City Schools adopts new strategic plan

Posted 6/7/20

Cleveland City Schools is focusing on STEM opportunities, technology updates, career pathways and teacher diversity in its five-year strategic plan, which was revealed and accepted unanimously during …

This item is available in full to subscribers

City Schools adopts new strategic plan


Cleveland City Schools is focusing on STEM opportunities, technology updates, career pathways and teacher diversity in its five-year strategic plan, which was revealed and accepted unanimously during a recent Cleveland Board of Education gathering.


The school district originally planned on presenting the plan to the board during its May meeting, but that gathering was canceled and its business moved to the June meeting. Each category had a working group with at least one school board member and administrator on board, as well as parents, students and community members. 

Subcommittees developing the strategic plan have been working since December, but were slowed down by the necessity to meet virtually due to the coronavirus. 

Split into five categories, the strategic plan places district-wide goals under Student Success, Safe and Healthy Schools, Communications, Engaged Workforce, and Portrait of a Graduate. 

“This is our roadmap for the next five years,” Director of Schools Dr. Russell Dyer said. “Some plans have had to be adapted (due to COVID-19), but we’re here now and we know what we need to be working on. We think we’ve come up with a plan that is very thorough.” 

Board members, the Cleveland Daily Banner and the public were given the “outward appearance” of the strategic plan — six-page digest of the five-year plan, its rationale, timeline and goals that is available for view on the Cleveland City Schools website. 

Student Success

After receiving a Tennessee STEM Designation for Cleveland High School, Cleveland City Schools is going after STEM designations for all of its schools by 2025, starting at the middle school. 

Presented by Assistant Director of Schools Dr. Jeff Elliott, the district plans to “deliver a strong instructional program aligned to a viable curriculum.” 

Elliott said the district wants to teach cohesive STEAM components, adding in the arts, at all levels, as well as including career exploration for all students. The new plan suggests career exploration will start in kindergarten and be aligned with the Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) program. 

Cleveland City Schools is also planning to expand its BLADE project, which provides laptops for all students in grades 6-12.

Elliott said this project showed its strength during the extended closure due to COVID-19, and emphasized the importance of putting a laptop in the hands of every student. 

“A big piece of this is equity, so that will be an area of focus for us for the next five years,” Elliott said. 

By 2021, the district will pursue STEM designations for all elementary schools and expand the BLADE project to grades 3-5. 

By 2023, the district will further expand the Blade project to K-2 students. Elliott added that new math standards and materials would be “coming down the pike” by 2023. 

Cleveland City Schools has announced it will launch a virtual school this year. More details on that will be provided in a future edition of the Banner.  

By 2025, Cleveland City Schools hopes to increase proficiencies in reading and math, achieve STEM designations at all of its schools, increase enrollment in the CAPS program, expand career exploration, and offer a one-to-one ratio for students and technology at all grade levels. 

The district is also adopting a new English Language Arts program for the upcoming school year, outlining a goal for teachers to teach the “district-approved curriculum with fidelity.” 

Safe and Healthy Schools

Following the signing of a new nutrition contract with commercial food company Sodexo, Supervisor of School Nutrition Gena Reed explained the department’s goals of increasing meal-program participation. 

The Sodexo program will bring a variety of new food to the middle and high schools in addition to an app for students to check weekly or daily menus. Reed said the nutrition department plans on tracking satisfaction with the program through surveys. 

Based on their feedback, Cleveland City Schools will alter its program to fit the needs of its schools. 

“As far as school nutrition goes, I think the key component that we were looking for this year was to make sure that we’re involving students in feedback and what they’re looking for,” Reed said. 

Another focus of Safe and Healthy Schools is mental health. By 2024, the district has said it would like to “build community agency relationships for mental health services.” 

The district also highlighted professional development training for Adverse Childhood Experiences and Response to Instruction and Intervention Behavior. 

These goals are part of the “safe and secure environment” Cleveland City Schools said it’s striving to provide through wellness and nutrition. 

The Capturing Kids Hearts program at the middle and high school levels has also proven effective in creating and emphasizing a positive school and work culture for students and employees, Reed said. 

Reed said she struggled to include goals for activities and clubs due to the uncertainty of the coronavirus. 

“We don’t know if those will be possible this year, so we really struggled to develop goals for those,” Reed said. 

By 2025, the district hopes to ensure all faculty and staff are trained for the Capturing Kids Hearts Initiative. They are also looking to provide professional development for crisis intervention and establish a community network for at-risk students. 


Nearly one-fourth of Cleveland City Schools students have a non-English background, and the district is aiming to “do more to ensure that we communicate with these families in a way that will encourage participation and understanding of their student’s education and emotional needs,” the strategic plan reads. 

Cody Raper, communications specialist for Cleveland City Schools, said if the district wants to reach these families effectively, they need to communicate with them in their preferred language. 

To accommodate those families, the district is planning to hire a full-time district-level interpreter and translator by 2022. 

Cleveland City Schools announced it was rolling out a new district logo and other branding material, initiating the first step of their five-year strategy for communications. 

The goal of targeting and improving communication within Cleveland City Schools is to strengthen and build upon their “brand identity” as a school system and also be more intentional with its internal and external communication. 

The new logo is a “C” similar to the Cleveland High School logo. The letter is surrounded by four lines that make up the outline of a shield, representing both the Raiders mascot and the district’s core values. 

Portrait of a Graduate

Cleveland High School’s reimagined portrait of a graduate starts with the five Cs: communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and character. 

Elliott said the portrait of a graduate is the finished product of a student whose learning has encompassed the previous components. 

“Our number one focus is on our students, so when we talk about portrait of a graduate — a K-12 approach, what are those key components?” he said. 

By graduation, according to this strategic plan proposal, high school students should be able to effectively communicate by oral, written, visual or performance communication, effectively utilizing technology and understanding how to engage through active listening. 

The school is striving to graduate students with skills in teamwork, like valuing “diverse viewpoints” and who value cooperative work. 

Cleveland High School is working to develop graduates’ creativity by supporting innovative ideas and diverse solutions to a single problem. The new portrait of a graduate involves skills in overcoming challenges despite setbacks and failures, and expressing curiosity. 

In addition to targeting critical thinking skills, Cleveland High School has set goals in developing its students’ character. 

According to the portrait of a graduate, graduating students should “exhibit moral and ethical integrity,” as well as be respectful and community-minded. 

The ideal graduate is also self-motivated, disciplined and hard-working. 

Engaged Workforce

Starting this year, Cleveland City Schools will be forming a diversity advisory committee to assist with teacher recruiting and diverse representation. 

“Students need exposure to high-quality, world-class educators,” the strategic plan reads. “Additionally, they need exposure to high-quality educators that represent their cultures and backgrounds so that they can not only receive a world-class education, but also gain richer perspectives about future possibilities as they move into adulthood.” 

Mailouts and email communication will ramp up by 2021 to help with recruitment, and in 2022 the school system plans to develop a “teacher pipeline” for paraprofessionals and current students to enter the professional world of education. 

This portion of the five-year strategic plan will alter recruiting and documentation to “engage more minority candidates” in positions at Cleveland City Schools. 

Social media will also be used to a greater extent in teacher recruiting. By 2024, the school system was to market their core values and beliefs regularly through social media for recruiting purposes. 


No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment


Print subscribers have FREE access to by registering HERE

Non-subscribers have limited monthly access to local stories, but have options to subscribe to print, web or electronic editions by clicking HERE

We are sorry but you have reached the maximum number of free local stories for this month. If you have a website account here, please click HERE to log in for continued access.

If you are a print subscriber but do not have an account here, click HERE to create a website account to gain unlimited free access.

Non-subscribers may gain access by subscribing to any of our print or electronic subscriptions HERE