Ms. Hadley Conner

Ms ConnorHadley K Conner, Chair of Brush High School’s Art Department, is unforgettable. You may have seen her showing her photography work in galleries around the area, performing on the stage at music venues throughout Ohio, or cruising around town in her 1964 Galaxie 500 XL.

Employed by the South Euclid-Lyndhurst School District since 2001, Ms. Conner teaches Photo 1 & 2 and AP Photo, but in her estimation, she’s really teaching the closest thing to actual magic. “Analog Photography is important because it teaches the science, the craft, and the magic of the photographic process. There is a general movement to go back to making things by hand, and working in the lab and darkroom is an experience. As each successive generation is more and more engaged in electronic devices, a creative classroom that leaves digital technology behind is an important and rewarding break from screen time.”

Although digital photography is the common practice these days, and while Ms. Conner does incorporate it into her program, she feels analog photography is such an important foundation that she has been known to drive out of state to obtain donations for the Brush darkroom. As a result of her efforts, Brush has an impressive darkroom and one of the only large color print processors in the area. Since the majority of the equipment has been donated, the program has been developed and maintained at an extremely low cost to the district.

Ms. Conner’s passion for photography and the arts has made a significant impact on Brush students. The number of students requesting to take classes in art and photography continues to increase each year. Brush has a strong performance at the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards each year, with 15- 30 students on average winning regional, and sometimes national awards for their art. As a testimony to the effectiveness of the program, Ms. Conner remarked that between 10 and 15 students in an average senior class at Brush go on to pursue art degrees in college.

In addition to teaching and managing the Art Department at Brush, Ms. Conner is a well-known and award-winning working artist. With a BFA from the Cleveland Institute of Art, and a Master’s degree from the Art Academy of Cincinnati, Ms. Conner shows her photography throughout the region and is on the Advisory Board for the Cleveland Print Room, a gallery and community darkroom focusing on analog photography. Ms. Conner teaches a variety of photography workshops at the Print Room and enjoys staying engaged in Cleveland’s vibrant art scene.

Along with her photography, Ms. Conner is the lead singer for 45 Spider, a band that includes her husband. Playing regularly at music venues throughout the region, Ms. Conner enjoys the collaborative process of performing with a band and finds that there is a tight connection between the art and music scene in Cleveland. Performing in 45 Spider, “is a lot like teaching in the sense that you’re delivering a message and the audience reaction often determines your next move and the outcome of the show (or lesson) “

Ms. Conner loves teaching in the district and says that the students’ enthusiasm for art keeps her motivated. “Brush is a microcosm of the world. Our students are cosmopolitan. They’ve been exposed to art and culture, likely due to the school district’s proximity to Cleveland’s many cultural amenities”. According to Ms. Conner, this appreciation for the arts has led to a vibrant arts scene at Brush and a commitment to the arts among students. Ms. Conner looks forward to continuing to foster and nurture the creativity of Brush students for many years to come.

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Joe & Pam Rossi

DSC_0831Joe & Pam Rossi are residents of South Euclid and the parents of three children. Mrs. Rossi is an occupational therapist at the Cleveland Clinic, focusing in orthopedic rehab, while Mr. Rossi is employed at Chef’s Ingredients, a South Euclid-based business. They moved into their home in 1998. They are active members in the PTA, Band Boosters, and Athletic Boosters.

When the Rossis moved into the community in the late 1990s, they said the reputation of the district was strong. “We specifically focused on Adrian, because of the age of our children at the time,” shared Mrs. Rossi. They said the South Euclid-Lyndhurst City Schools had a more positive reputation than the Cleveland Heights public schools, where they lived initially. “The excellent educational opportunities at Adrian and its location in the near-east suburbs drew us to South Euclid.” Over time, they share, the reputation of the schools has declined. “There are more negative comments about the schools and there’s a racial element that people tend to talk around. These issues are common throughout inner-rings suburbs, and either add or detract based on one’s viewpoint.” They admit that the  public schools have challenges, but almost all schools do. “Our community, similar to Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights, is dealing with increasing diversity within our schools which some view as a ‘problem.’ Going to more affluent schools further east doesn’t rid you of issues and controversy, it only introduces you to new forms.” Still, they are happy with the education their children received in the SEL public schools. “Our kids have a diverse group of friends, had excellent teachers, and participated in a variety of clubs.”

The Rossis enrolled each of their children in the public elementary schools, but gave them the option of choosing private school upon reaching middle school. “Our oldest child chose to go to private school because, at the time, Greenview wasn’t in good shape academically. He didn’t feel challenged.” The other two, however, have reamained in the public schools with one child graduating in 2015. “Our younger children didn’t even consider private school.” Mr. & Mrs. Rossi believe this is a sign of the strength of the academics in the public schools. “Aside from a select few, many of the private and Catholic high schools in the area don’t compare with the opportunities our public schools offer.”

The strengths of SEL include committed teachers and a level of diversity that matches the real world. “There are multiple types of people that attend our public schools, in terms of races, socio-economic status, and other demographic categories.” There are a variety of clubs and organizations and the administration is very open-minded. “We like the new superintendent and how she is out in front.” The Rossis would like to see a stronger gifted program that reaches out to these students as well as a thriving junior high science program. They’d also like to see more across the board parental involvement.

What are some of the benefits of sending their younger two children to the public schools? “The kids live closer to their friends, which makes the logistics of transportation a lot easier.” They also believe that enrolling their children in the public schools is a way to participate in the community. “We’ve met many of our close friends through the schools and different organizations,” Pam shares. “Public schools are the backbone of any good community, which makes them vitally important,” Joe adds.

The Rossis believe the best way to combat the negative perceptions is to share the positive aspects of the public schools with the community. “These kids do amazing things and put forth a lot of effort into community service. Let’s showcase that.” The biggest threat to the strength of the public schools is the gossip that circulates through the community. “Our youngest child came home from Memorial and shared that she had substitutes commenting on how ‘bad’ the schools were. They would tell the students ‘I would never send my children here.’ Those kinds of things have to stop.” They also share that many private school parents they’ve met are often shocked to hear them say positive things about the SEL public schools. “There’s this attitude that we’re the only school district with problems. All schools have problems. They’re teenagers.” Mrs. Rossi’s advice to apprehensive parents? “Give it a try, get involved, and talk to those who have children in the public schools.” Mr. Rossi adds, “Public education is a social contract. You really can’t complain if you don’t participate. It isn’t a vacuum, either. Public schools must accept everyone and can’t turn away those the administration views are ‘unfit to learn.’ Public education is for everybody.”

Mr. Justin Tisdale

Mr. Justin Tisdale is a Brush High School alumnus and social studies teacher in Capturethe South Euclid-Lyndhurst City Schools. After moving to the district in the fourth grade, he finished his education at SEL and graduated from Brush in 2000. He then enrolled at Notre Dame College and stayed in the community upon earning his degree. He currently resides in South Euclid with his wife and daughter.

When asked about his experience at Brush, the first word that came to mind was “fun.” He said the teachers taught what was necessary, he enjoyed the company of his classmates, and it was, overall, a good experience. He also noted the sense of community within the school building. “No matter how bad the football team was, and they were pretty bad, you could always expect the stands to be packed Friday night.” His favorite memories include Homecoming Top 25, assemblies, and simply being in high school. Mr. Tisdale says the school has changed most in how education is approached. “There’s less freedom for teachers,” he says. He also believes that there is a lack of respect for authority, which could be a shift in overall generational perspectives. “I think most notably and specific to Brush is that the school spirit is gone.” In what ways hasn’t the school changed? “There is still no sense of cliques at the high school.”

The district’s reputation within the community is troubling, Mr. Tisdale shared. “The perception isn’t great, and a lack of communication with the community has caused this perception to worsen.” He says the shifting demographics have also affected the community’s view on the public schools. “Most of the students are good kids, but it’s the small group of troublemakers that brands the whole school that way.”

Mr. Tisdale’s initial goal was to help kids reach their potential, which served as the catalyst to becoming a teacher. He initially taught at Riverside High School in Painesville, but came back to Brush because he saw the opportunity for him to serve an important role. “I felt that at Brush I had the ability to serve as a positive Black male role model to the students. I wanted to prove that it was possible to not fall into the negative stereotypes and give them guidance in achievement.” He has served as a basketball in previous years, and could often be found working sporting events. “It was great seeing the students play and interacting with each other outside of school.

In his time as both a student and educator, Mr. Tisdale believes the Brush experience has changed, depending on perspective. “Testing has taken away drive for the whole school community,” alluding to the state-mandated tests instituted in the past 15 years. “There’s also been an influx of transient students, who often view Brush as a school rather than a home. It’s hard to build community if you’re not sure if some some students are going to be there from year to year.” Above all, he believes the Brush experience and high school in general should be enjoyable. “It should be fun for everyone. It shouldn’t be viewed as a job. School is best when we work for the kid’s success and enjoyment.”

Andrew Stewart

FullSizeRenderAndrew Stewart is a resident of South Euclid, living just west of the Lyndhurst border. He spent the entirety of his K-12 academic experience in the South Euclid-Lyndhurst City Schools, except for two months in the sixth grade when he was enrolled at Hawken School. Since graduating from Brush in 2011, Andrew enrolled and graduated from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. He possesses Bachelors of Arts degrees in philosophy and political science. He is currently applying to graduate schools and is a coming year core member for the AmeriCorps City Year program in Cleveland.

Andrew greatly enjoyed his time in the SEL schools. “Overall it was a wonderful learning experience, in terms of academics, activities, friendships, and positive relationships with the faculty,” he states. “I was really grateful to come back to the public schools after my time a Hawken. I really missed them.” At Brush, Andrew took a wide array of classes and attempted to maximize the number of courses he took. “I love learning, and the teachers were great.” He enjoyed the AP classes he took, stating that they allowed him to develop critical thinking and exposed him to new subjects. Andrew also learned a lot from his extracurricular activities. Outside of the classroom, he played the violin in orchestra and chamber ensemble. He was also a member of Key Club, National Honor Society, and Science Olympiad. As a member of the academic team, he had the opportunity to appear of Academic Challenge. “It’s one of my favorite high school memories and it was great honor to represent Brush,” Andrew affirms.

His favorite memory from high school was his graduation. “I was nervous about leaving high school and going on to college and the ‘real world,’ and the ceremony turned out to be very meaningful and fun.” He also says it was very affirming of all his classmates’ accomplishments. As a student speaker, he had the opportunity to reflect on his time in high school and realized that Brush would be with him for the rest of his life. If he could go back, Andrew wishes he would have talked to his teachers more after and outside of class. “They all had interesting life stories and imparted practical wisdom that really benefitted me.” He also wishes he had started volunteering earlier. “I started doing more when I became a member of National Honor Society, but I wish I would have done so sooner.”

Andrew graduated as Kenyon’s salutatorian this past May. This upcoming year, he will work with the AmeriCorps City Year program. “I’ll be tutoring students and working to improve graduation rates within the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.” He is also applying to philosophy Ph.D. programs.

Andrew felt incredibly prepared to learn at a liberal arts college thanks to his instructors at Brush. “They really helped me develop critical thinking skills.” He also states that his English teachers emphasized learning for its own sake and that reading was a way to connect with places, times and individuals that were different but, in the end, not that different. “At Brush, I didn’t just become good at learning, but to learn with the right attitude.” The only shortcoming? “There weren’t a lot of practical know-how classes, but that’s probably just the state of education today.”

At Kenyon, Andrew played the violin in the community orchestra for 3 years, was a member of quiz bowl, philosophy club, and the buildings and grounds committee of student council. He also worked in the special collections and archives of the college’s library. In ten years, he sees himself playing a role in educating others similar to those people who educated him. “I want to find a way to work as a professor of philosophy, or perhaps even teach middle or high school.” There is also a chance he may want to work in education policy.

When asked about the community’s perception of the SEL public schools, Andrew believed that is was mostly positive during his time. He says that negative perceptions are perhaps filled by a lack of knowledge. “I think community members have a vague picture of operation and what the public schools need to succeed. If we increase community participation, the gaps in understanding will go away. Outreach will only help.”

Andrew’s final thoughts were advice for students. “High school and college are what you make them.” He says he learned so much in his time at Brush that wouldn’t have learned elsewhere. “There are hardworking individuals throughout the district that will support you when you invest in your education.”