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Cleveland Education Compact aims to improve relations between charter and district schools


While organizations such as the Transformation Alliance are working to make sure Cleveland’s Plan for Transforming Schools ensures every child in Cleveland receives a quality education with access to a selection of schools, the Cleveland Education Compact is doing their part by helping the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) and the city’s 65 charter schools work together to bring excellence throughout.

The Compact is a collaboration between CMSD, the Cleveland Foundation and Breakthrough Schools, which is a network of public charter schools. The group came together last year after the associated schools received a $100,000 planning grant from the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2014.
 
The Compact’s goal with the planning grant is to unite all those partners via a common goal that includes cooperation between the CMSD and Cleveland’s publicly funded charter schools and improve the educational options in Cleveland.
 
“Essentially, the district and Breakthrough Schools were doing some collaboration already,” explains Lindsey Blackburn, project manager for the Compact. “We applied for the $100,000 grant to get things going.” Blackburn adds that the term “compact” refers to both the group and the document they wrote.
 
Now the planning is underway and a group of 40 people from a dozen schools and organizations met in February for a brainstorming session and to form subcommittees. The executive committee meets monthly to discuss the subcommittee topics, which include record sharing; professional development; special education; facilities; funding; and policy/advocacy.
 
The Compact’s executive committee, which consists of five direct representatives and five charter representatives, meets once a month to ensure the planning phase is carried out before the grant runs out later this year.

“The last two areas have a lot of overlaps so it may make more sense to combine them,” says Blackburn. “Each subcommittee has co-chairs: one representative from the district and one representative from the charters.”
 
The group will meet again on April 5 for additional planning and outlining. “This is an exciting time because this is actual real work,” Blackburn says, adding that they will look for the areas that are easiest to tackle first, then address the more complex issues.
 
"We will look at the ones we can win first, like sharing professional development resources – if a speaker comes in, opening it up to all compact members,” she says. “There will be topics that will prove to be more complex and may not be solved in this round of collaboration.”
  
While the Cleveland Education Compact is not affiliated with the Cleveland Plan, the two groups still share common missions. “The Compact is similar [to the Cleveland Plan] in the sense that it is all about finding areas where district and charter schools can work together.,” says Piet van Lier, executive director of the Transformation Alliance, the organization charged with making sure the Cleveland Plan is executed. “But it wasn’t written into the Cleveland Plan.”
 
However, van Lier does see the two groups complementing each other. “Since the Cleveland Plan envisions a portfolio district with good schools, both district and charter, and allows the district to share levy money with partner charter schools, the two really are different sides of the same coin.”
 
Blackburn says future fundraising options will be considered to keep the Compact going once the planning grant expires. 

Transformation Alliance is a Fresh Water sponsor.

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 18 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.
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