Cleveland Magazine: What lessons did you learn in Maple Heights that can be applied to East Cleveland?
Henry Pettiegrew: I developed three core beliefs. The first is excellence. Everyone across the organization, students to staff, should strive to be excellent. The second is empathy. What issues plaguing students are prohibiting them from achieving? You need to learn your students, learn your community, learn your families. The third is equity. I have to make sure that all students have the ability and the support to achieve at a high level.
CM: What will your agenda look like?
HP: I have five commitments. The first is turnaround leadership: We are going to come up with our strategic plan and measurable goals and ensure that we have an accountability and monitoring process. The second is transformative instruction and supports. High-quality instruction will be present, and assessments will be targeted. They will be aligned to what students need to learn, and they will accurately show how students are performing. My third commitment is to tackle talent management: hiring and retaining high-quality teachers and leaders. The fourth commitment is togetherness. When state intervention happens to a school, it creates division. I’m going to seek out collaboration with key stakeholders regionally to cull the best practices and ideas to get this district on the right track. Commitment five is transparent finances and operations: ensuring that the community and all stakeholders know where money is going.
CM: Leveraging state control to improve a school district has not worked in Lorain and Youngstown. How will this be different?
HP Everything really depends on the context of the district. School improvement involves looking at the local situation and providing strategies that target specific issues that East Cleveland is experiencing. It has to be organic, utilizing the people in the community and in the district to help fashion those strategies. I feel very optimistic about the success of East Cleveland schools.
Editor’s Note: Pettiegrew declined to comment on an on-going lawsuit in which East Cleveland School District disputes that it earned an “F” grade in 2018. The trial is set for November.