Hutchings Previews Tomorrow’s State of the Schools, Reflects on Last Year’s

Staff, administration preview speech to community tomorrow


Andrew Boyle

Hutchings takes questions from the audience moderated by Shaker resident and City Club of Cleveland CEO Dan Moulthrop during last year’s State of the Schools.

Superintendent Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr. will present his second State of the Schools speech Tuesday, Feb. 10 in the high school’s large auditorium.

In past years, the address was not very well-attended. However, more than 400 people attended Hutchings’ first SOTS event last year, which included testimonials from students and celebratory music.

According to Director of Communications Peggy Caldwell, the event aims “to report to the community on progress made toward the strategic plan goals and the next steps.”

“Many community members have expressed a desire for more information and transparency about what is happening in the schools. The State of the Schools meeting is one of several ways of addressing that desire,” Caldwell said in an email interview.

Many of the topics Hutchings addressed in last year’s presentation came straight from his strategic plan.

“Hutchings said that he would use the strategic plan to organize and announce the schools’ future,” said Board of Education President William Clawson. “The strategic plan was developed, approved, and serves as a guidepost to actively drive decisions throughout the district.

Shaker is not the only district that holds such an event.

“A number of school districts, universities, states, and municipalities (and, of course, the nation) have similar events,” wrote Caldwell. “The Cleveland Metropolitan School District and the Cleveland Heights-University Heights districts, for example, have their own State of the Schools events.”

Last year, after entering the stage to Kool and the Gang’s “Celebrate,” Hutchings introduced his speech’s theme, “#IAmShaker.”

When asked in an interview Friday if this year’s State of the Schools event would follow the same model, Hutchings said, “Of course! You have to have music because Shaker is all about the performing arts and this is a celebration!”

During last year’s speech, Hutchings announced removal of the College Preparatory label, effective the 2014-2015 academic year.

“When I came to this district, people were calling CP classes ‘colored people’ classes, and I didn’t like those negative connotations,” said Hutchings. “We wanted to reinvent the courses and make them more rigorous and engaging.”

The middle school schedule is currently under reconstruction. Classes are being extended to 50 minutes and students will have the choice of taking a full year of art, band or both if they take one after school. The current cycle rotation of classes such as cooking will now become a year-long fine arts class.

The State of the Schools is beneficial and provides the entire community with the opportunity to get a concise update on what is happening throughout the district.

— William Clawson

“The main changes are to ensure 100 percent of needs are being met, engaging all students. We need longer classes to engage students which called for refining of some courses,” Hutchings said.

Last year, Hutchings emphasized continuous implementation of the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme, the last step before the district earns IB certification for all grade levels. To put this into action, “The district filed our application and is awaiting a spring time visit from the IB Committee. Once approved, Shaker will be one of a few IB districts in the country,” Clawson said.

Hutchings stressed the importance of having “culturally proficient” teachers during last year’s SOTS. “Next year, we want to work with teacher groups and have diversity training hopefully expanded in the next few years to work with parents, teachers and students,” he said recently.

“We want our teachers to be able to work with all students regardless of culture, religion or life experience and value what young people bring into the classroom,” Hutchings said.

During the interview, Hutchings also discussed progress achieved on promises he made during last year’s State of the Schools address.

He talked about the new alternative credit opportunities available at the high school to ensure more students graduate. The district’s new Innovative Center for Personalized Learning and Family Engagement saw its first graduate this year.

Clawson supports the State of the Schools speech. “The State of the Schools is beneficial and provides the entire community with the opportunity to get a concise update on what is happening throughout the District,” he said.

Hutchings emphasized that everything Shaker does is for its students and community.

“All I want is to share knowledge and open doors for the next generation of students and provide opportunities for them to lead. That’s my life’s work and I’m fortunate to be able to do that at Shaker,” Hutchings said.

Hutchings, 37, moved rapidly through teaching and administrative positions before becoming Shaker’s superintendent. Shortly after the Board of Education announced it was hiring Hutchings in spring 2013, Hutchings told The Shakerite this post would be a long-term commitment. “I hope to be in Shaker until my kids graduate from high school, which gives me at least 10 years there,” he said.

When asked Friday if he stood by that earlier statement, Hutchings said, “I’ve learned to never say never, but my kids love Shaker schools and I would like to stay here to make sure that we get the work done closing the achievement gap and such. Leaving is not currently on my agenda. When I set goals, I like to meet them.”

Read what students said they would say if they could deliver the State of the Schools speech.

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