Joe & 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.”