Heights Superintendent Gives State of the Schools Address


Kimberly Fisher

PTA Council President Jen Holland (left) seated with Superintendent Dr. Talisa Dixon (right) during the Q&A session

The future is approaching at an incredible rate. Technology is advancing rapidly, as well as the healthcare field and many other fields, making education invaluable to society. A good education will equip younger generations for the jobs society needs filled. In an effort to express her own plans for the future of the district and its students, Dr. Talisa Dixon gave a “State of the Schools” address to the Cleveland Heights-University Heights community on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018. The speech began at 7 p.m. with a Q&A session that ended the presentation at 8 p.m.

The night started at 6 p.m. where community members were given the chance to explore the new Heights building if they had not been yet. The district elementary, grade, and middle schools all had tables set up in the cafeteria for community members to connect more with those schools and the few students who were able to be at the event as well. The Heights High Women’s and Men’s Barbershoppers showed off their amazing voices to the community at 7 p.m. before handing the stage over to Senior Yidiayah Box. She gave a short speech about her time at Cleveland Heights High and what it meant to her before introducing Superintendent Talisa Dixon.  

  Dixon’s speech focused on the importance of a public education and how that affects the community. The public school system is “facing a barrage of obstacles to overcome, from school choice vouchers to high stakes testing to dwindling resources to serve our neediest families” said Dixon in her speech. In order to combat these issues on the homefront, she has assured the community that the CH-UH district is hard at work finding new ways of becoming a stronger public district in the face of these obstacles.

Helping to guide these efforts is a five step plan, referred to as the “Strategic Plan,” that was proposed and refined by feedback from various teachers, students, community members and leaders, as well as CH-UH families. The plan was adopted in 2015 and has continued to be redefined as the years have progressed.

The first goal of this plan is to have every student graduate and be college and career ready. By 2020, Dixon wants to achieve a 90 percent graduation rate. Already the five year graduation program has surpassed that quota with the four year program not far behind. However, her plan does not stop there, “our goal is for our students to master our curriculum and capitalize on the opportunities given to them…” She wants the CH-UH students to not only pass the tests, she wants them to be “college ready, career ready, and life ready” which is part of the new initiative by the School Superintendents Association named “Redefining ready.”  

 Dixon identified providing each and every student a good education as the second goal. “…I believe, … we MUST focus instead on the OPPORTUNITY gap!” She says. She believes that the”achievement gap” is less of a rift between the abilities in the minority and majority students, but that the minority students are not given as many opportunities to grow and explore outside of the school environment. To close the “opportunity gap” The Board of Education issued the first equity policy in 2016. In the most recent agreement between the Board and the Teacher’s Union, equity training was included as an essential. Thanks to these initiatives, more students are challenging themselves with at least one Advanced Placement, or AP, course.  

Parent and Community engagement in the support and enhancement of student learning is goal three. The CH-UH District has partnered with many different community organizations such as the Cleveland Food Bank, The Cleveland Clinic mobile unit, the mobile dentist, and Visionworks to assist financially struggling families with keeping their children in school. The Community in Schools Task Force, made up of community members, potential partner representatives, and district staff, is looking into strengthening and widening these partnerships to ensure that no student has a “one size fits all” cure for a problem. The PTA has also become a bigger entity in an effort to allow more families access to the behind the scenes of what goes on in the district.

Hiring and keeping a “caring and highly-qualified staff with diverse experiences and backgrounds” is the fourth goal. Professional Development Days have been reinvented into a more conference style workshop with leading presenters and even their own peers. This experience is designed to give the staff better insight into how to address students and how to give better one-on-one attention. The Tiger Team Campaign is also a tool that is used to highlight an outstanding staff member once a month.

The fifth and final goal in this plan is to keep the community up to date about how their tax money is being used for the district and giving the students a quality 21st century education. In this respect, technology has been a hot topic. About 500 Google Classrooms are operational at the moment that allows 24/7 access to assignments and learning aids. Next year all second to fifth grade classrooms will have access to class sets of chromebooks to provide a one-on-one learning environment with technology as an aid. The district lost more than 7.5 million dollars to private school vouchers last year and switched to the all Google platform which has saved the district millions. The energy saving Green Apple Project has also saved the district thousands by changing behavior regarding energy consumption and preservation.

Dixon’s address was well received by those present. Around forty people attended the superintendent’s address, which is given each February.