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Twenty-four (or should I say twenty-three?) hours from now and I’ll be sitting back and counting up the dough. (Heck of a weekend to lose an hour, huh?) But right now, it’s time for that last final push.
After raising our event goal by tiny little amounts, from $10,000 to $15K to $18K and then to $20K and finally $22K, I decided to just go for it and make a goal that is actually a goal, as in something we have to work hard for. So right now, our goal is $30,000, but I think even that might be easy.
You all are awesome. All of you who’ve donated or who are shaving and raising money from your own circles. It has been really awe-inspiring to watch the numbers go up every single day, to see all these little kids, five-year-olds and seven-year-olds, bring in amounts nearing or surpassing $1000. What a huge statement you are making, on behalf of Austin and on behalf of sick children the world over. I, we, thank you.
Yesterday morning, I went to Fairfax and spoke with the three second grade classes about cancer. The sixty combined kids sat quietly on the floor and listened carefully the entire time. I think the weeds-in-the-garden analogy really really worked for them. The best was in the beginning when I asked what weeds do to your garden and one child said, “They can spread through the dirt and wrap themselves around the roots of healthy plants.” Another piped in, “They can use the sunlight and the water and the healthy soil that the other plants really need it.” Uhhhh, yeah. Just like the Big C.
Towards the end of my 45 minutes, I had the eight second grade boys with green hair stand up to be acknowledged for their bravery as shavees. One of the teachers reminded the students that a vocabulary word for the week was “noble.” “What these boys are doing is a noble act,” she said. Well, noble is not a word I use very often but that captured it pretty perfectly.
Speaking of the incredible acts of kindness committed by these young children, my dear friend Peter Richer, who organizes the AJ Rocco’s event as well as one at University School, has thrown down the gauntlet. He has issued a challenge to see who can raise more money: the shavees at our Cleveland Heights event or those at the University School event next Thursday. They have 53 shavees and a female teacher, just like we do, and are currently trailing us with $25,884 raised to our $27,437. Of course, all the money goes to St Baldrick’s and so, no matter where it comes from, that’s a good thing (and I am, of course, proud of and touched by all the US boys shaving too). But you know I love a little competition and you know my support of our community and our public schools is something of an obsession, so I am accepting this challenge and am determined to win. Our event has shavees from Cleveland Heights, University Heights, Shaker Heights, Lakewood, Bedford, Solon, North Ridgeville and beyond, including an impressive nineteen students from the CHUH Schools, and that is certainly something to be proud of and to celebrate.
So…if you’ve been thinking about giving, NOW IS THE TIME. Every dollar matters. Every dollar saves lives.
Austin is here, Braedan is here, 4th grade teacher Kristi Glasier, who is sending a loud and powerful message to her students, especially the young girls, about what really matters in life, is here. And the event is here.
The transition from Thanksgiving to Christmas seems to get shorter and quicker every year. So now that we’ve all moved on to the next big thing, it’s time to think about giving. Every year, I encourage my kids, with limited success, to weed out their toys to make room for the inevitable mass of new ones. And this year, we have lots of good options for what to do with all their extra stuff.
First (and this one is just brilliant), The Smead Discovery Center at the Natural History Museum is accepting broken plastic toys — yes, that’s right, all those tiny broken pieces that have no home or game parts with no game, the junk that clutters up the bottom of toy baskets and drawers in every room in the house. They’ll take it all, more than just the action figure parts they accepted in the past, as long as it’s smaller than 12 by 6 by 6 inches. They then send them to the Toy Lab in Cincinnati where kids make them into new toys in an arts and science lab (how cool is that?). But they’re only accepting donations through November 30, so get busy.
Next, two lovely organizations with which I’m affiliated are having toy sales next week. Both Family Connections, where I sit on the board, and St Paul’s Coop, where Austin attends preschool, will be collecting new and gently used toys and baby gear over the next week. Check out their respective websites for all the necessary details: Family Connections and St. Paul’s.
And finally, the one I am most excited about: Go Public! Great Schools Are Everybody’s Business, which is a grassroots movement to foster stronger ties between Cleveland Heights-University Heights community and the public schools, is having a learning material toy drive. The motivating idea behind this is that children can’t learn if they don’t know how to play and they can’t play if they don’t have the right toys. As I’ve mentioned, a significant percentage of the students in CHUH schools live in poverty and I’m certain that few of them have appropriately educational toys in their homes. I’m not talking just about flashcards here, but books and puzzles, legos and building blocks, art supplies and board games, anything that requires imagination or creativity.
The counselors at each of our seven elementary schools will identify the 10 to 20 neediest families in each school, who will then receive a box of gently used and/or new toys to take home before the holiday break. If you have anything to share, please consider this opportunity as it has an immediate positive impact on the identified students and their entire families. For those of you who think your materials would be too young for elementary students, everything will be sorted into age categories, including pre-K and K, which will be hugely beneficial for the younger siblings in our students’ homes.
There will be collection boxes at all seven elementary schools and Coventry from Monday December 5 through Friday, December 16. I spent hours and hours today going through all the various baskets and containers that store toys (and bits of broken plastic) in our mudroom, living room, both boys’ rooms, and the third floor playroom. I weeded, sorted, repaired, repackaged and boxed up a storm.
It was much-needed and very satisfying and, most importantly, can truly make a difference to a child in need.
I’m back and mostly recovered from my recent non-stop campaigning for our local school levy. I was eating, breathing, sleeping CHUH for a few days there, hence my uncharacteristic absence from the blogosphere. But we had a resounding victory here, with the community stepping up and supporting public education despite tough economic times. The margin of victory was larger than any I remember, a whopping 14 percentage points. Dare I say the tide is turning for the Heights Schools?
Last night, we hosted an Open House for prospective kindergarten families at Fairfax, of which we are one. I watched Austin stand up there next to his future classmates, awaiting a turn at the SmartBoard, and I was struck by what a big and capable kid he has become. I’m pretty sure he would have been fine in kindergarten this year, but I have no doubt that we did the right thing giving him one more year of preschool.
I had his first parent-teacher conference of the year this morning and she said he is doing fabulously. Both academically and socially, he is absolutely on target — better than on target: he is thriving. And it is really a joy to see.
He plays nicely with everyone, boy or girl. He is always engaged in classroom activities (as evidenced by that little tongue sticking out), and especially likes the weekly “challenge.” He is getting mighty close to reading and has a mathematical mind that blows me away (much like his brother and unlike his mother).
His teacher has created a magical environment where the children believe they are just playing and yet learning is infused into everything they do. Each activity and project is carefully selected to enhance some specific skill, either academic, social or physical. I wish every child could experience this kind of classroom before moving into the big (structured) world of kindergarten.
For Austin, I know that this was a decision we will not regret.
First of all, as a follow-up to Halloween, yes, Austin did wear his rocket ship costume and, yes, he did indeed love it. He was racing around shouting, “Intergalactic! Intergalactic!” We did have some wardrobe malfunctions though, due to tripping on the flames as he climbed people’s steps. And twice, we needed to borrow staplers from random houses to re-staple him into his costume. Next year, I’ve vowed to let him wear a much less cumbersome one so they can really run. But I’d certainly say that a good time was had by all:
And now, I apologize for the extreme local-ness of this but Cleveland Heights is abuzz with excitement over the upcoming weekend. Our high school’s nationally recognized and award-winning musical department will be performing The Sound of Music four times, a production that includes more than 600 students from all eleven schools in the district. (There are two full casts so 600 kids aren’t performing each night.) We happen to be going to the show on Saturday night which just happens to be the same night and same time and same location as Heights High’s first ever playoff football game, following our team’s undefeated season.
Needless to say, it’s going to be a bit of a scene out there. Between the sold-out show and the sold-out game, the district is expecting more than 5000 people (and hoping none of them plan to park a car there!). Mark was able to get some tickets to the game, so he and Braedan are going to that instead while Austin and I are bringing two families of potential CHUH students to the show.
I’m not sure if the diaspora of Heights readers know this, but this year every school adopted the Tiger as its mascot. There has been a big push over the past few months to cultivate a sense of unity and pride in the district as a whole instead of in each individual school. As you might imagine, there’s been some resistance to this, especially from the middle schools who each have their own sports teams and colors and logos. But over the past few weeks, as the levy campaign has kicked into overdrive and as the music department has begun advertising its shows and as the football team (and girls’ soccer team) have been racking up win after win, there is a renewed sense of pride in the community. People are really coming together, celebrating the successes of each student, club, team, event, building as their own.
It reminds me of our trip to the World Cup in Germany in 2006. The German team was doing well while we were there, having advanced a few rounds despite some heavy competition. The German people and media kept talking about this was the first time they had felt free to come together and wave their flag with such pride after its long and tortured history of national pride gone awry. Nationalism in Germany after all turned into Nazism in Germany. In 2006, when reunification was still fresh in the minds of many, this opportunity to rally around something, even something that may be considered trivial like a soccer team (not that soccer teams are ever considered trivial in Germany) was truly meaningful. On a smaller scale, it feels that way here, right now. We have something to cheer for. In fact, we have many somethings to cheer for. And cheer for them, we are.
So, in order to further that feeling of belonging to something special, I tried to buy “Tiger Nation” t-shirts for my kids. I have one, as our PTA was selling them in adult sizes. And I know some of the other schools’ PTAs have sold them for kids, but the district had run out and I was getting frustrated, so I decided to take matters into my own hands. So, thanks to Logos on Lee (owned by a Tiger), I ordered 100 youth-sized black short-sleeved t-shirts with “Tiger Nation” in gold lettering across the front, (20 each of extra-small, small, medium, large and extra-large). They’ll be ready Saturday morning and I will bring them to the levy lit drop distribution in the parking lot near the Heights football field at 10am. Then I will sell them near the main entrance at Fairfax from 10:30 to 11:30. After that, you’ll have to send me a message and come get yours at my house.
They’re 7 dollars each, which is what I paid for them, so I won’t make any profit at all. I just want to see another hundred kids showing their Tiger Pride on Saturday (or any day!). Let me know if you want me to save some aside for you. Or, if you happen to be a member of that great Heights diaspora, I’m more than happy to send you some.
Hear that tiger roar.
Well, it was a great day for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights School District in the pages of the trusty Sun Press. There were eleven well written and passionate letters to the editor in support of the school levy (including two by the mother-daughter team of Nancy and Krissy) and two tired, repetitive letters against. Now if only we could guarantee those same odds on Election Day!
You would think that in the year 2011, it would be easy to access these letters online but I don’t seem able to. So I’m copying mine below, which was (shockingly) printed in its entirety without one word of editing, despite being 55 words over their limit. Please please please, if you live in these fine communities, PLEASE vote yes for Issue 6 on November 8.
Rita O’Connor’s attack on the Heights Schools is sadly misguided. She seems to place blame for criminal activity and irresponsible behavior on the shoulders of the school district. It is true that both exist in our communities, as they exist in all inner-ring suburbs. But it is not true, nor even sensible, to think that such problems are the fault of the schools.
Our district is doing an excellent job educating all of its students, including those whose parents may not meet O’Connor’s approval. The new programs at the Delisle Educational Options Center are helping to ease the transition of students from other districts, notably Cleveland and East Cleveland, so they are better prepared both academically and behaviorally for the high standards of CH-UH.
CH-UH also partners closely with Family Connections to engage parents of “at-risk” kindergarteners, both in the school and in their homes. Such programs give parents specific skills and opportunities to interact with their young children in ways that promote early literacy.
But even with the district’s carefully planned interventions, there are and will continue to be students from families who, in O’Connor’s words, have “no idea how to support a child and no idea how to live responsible lives.” Many of these children, despite facing enormous obstacles, are excellent students. Sadly, O’Connor’s solution is to cut them off: We don’t like their parents’ behavior and therefore we shouldn’t offer them a high quality education .
Nothing could be more short-sighted, or more reprehensible. Children from troubled backgrounds are punished for the mistakes of their parents every single day. A just and caring society would wrap their arms around these kids and give them the very best opportunities, even when it’s expensive, both to prevent the cycle of poverty from spiraling forward and because it is simply the right thing to do.
One of the best things about CH-UH is its commitment to every student who walks through its doors. This is not a “bad” district because it pours money and energy into educating children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Quite the opposite, in fact. That is one of the things that makes it great.
Alright, here goes . . . I have tried to keep myself from writing on this topic because I know it is a deeply personal one for many families, but as the school year draws near, I cannot avoid it any longer. And I know I am bound to offend many people, people I really like and consider my friends, if not by my scathing indictment of our nearby parochial schools than by my frank discussions about race relations, and I am sorry for that, but, well, here goes . . .
I live in Cleveland Heights, an inner-ring suburb of Cleveland that prides itself on its diversity. The population is roughly half black and half white, spans from extremely wealthy to those living in poverty, encompasses a plethora of religions including a large and active Orthodox Jewish population, and is an all-around fascinating place to live. I was educated in the public schools here and I think I speak for many of us when I say that the “real world” education we received was unsurpassed. In addition — and this is important – my academic eduation, the actual classroom material (as opposed to the endless hallway material), was extremely rigorous. I went on to a prestigious liberal arts university where I worked very very hard, but I was never challenged quite the way I was at Heights High.
One of the interesting outcomes of living in a community like this one is that I have always felt (relatively) free and comfortable talking about the taboo subject of race. We were exposed, from a very young age, to all of the disparities, the differences, the similarities, the stereotypes, of one racial group or another. And we addressed them head-on with both honesty and respect. Issues of black and white were an integral part of our upbringing and we had to talk about them openly. This has been a great gift throughout my life, and one that few people I’ve known were lucky enough to experience. I remember during my senior year, the Unity group of which I was a member was concerned with the self-segregation of our school’s sports teams. Black kids and black families went to basketball games to cheer on the mostly black players, white kids and white families went to hockey games to cheer on those mostly white players. We decided to offer a two-for-one deal when you bought tickets to either team’s games. I will never forget sitting with our group of black guy friends at their first ever hockey game as they were duly impressed with the rough and rowdy behavior both on the ice and in the stands. We were all reminded of a lesson we thought we already knew: to focus less on the color of the players’ skins and more on the color of the players’ jerseys.
All of this is a very long introduction to something that has been bothering me enormously as I prepare to send Braedan off to kindergarten in this very same school dicstrict. The make-up of our community has not changed all that much in the last twenty years, but the make-up of the schools has, as more and more white families send their kids to private and parochial schools. Now I know this is a very individual decision that can be based on many factors, including family history and a child’s specific needs. I also know some families feel strongly about their children receiving a specific religious education. And I have no quarrel with that. But I am disturbed and upset by the families who assume that the public schools aren’t good enough for their children simply because of the other kids who go there.
Now I know that’s a huge accusation to throw out there and that a lot of your hackles are raised right now, but I do hope you’ll keep reading. When comparing the three nearby parochial primary schools with the public elementary schools, there is absolutely no question, no debate, about which provide better, more rigorous and well-rounded academic instruction. First of all, the teachers in our public schools are among the best educated in the state of Ohio in terms of the number of Masters degrees and PhDs, as well as being certified in the subject they teach. And yes, that matters, big time. The person standing in front of your child all day every day, determining what material to cover and in what manner, guiding them and inspiring them, should be the best educated. I don’t see how you would choose anything but.
The curriculum in our schools is rigorous and varied and includes specialized instruction in the visual arts and music, as well as physical education and technology. The middle schools and high school offer many foreign languages and high level science and math courses. The well-known secret among the district’s teachers (and remember, I was one) is that the kids who transfer from the local Catholic schools into the public middle schools (which many do when their parents realize they need something more rigorous to prepare them for high shcool) are on average one full grade level behind in math, science and social studies.
So, I’m just feeling frustrated. I feel frustrated and disappointed by parents who claim they want to use the public schools, but then don’t. Who believe that they are actually doing their children a favor by protecting them from kids with a different background or different life experience. Who condemn our schools as “dangerous” or “out of control” without ever giving them a try.
I don’t need more white families to use the public schools in order for them to be good enough for my kids, that is not what this is about. I just wish more white families believed the schools could be good enough. For all of our kids.