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.”
Every day, it seems, the SEL Experience Project finds out something new and amazing about SEL Schools. Yesterday the big news for us is that SEL Schools has the only K-3 STEM program in the area! Yes, that’s right, our students are the only ones locally to have amazing STEM labs and this incredible program. Did you know that? One of the most frustrating things about telling the story of our schools is that there is so much great stuff that a lot of folks just don’t know about. Even those of us who are involved miss things because there is so much happening all the time. We all need an “elevator speech” to help inform friends and family about our schools. We have a district with so many great things happening all the time. As always, we need your help! Tell us about the programs you love best in SEL Schools, what you think people don’t realize, and your advice for getting the word out.
The goal of the SEL Experience Project is to tell the truth– always–even when it doesn’t make for particularly pleasant conversation. Since we started the blog last summer, we’ve had the opportunity to speak informally with parents, students, teachers, administrators, and residents. These conversations have given us a 30,000-foot view of our school district and have put us in the position of having a better understanding of multiple perspectives. That unique insight has also created frustration and concern.
Someone asked us an interesting question this week: who are we trying to reach through the blog? Surely, we have one target audience. We envisioned this blog as speaking to people in the community who might not have a clear understanding of what our SEL School District offers. These could be residents with children in the District, those with children who could go to the District, but don’t, residents without children or empty-nesters who have heard negative things about the schools, or non-residents who have a desire to find out more about our schools because they are looking for housing or are selling real estate in the area and want to be better informed. That’s a pretty big audience, and a pretty big challenge. After doing this for a while, we found that we have been reaching lots of teachers and administrators as well. We realized that they needed support and encouragement to deal with the negative perception issues as just much as parents and community members.
After speaking with all these folks, we know one thing for sure: everyone wants the best for our kids. We are operating from a place of common ground, and that means so much. We all want our kids to succeed and achieve their dreams. We all feel proud when we read about the great things our students and former students are doing. They’re OUR kids. That’s what’s important here.
It’s been a rough year. Feelings have been hurt. People with good intentions on all sides feel misunderstood, victimized, and wounded. Because of this hurt, relationships have broken down resulting in a toxic disconnect between our teachers and our administration. We fear that this is starting to hurt OUR kids, and could undo some of the good that has been done to move the district forward. A house divided, soon falls. There is no “us” and “them”, only “we”. We need to find true common ground–a place of respect and mutual understanding. Parents and students find themselves in middle. The danger is that some of the parties involved, be they teachers, parents, or administrators, will give up and leave, making it even harder to move forward in the most positive way. We’re at a tipping point and our kids need us all to be at the top of our game. Picture a three-legged stool: the legs are made up of teachers, administrators, and parents. The students are balanced on the top and are being held up by those three legs. If one leg starts to give way, the whole thing falls apart. No one group can hold it all together. We have to work together.
We have an opportunity here to show our kids how adults can solve difficult problems, hopefully by working together out of a place of mutual respect. How do we fix this together? Tell us your thoughts and ideas. Our kids are worth it.
There’s a back story to this alumni profile. I admit that I have been harassing my colleague, Michael Love to complete one of our alumni profiles for quite some time. I desperately wanted him to give us an update on what he and his two siblings have been doing since graduation because I think it shows, very clearly, the kind of graduates that come out of SEL Schools. This is a profile I knew you would all want to read, and in keeping with Michael’s understated and modest style, I would say he’s holding back–just a little.
Having had the privilege of working with him since 2008, I can honestly say that he is a tireless and devoted servant of our community. He has a resume that makes it obvious that he could work anywhere, yet he has committed himself to South Euclid and has purchased his own home here. As Economic Development Director, he has accomplished so much. During his tenure the city has seen over $100 million in new investment, and he was instrumental in establishing One South Euclid, the city’s community development corporation. He has been a speaker at national conferences, a committed volunteer for many South Euclid and Cleveland causes, and works tirelessly to make South Euclid and Greater Cleveland the best it can be.
Michael’s brother Stephen is another Cleveland powerhouse! Formerly employed by Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, the Cuyahoga Land Bank, and now as a Program Officer for the Cleveland Foundation, Stephen is establishing a name for himself in the region as someone who is instrumental to Cleveland’s Renaissance. The creative genius behind the Euclid Beach Blast, Stephen has spent untold hours cleaning up Euclid Beach and attracting scores of others to take up the cause. In his free time, you can see him putting his Brush Band skills to good use, playing the trombone in venues all over town with Son Gitano, the uber popular Latin Jazz band. Stephen and his equally accomplished fiance, Ali Lukacsy, have purchased a home near the lake in Collinwood that they are lovingly renovating. Both are committed to the Collinwood art scene and helping to create a more vibrant NEO.
Sarah Love is continuing her education by pursuing a Doctorate in Psychology, having recently been accepted into a prestigious program at Wright State. We hope that she follows in her brothers’ footsteps and returns to Greater Cleveland upon completion of her academic career.
The Love siblings typify the kind of selfless devotion to service we see in so many SEL graduates. In writing these profiles, what often comes to light is that our graduates want to make the world a better place and are willing to work hard to make that happen. One thing is for sure: we love the LOVE siblings! — Sally Martin
What are your names and when did you graduate from SEL Schools?
Michael Love: 2004
Stephen Love: 2006
Sarah Love: 2011
Where did you attend college, what was your major, and what year did you graduate?
Baldwin Wallace University, BA Communication Studies, 2008
Cleveland State University, Master of Public Administration (MPA), 2009
Baldwin Wallace University, BA Political Science/International Studies, 2010
Cleveland State University, Master of Public Administration (MPA), 2011
Ohio Wesleyan University, BA Psychology, 2015
Wright State University, PsyD Candidate, Doctor of Psychology, 2020
What are you doing now and where do you live?
Economic Development Director for the City of South Euclid, lives in South Euclid
Program Officer for the Cleveland Foundation, lives in Cleveland (North Collinwood)
PsyD Candidate (Doctor of Psychology) at Wright State University, lives in Dayton
What activities were you involved in while at SEL Schools?
Model UN, Student Council, Peer Tutoring, Future Business Leaders Club
Band, Student Council, National Honor Society
Band, Key Club
In what ways do you feel that SEL Schools prepared you for your future endeavors?
We feel SEL Schools truly prepared us for future success. SEL Schools provided us with a truly well-rounded education which allowed us to be prepared for success in college and beyond.
All three of us attended SEL Schools from Kindergarten through 12th grade and feel our education was unmatched. The academic programs and offerings, particularly at the high school level, put students such as ourselves on a path to success in college. Graduating from Brush, one can be confident that success in college is very likely. The opportunity to earn college credit through enrolling in a diverse range of Advancement Placement Classes is big advantage SEL Schools offer. These classes do a great job in preparing students for college and through the college credit opportunity can allow students to potentially finish college early. Coming out of Brush, all three of us felt ready for college, and had successful college careers. This translated to all three of us enrolling in graduate programs and being on track for professional success.
Beyond the academic offerings at Brush, the range of extracurricular activities allowed all three of us to explore our different interests, being involved in everything from music to helping other students succeed. Of course, the diverse types and personalities of the student body in SEL Schools, truly prepares you for what you will encounter in the real world. Starting in college and throughout your professional career, you will interact with those different from you. Being educated in a diverse school district, and it is diverse in every sense of the word, allows these interactions to be enjoyable. We also feel SEL students are more likely to seek out these interactions in their post-school lives.
What are some of your favorite memories, teachers, or classes from SEL Schools?
All of us enjoyed our experiences throughout our time in SEL. One thing the three of us had in common was an appreciation for the foreign language curriculum. All three us began taking Spanish in the 7th Grade and took it throughout our high school careers. Being in the foreign language program is a great example of the practical skills an SEL education offers for students.
We also very much enjoyed the opportunity to be involved in a variety of extracurricular activities. We each partook in somewhat different activities with experiences that we continue to find useful today. Whether it be the teamwork skills learned in band, the leadership skills from being part of Student Council, or the commitment to helping others gained from Key Club, all of the activities we were part of provided us with valuable life lessons.
We believe our time and experiences in SEL Schools contributed greatly to the people we are today.
If there was one thing you wish people knew about SEL Schools, what would it be?
We wish people had a better understanding of the high quality education SEL Schools offer. We truly believe it is the amazing education we received through SEL Schools that allowed us to have great college and now professional career experiences. Continuing to share success stories is one of the best ways to get the word out about our school district and the opportunities it provides.
Brush is truly an ideal sized high school. It offers many opportunities that could not be found in smaller school districts, such as the diverse range of AP Classes and extracurricular activities, while still being able to offer much individualized instruction and attention to fit the needs of all students. We feel there is a deep commitment in SEL Schools to student success.
Heros come in many forms. Some are widely recognized for their bravery and others remain mostly anonymous and unrecognized, yet their deeds change lives in countless ways. Sometimes the hero may have no idea that they are making a difference.
Our SEL teachers are heroes. It’s a rare gift to find out that you are making a difference in someone’s life, and we’re sure that our teachers are not hearing about it often enough. We know sometimes it feels like a thankless job, but the fact that you show up day after day and never give up on our kids is making a difference. You are creating ripples on the pond that have impacts well beyond what you may ever realize.
We know that this has been a tough year for you, and sometimes you feel like giving up. Please don’t. Every day you get up and make a difference in the lives of our kids. Every day, you change lives. Every day, your example influences another human being and helps shape them into a person who will change the world. SEL graduates are changing the world–you’ve read their stories here. You were an important part of that. You made the difference. The decision you made to get up and try again another day, helped make that happen. Don’t ever stop.