Chances are if you have been to an event at the South Euclid Lyndhurst Schools, you’ve run into Jodi and Frank Turk. To say that the Turk family is involved in SEL Schools is an understatement. From being the Chair of the Scholarship Committee, the President of Arc Boosters, running the Brown and Gold Banquet, and heading the prom committee among a myriad of other volunteer roles, Jodi Turk’s energy and enthusiasm for our schools is unsurpassed and awe-inspiring. Her motivation comes from the tremendous support that she and her family has received from the school district over the years. “The teachers have been my rock”, says Jodi as she recounts the struggles her daughter Gabby has endured since being diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer at age 11. When Gabby faced yet another of her seven surgeries and fell behind in her classes at Brush, the teachers rallied around the family and came to their home over winter break to help Gabby catch up. Due to the extraordinary support Gabby received, she did catch up, graduated with her class in 2015, and is now a freshman at the University of Akron.
The three Turk children have had great experiences in SEL Schools. Rachelle, Class of 2013, was involved in Excel Tech, orchestra, volleyball, and many clubs throughout her time at Brush, and is now a junior at Cleveland State majoring in Business. Adam, Class of 2018, is in band, and plays football, soccer, basketball, and baseball at Brush. In spite of her health concerns, Gabby played volleyball, was part of the cosmetology program through Excel Tech, and participated in orchestra.
Although for many years, Jodi Turk has been an outspoken advocate for SEL Schools, that wasn’t always the case. When their oldest daughter was heading to Greenview, the Turks had heard many negative rumors and began to question whether they wanted to continue in the district. Even though they’d had a great experience at the elementary level, the Turks were so alarmed by the rumors that they listed their Lyndhurst home for sale and began looking at other school districts. Due to difficulty in quickly selling their home, the Turks decided to stay put and try Greenview for one year. “We found out the rumors were wrong. Greenview turned out to be a phenomenal school. All of our children had outstanding teachers throughout their time in the district”, explained Jodi. The Turk family’s opinion of the schools goes beyond acknowledging the outstanding teaching staff and curriculum. “Our Superintendent Linda Reid is a powerhouse. Our Board of Education is incredible too. SEL Schools have so much to offer. Fear and misinformation have caused some families to overlook our schools and that’s a huge loss to the community”, said Jodi. “If we won the lottery today, we’d never leave SEL Schools.”
The survey we posted has received 174 responses so far. Not unexpectedly, it’s a mixed bag. As many of us are all too aware, the perception of our schools does not match the reality for most families that use the schools. We were heartened by the many positive comments we received, and equally saddened by the negative comments that were posted. In order to move forward in the most positive way, we have to confront the negative as well as embrace the positive. We believe that by talking about it, we can start to make it better. We will come together as a community and work together to make our schools the best they can be. There is work to be done, but this is a community that cares deeply and we plan to harness that positive energy to achieve remarkable results. Please share your ideas and join the conversation.
At it’s heart, the SEL Experience Project is community organizing. It’s bringing people together to share our collective concerns and wisdom to create positive change in our community. It’s not about PR, spin, or sugar-coating. We know there are tough questions out there and we formed this community to help address them. We received a new comment on the blog that we feel the community should address together. This parent loves the community but is reluctant to send her sons to our schools. We’ve reprinted her comment below with the hope that you will have something to say on the topic that might help allay her concerns, but also to improve the overall school experience for everyone.
“I am really happy that there seems to be a trend here toward families staying put and investing in a walkable neighborhood with great natural resources and affordable housing. The porch parties and mini parks and neighborhood gardens are wonderful. I truly love living here.
But, I hesitate to send my two black sons to South Euclid Middle School and ultimately the High School. And, it is not the kids. I wonder if the school has the skills to educate Urban Children. My daughter went to Brush and tells me how masses of black children are treated. Where are their stories in this blog?
Drugs are a huge problem with a certain population here. If my boys are not in advanced placement classes how will they be treated? How will they be educated? What type of expectations and unwritten curriculum will effect them?
And, don’t tell me to just listen to the stories that other families are telling. I want to see the classes for myself so that I may form my own opinion. Make the schools more open and allow community dialog so that parents and teachers/administrators can interact. I want to know more before I send my kids there.
I do love living here in South Euclid. I would like to be able to send my children to the schools so that I can avoid taking them half-way across Ohio to school.”
Driving down Harwood Road in South Euclid you might notice a tidy Colonial with soccer goals in the front yard. Tom and Joellen Denk have lived in their charming South Euclid home since marrying in 2003. “When we purchased our home in South Euclid, we heard a lot of supportive comments about the neighborhood and our ‘starter’ home. As we settled in and our priorities became clear, we felt we could remove the ‘starter’ tag from our home,” explained Tom.
The Denks’ commitment to the South Euclid community extends to SEL Schools, where their two sons, who are 8 and 6, attend Rowland School. Tom explained the family’s decision to use SEL Schools: “We attended an Open House in the spring before our first son attended Kindergarten. We found the K-3 program very organized, with appropriate class sizes, aides, and support staff. Our oldest son is gifted and his teachers identified some action plans that would keep him engaged. Our neighbor’s children went through the District and we heard positives about their experiences. Joellen teaches at a neighboring district. Our sons’ education is a priority and we feel they are in capable hands”.
Tom shares many other parents’ frustrations about the negative information that sometimes circulates about the schools. “I think people would be wise to visit the schools and talk to parents to gather first-hand information and dialog about what’s happening now, not rely on chat-room scuttlebutt. For instance, our babysitter is on the Brush High School award-winning Robotics Team. Motivated students with engaged parents have a great opportunity in this district.”
The Denks are also aware of the fact that some families decide to move away from what they perceive is a “starter home” community. “We’ll own our home soon. We know our neighbors, our sons’ teachers and their principal. Our neighbors look out for each other. You may see our family walking our dog, visiting the new library, or taking care of our community garden plot. There are opportunities to volunteer here. I coach Little League and the parents and children are wonderful. My wife and I grew up in different cities, and we both recalled playing with other kids from the neighborhood. Our children get to do that now. They can ride their bikes down the sidewalk to see their friends. Raising a family can take up what’s left of my free time. Time is the only non-renewable commodity and I’m not wasting it on long daily commutes. Now, thirteen years later, I’m not worrying if I made the right choice or if I need to move.”