WASHINGTON—American Federation of Teachers Executive Vice President Lorretta Johnson spent two days in Cleveland this week to promote the AFT’s community engagement initiatives, learn more about current efforts in Cleveland to bring communities and schools together, and identify ways the national union can help with these efforts. During the visit, Johnson, along with Cleveland Teachers Union President David Quolke, met with local business leaders, educators, clergy and parents, and toured two wrap-around schools.
“Cleveland gets it. It takes more than a superintendent, school staff or principals to make our public schools work,” said Johnson. “If we want to help children at risk, then the entire community has to step up and make saving public education a top priority.”
On Wednesday, the leaders attended a public forum on community engagement and Cleveland’s Family Liaison program, which is designed to support families by addressing both school-related and personal issues affecting the academic performance of at-risk or disadvantaged students. At the end of last school year, budget cuts forced the Cleveland Metropolitan School District to lay off all of its liaisons.
“The family liaisons in our schools have made a huge difference in the lives our students,” said Quolke. “Getting the liaisons back in the schools is a priority for our union because of the tremendous help they provide to the schoolchildren of Cleveland and their families.”
After a morning meeting with Cleveland’s business, political and education leaders on community involvement in public schools, the leaders visited students and staff at East Technical High School and Lincoln-West High School. Both schools provide wraparound services, offering students and communities additional academic support, health and social services, youth and community development programs, and community engagement initiatives. These schools will be implementing their wraparound-services models for the first time this year.
“The educators in Cleveland’s wraparound schools want the same things for their students as those in any other school,” Johnson said. “But to make a difference in the lives of kids who need it most, the key is forging partnerships with the community and providing services that bring the community and the school together.”