) participated in the trip in early March, with four major goals in mind.
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Volume 3, Issue 5, Posted 10:42 AM, 04.16.2010

Bringing What Works to Scale

When Boulevard Elementary principal Lawrence Swoope talks about teaching, he cites best practices inside and outside Boulevard and says, “We are working on taking proven methodologies and moving them to scale.”

One success at Boulevard is seen in the results of the third grade team’s math strategy. Last year the team piloted a system of assessing students and using the information to address students needs the same day.
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Volume 3, Issue 5, Posted 12:12 PM, 04.16.2010

A Strategy For Success

How do teachers ensure that at least 75% of third grade students pass the Ohio Achievement Test in the spring?

Roxboro Elementary School Principal Tara Grove and third grade teachers answer that question by focusing on teaching, learning and extras. Their strategy includes collecting data during the teaching and learning cycle, careful planning of instruction, and an emphasis on richness that ensures every child experiences significant growth — even those who can pass the exam when they enter third grade. Their strategy worked last year and is being used again this year.

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Volume 3, Issue 5, Posted 1:35 PM, 04.16.2010

Paving a Path to Literacy

Children enter school at different points on the pathway to literacy. The challenge for teachers is to help students crack the reading code and become competent readers.

Noble teachers have been successful - last year all third grade students passed the reading portion of the Ohio Achievement Test. That success is partly due to woek done last summer, when Noble teachers reviewed each incoming student’s reading assessments and set specific grade level goals. The first grade goal: 83% of all students would read at or above grade level by the end of this school year.

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Volume 3, Issue 5, Posted 1:24 PM, 04.16.2010

Learning by Moving and Manipulating

“Different children learn differently,” explains Stacy Kroger, Canterbury Elementary third grade teacher. In her classroom, students work in small groups, in pairs, or independently at specially prepared stations. “I know that hands-on activities and movement demonstrations allow some students to grasp concepts faster, so I incorporate them into lessons whenever possible.”

She begins a math lesson by asking students what they remember from previous lessons about lines, line segments, and rays. Kroger introduces the concept of angles and moves her body to show the class how angles change: a quarter turn, a half turn, and a full clockwise turn. The students stand and follow her prompts to make various angles. The movements require control and concentration.

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Volume 3, Issue 5, Posted 1:47 PM, 04.16.2010

Teachers Who Share The Value of Learning

Because teachers like Joe Mendes and Natalie Wester value what a child is thinking, they help their students value the process of learning itself. Mendes and Wester masterfully create a structured learning environment that encourages deep thinking, participation, and mutual respect.

One morning in Mendes’ fourth grade class, students prepare for a quiet period writing personal essays, and listen as he gives a concise overview of the task at hand: “We are going to watch a video of a speed skater competing, we’ll talk about it, you’ll read an article about Olympic sports and then you will write about a sport that you would like to compete in.” When the video ends, everyone is reminded of the ground rules for discussions—SLANT: Sit still, Look at the speaker, Activate your brain, Nod, Track the talker. During the lively discussion, Mendes keeps them on-topic, includes almost everyone in the room, and ensures students responded respectfully to the opinions of others.

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Volume 3, Issue 5, Posted 2:22 PM, 04.16.2010