On the evening of January 19th, 25 people came to the South Euclid Lyndhurst Public Library and spent two hours in a productive and passionate dialogue about our SEL Schools. Personal stories were shared, rumors were confronted, hopes and dreams for the future of our schools were discussed, and an idea was born.
SEL CARES (Caring About Results for Every Student), is an idea that has come out of this conversation. It’s a grass roots effort to involve more community stakeholders in our schools. During the meeting, volunteers signed up to serve each school building, making the commitment to host informal meetings and get more involved in the schools by attending Board of Education meetings and staying present in the schools and with other parents. These groups hope to allay the fears of parents at times of transition to other school buildings, such as when students are moving from their elementary building to Greenview. Parents who have already been through these transitions will host meetings to answer questions and hopefully reassure these parents of a smooth transition. Those in attendance felt that this was an important missing link and that many families are lost at transition times.
As many of you know, the SEL Experience Project is a grass roots initiative to share stories and dispel negative rumors about our school district that has led to white flight and community disinvestment. This meeting was the second community conversation we’ve convened since beginning this work. The conversation was important and eye-opening. We wanted to share the highlights here to keep the dialogue going and increase community engagement.
Many personal stories were shared of the kindness of staff, teachers, and students who went the extra mile to help or made students feel accepted and helped them to excel. The diversity of our schools was cited as a big positive, the majority feeling that it has led to students being more social justice oriented and inclusive. Academics are considered very strong at SEL Schools, and much pride exists for the new exercise science facility and all of the AP and enrichment programs like Excel Tech, that help make students career-ready. Art and music are considered strong programs that set the district apart. The incredible success of many of our students in academics, art, sports, and enrichment activities were cited as a positive. SEL students are going to great colleges and are out in world achieving high levels of success. Overall, attendees felt that it’s important to keep sharing the positive stories and use new methods of communication to reach the people who need to hear it the most.
Among attendees, there was a strong feeling that the faculty are not as valued and supported as they should be. There appears to be strife between the faculty and administration which is causing dissatisfaction among teachers and could result in the loss of good teachers as they pursue other opportunities, or apathy and a loss of teacher-led programming like clubs. There was a feeling of a lack of transparency from the administration, especially regarding explanations about the funding sources for new projects and the elimination of certain programs. It was suggested that a bigger effort was needed on the part of the administration to recruit and retain families and staff. The schools may not be effectively selling themselves to compete with private options and other districts. Police presence on Mayfield Road at dismissal may be causing additional negative perceptions. The District may not be fully addressing the real concerns that parents have like discipline issues within the school buildings and on school buses. Some concerns were expressed that sports is being emphasized to the detriment of academics.
Overall, it was felt that by increasing community engagement and by recognition of the concerns of faculty and a greater effort at team building, any negatives could be transformed to positives, building on all the great qualities already in place. It is our hope that all parties come together to keep promoting the many positives of SEL Schools, work aggressively to address the concerns, and help build the support of the community. It’s about working together for our kids. If you would like to be part of SEL CARES, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.