According to a 1976 history book edited by the late Roy G. Lillard and Dr. Bill Snell, space to build a school was included in the original plans for the city of Cleveland.
More schools have been added through the years, including the opening of a new high school, Cleveland High, in 1966. That kind of vision has continued from our city’s founding until today.
In 2011, the Max R. Carroll Science Wing opened at CHS, bringing 21st century technology to our classrooms. Currently the city school system includes Arnold Memorial, Blythe-Bower Elementary, Ross Elementary, Stuart Elementary, Mayfield Elementary, Yates Primary School, the Teen Learning Center, Cleveland Middle School and Cleveland High School.
Last November, Gov. Bill Haslam, first lady Chrissy Haslam and Tennessee Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman included Cleveland Middle School on their state tour to announce Tennessee's dramatic rise in test scores.
Our community has always placed a high value on schools. Our students and our schools have earned a reputation for high academic achievement. That was apparent at graduation last year when Cleveland High School's Class of 2013 was awarded more than $4.5 million in scholarships.
That statistic certainly underscores the school system's focus, "Every Child, Every Day."
Now, we have two immediate education challenges on our agenda in coming months. One of them was unexpected. The iconic dome gymnasium at Cleveland High School had to be closed late last year due to safety concerns for the public, faculty and students.
That space is critical for the school's daily classroom use by all students as well as for athletic events
The gymnasium dilemma came just as our Cleveland Board of Education and Dr. Martin Ringstaff, director of schools, began planning for a new elementary school to meet the needs of our growing number of young families.
In spring 2013, the school board had purchased a 20-acre build-ready site on Georgetown Road with that need in mind.
City Council members Charlie McKenzie, Dale Hughes, George Poe and Vice Mayor Avery Johnson accepted my appointment to serve as an ad hoc school funding committee. Poe has taken the chairmanship and their task is to explore all the various funding options available for a new school. And they are doing so with a sense of urgency and priority.
Two weeks ago, Dr. Ringstaff and members of the Cleveland Board of Education updated the full City Council on both those needs.
Meeting these needs will the director and his administration continue the momentum they have had over the past year. They began last year with a three-part focus based on 1) every child can learn, 2) every child wants to learn, and 3) as adults, we need to make this happen.
This was the challenge Dr. Ringstaff gave his administration. Teachers went through Common Core Standards training last summer and continued to improve technology infrastructure to position themselves for the challenges of the future.
The schools director, in his annual report, had praise for the parents, business leaders and community leaders who continue to help raise the educational standards along with the administration.
He relays that Cleveland City Schools is ranked as an “intermediate” school system by the Tennessee Department of Education, meaning the students and teachers met, or in some cases exceeded, the achievement goals in nine different academic indicators.
With over 809 systemwide employees serving the some 5,100 students in the overall system, we are challenged to help each and every child who comes out of our school system to be the “very best they can be.” We want each student to have the overall educational experience they deserve.
Our teachers and our students are exemplary, noted by the fact that one of our ESL teachers, Christy Duncan, was a finalist for Tennessee Teacher of the Year last year and one of our principals, Kelly Kiser, was a finalist for Tennessee Principal of the Year. These are just two of the accomplishments our system can boast.
The fact that Cleveland High School’s graduating class of 2013 was awarded more than $4.5 million in scholarship speaks volumes about our system.
While the director and his staff continue to work toward the future, our entire City Council and the city school board will continue to work together over the coming days to map our system’s educational path through 2014.
And we will approach this task as a true “City With Spirit,” focusing on Every Child, Every Day.