Community Members Express Opinions About The State of The Schools


Andrew Boyle

Superintendent Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr. gives his second State of the Schools speech Feb. 10, 2015.

In true Shaker style, the audience reaction to the State of the Schools presentation was diverse and included some pointed criticisms.

Superintendent Gregory C. Hutchings Jr. gave his second State of the Schools speech Feb. 10 in the Large Auditorium. Before the event, students and administrators shared what they expected to be included in the speech.

Freshman David Mack predicted that “the state testing” would be discussed.

Woodbury Principal Danny Young hoped Hutchings would talk about “the wonderful work that we have embarked upon by the five-year plan.”

“I told [Hutchings] he should brag about our third grade reading rate,” said Board of Education member Annette Sutherland. All but one third grader in the district passed the state-mandated MAP reading exam.

Hutchings commended programs at Shaker, boasting about the music program, extracurricular activities and robust course offerings.

Hutchings went on to explain his five-year strategic plan, which includes six goals: the Shaker experience, continuous improvement, policy, human resources, communication and finance. Within these goals, he emphasized changes in the middle school schedule and district calendar, the addition of the College Credit Program, value of the International Baccalaureate program, and further use of social media and partnerships with local businesses.

Hutchings also said he would make all professional days the same for K-12, rather than staggering them. He ended the speech with a cumulative quote attributed to Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change you want to see in the world.

I loved all of the ideas that were stated, but I thought what was missing was the tactical.

— Stephanie Silverman

The speech was followed by a question and answer session moderated by Dan Moulthrop, CEO of the Cleveland City Club. Questions submitted by audience members repeatedly expressed concerns about the intensive testing, the value of becoming an IB district and increasing pressure on teachers.

Shaker parent Betsy Potiker attended the event. In an interview afterward, she expressed concern about the future of the district and the possibility of over-testing students under the new state-mandated regimen.

“Does [PARCC testing] measure our education? It seems like there are a lot of flaws,” Potiker said.

“[IB] might interfere with test-taking,” community member Michael Hughes said, referring to differences between IB and Common Core standards.

“I was a little surprised he wasn’t more aware of teachers’ morale. He touched on it because of a question, but he didn’t seem very aware of it,” Potiker said.

Shaker parent and Your Teen Magazine publisher Stephanie Silverman said she thought Hutchings’ speech missed important elements.

“I loved all of the ideas that were stated, but I thought what was missing was the tactical,” Silverman said. She wished Hutchings had presented more action steps toward each of the goals.

Shaker Heights Board of Education President William Clawson, however, said those steps exist. “There have been action steps on every single one of the goals,” he said.

Other community members thought the presentation was thorough and had displayed actions taken to complete Hutchings’ plans for the district.

“I liked the fact that they were looking in depth about all the issues and the way he went through each goal,” said parent and PTO Council member Jodie Herbst . “And he did provide some hard numbers to illustrate some of the points — the graduation rate, the advanced classes.”

However, Herbst said, “I thought is was kind of general. I wanted a little more detail in some of the reasoning behind it.”

Hutchings did not address all issues on Shaker residents’ minds. “The district could explain what the financial and academic benefits [of IB] are,” said Hughes. “A lot [of] kids can’t answer what IB is, and a lot of parents can’t understand it.”

Still, some audience members appreciated the superintendent’s effort. Woodbury 5th-grade Assistant Principal Doug Myles said, “I’m impressed with the commitment of Dr. Hutchings.”

Senior Ge’Lesia Laury expressed more skepticism. “[Hutchings] said he wanted teachers’ and parents’ opinions, but he didn’t speak that much about the students’ opinions,” she said . “And we go here.”

This story has been updated to correct the title of Doug Myles. He is Woodbury School 5th-grade assistant principal, not SHMS principal.

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