Cleveland Meeting: Conference, Broad Foundation Promote Mayoral Leadership in Public Schools
By Joan Crigger
October 21, 2002
On October 8, Conference President Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell, Chair of the Education Standing Committee, hosted a meeting on Mayors and Public Schools in Cleveland. This is the first of several sessions that will be held under the joint partnership between the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the Broad Foundation.
Following a brief welcome from Mayors Campbell and Menino, Eli Broad, Founder of the Broad Foundation, addressed the mayors and shared with them his education reform agenda. Broad does not believe that education is for educators alone. He feels that necessary change will come at the leadership of mayors. "I believe mayors should have direct control over their cities' school systems. I believe there have been greater achievements where mayors are involved. But whether direct control or not, you have the power to make education reforms," Broad said, adding that "I call on you to challenge the status quo."
Best Practices ' Mayors Responsible for Public Schools
This session focused on mayors who have significant control over their school systems or school boards. Mayor Menino said, "My role in Boston is to give our School Committee and Superintendent, our leadership team, the principals, the teachers, and the students, the tools they need to succeed."
"In the last eight years, we invested more than $270 million through the city's capital plan to renovate our schools, but government has limited resources. Revitalizing our partnerships with the private sector has helped give Boston students a state'of'the'art education.
"In technology, for example, we now have one computer for every five students, every single school has been networked, and over 4,000 of our 5,000 teachers have received at least 50 hours of training and are using technology in the classroom."
Other Points Made by Menino
Boston launched ReadBoston with the goal of making students proficient in reading by 3rd grade. To complement that program, they have launched WriteBoston to improve the writing skills of older students.
Boston also created the 2:00'to'6:00 Initiative to provide important opportunities for young people to keep learning after the regular school day ends. They formed the After School for All Partnership, where ten partners have pledged $23 million in new funding for after'school programs over five years.
Menino then introduced Boston School Superintendent, Tom Payzant. Payzant said that they are in the second year of their five year plan. He went on to say that being there long enough to improve a whole system is essential. "With constant turnover you can't succeed."
Mayor Campbell then described the status of the Cleveland school system. In 1998, the Ohio State Legislature turned the then'failing school system over to former Mayor Michael White to run, with a referendum at the end of four years. November 5 is the date of the referendum.
Campbell said, "If 80 percent of the kids showed up, it was a good day. Now, over 90 percent come every day." She said that four years ago, 35 percent of the students passed, now 50 percent do; 75 percent did not graduate, now 30 percent do graduate. Mayor Campbell said that the city was able to pass a school levy which the state has matched and that Cleveland now has $1 billion to rebuild the school system.
Campbell then introduced Barbara Byrd'Bennett, Chief Executive of the Municipal School District. Ms. Byrd'Bennett said, "In less than four years, I have seen phenomenal progress, not in the number of things that have happened, but in the depth of things that have happened." She went on to describe the most significant changes in the school system and closed saying, "Now one person is accountable, now one person is responsible, now the school system is in the hands of the mayor of the city."
In Trenton, Mayor Douglas Palmer appoints the School Board. He described the horrible status of schools in Trenton during the previous administration of former Mayor Arthur Holland. A referendum was put on the ballot that gave the mayor the appointment power.
Mayor Palmer said, "I didn't like it until I became mayor." He indicated that he had his own learning curve and went through five different superintendents until he found Dr. James Lytle. Palmer said that Dr. Lytle has made a tremendous difference by reducing the dropout rate, increasing attendance and has made a significant dent in the digital divide.
Mayor Palmer also spoke about the overall health of Trenton now, especially because of a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to help track 0 to 3 year olds and to provide them with early childhood development. Palmer ended with, "It is very important for the mayor to be in charge it helps economic development, it keeps families in the city, it gets kids to succeed."
Mayoral Leadership and Education Reform
Following the presentations by mayors and schools superintendents, a panel led by Michael Casserly, Executive Director of the Council of the Great City Schools, discussed the status of mayoral involvement in public schools and its impact on education reform. Speaking on the panel were Edward W. "Ned" Hill, Professor and Distinguished Scholar of Economic Development, Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs, Cleveland State University, and Michael Usdan, Senior Fellow, Institute for Educational Leadership.
Jane Addams Vocational High School
Mayors and attendees then went to lunch at Jane Addams Vocational High School. During a noontime press conference prior to the lunch, Mayor Menino praised Mayor Campbell's leadership and thanked Eli Broad for his contribution to improving America's public schools.
Surrounded by students at Jane Addams Vocational High School, Menino said, "Every day, more and more, America's mayors are leading the charge to improve our public schools. From Boston and Cleveland, where mayors have direct control, to Trenton where the mayor also appoints the school board, to other cities here today, where mayors' leadership is making a difference in numerous ways. From the promotion of literacy campaigns to the expansion of after'school facilities to support for alternative schools, more and more mayors across the country are making a big difference for our public school children."
After the press conference, mayors enjoyed lunch cooked and served by students at the school.
Best Practices ' Mayors with No Direct Role for Public Schools
Akron Mayor and Advisory Board Chair Donald Plusquellic opened the session on mayors with no direct role for their public schools and told his story about his direct involvement with negotiations with the unions, and how he had threatened the Akron School Board with taking over the schools because they were not improving the school system. Plusquellic also told how he headed the successful school levy campaign. He added, "Some communities may not support mayors taking control but still mayors can do things like 'taking the bully pulpit.' It has worked in Akron."
In Boise, Mayor Brent Coles indicated that the city has been involved with the schools for many years. Coles said that the city pays for police resource officers in all high schools, middle schools and most elementary schools. He indicated that the return is that most police officers know who is in trouble. He also said that the city has created community schools in some neighborhoods and opened the schools for tutoring and libraries. Mayor Coles also spoke about the Health Youth Asset Survey from the Search Institute in Minneapolis and its positive impact on the students in Boise.
Long Beach Mayor Beverly O'Neill told about the huge demographic changes in Long Beach with the influx of large numbers of Asian immigrants, especially Cambodians, and the significant changes Long Beach has had to make to address these changes. She said they implemented uniforms in grades K to 8 and that it has made a big difference. Mayor O'Neill also said that one in six high schools has uniforms and they also have implemented professional dress for teachers. O'Neill said, "Long Beach has changed from 'Little Iowa by the Sea' to an international community."
Manchester Mayor Robert Baines said the most significant thing they have done is to institute the "Community of Caring" with principals. He indicated that this has made a significant difference. Baines said that the mayor of Manchester is the chairman of the School Board and chairs the Council as well. He said they replaced their superintendent because of a huge deficit.
Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell said the city asked the school system for a Performance Audit and paid for the audit from the general city budget. He indicated the result was a process of investment. Purcell said, after his election, "I want every parent to go to their child's school." He has provided up to three hours of leave for city employees to go to the first day of school and up to six hours during the year. The result is that 10,000 parents showed up for the "First Day" event the first year and 13,000 this year. "We must invest in basic capital needs every year."
Rochester Mayor William Johnson reported that in Rochester, they have tried just about everything small class size, work'based learning, parental involvement in policy, parent activity centers, safe passage, health clinics, after'school programs, professional development academy, new textbooks, hundreds of millions of dollars in new buildings, etc. "Despite all," Johnson said, "District'wide performance is abysmal. We spend $10,800 per student. There is no sustained improvement. It is impossible to reform a high poverty segregated school district. I am trying to regain control of the Rochester schools. I do not expect mayoral control will greatly improve the system. But, in the words of Susan B. Anthony, 'we cannot afford to fail.'"
Menino closed the day saying that the crisis in our schools cries out for mayors to be involved. He indicated that we would have a major education segment at the Winter Meeting and a summit in the spring.