Like many Clevelanders, I’m not quite ready to sweep up the confetti, take down the bunting and offer a fond Champagne farewell to 2016. Our year of championships, conventions, new places, reinvented public spaces, Game 7s and epic parades has been pretty magical.
I still get goose bumps thinking about LeBron James hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy over his head or recalling East Fourth Street lined with TV crews, delegates and protesters during the Republican National Convention or seeing the skating rink and holiday lights sparkle on the remade Public Square.
But as we uncork a new year, it’s also important to remember that these accomplishments didn’t happen by magic. They involved hours, weeks and years of planning and effort outside the bright lights, the cameras and the headlines.
Consider what it took to pull off our first championship parade in 52 years. Carrie Samek, one of this year’s Most Interesting People, knows. With no previous experience and just over two days to accomplish it all, the Cavs event and arena marketing manager met with police and city officials, coordinated car rentals, marching bands and confetti trucks, and lined up a host of Cleveland celebrities for a citywide celebration. “It was a whirlwind,” she recalls.
LeBron even has a hashtag for that do-whatever-it-takes, get-better-every-day mentality: #StriveforGreatness. In another arena, it’s exactly what Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon, who we also profile this month, calls “the work.”
In many ways, this was a good year for the city schools, which showed improvements in graduation, enrollment and attendance numbers. In November, voters renewed the 15 mill levy that funds the Cleveland Plan for Transforming Schools for four more years.
And yet, the district earned straight F’s on the most recent state report card, a tentative agreement with the teachers union fell apart and changes looming in graduation requirements could potentially wipe out one of the Cleveland Plan’s biggest gains.
It’s why Gordon, pragmatist that he is, stepped to the mic on election night and proclaimed: “We are not where our kids and our community deserve our schools to be. This is another four-year challenge to continue the improvement at, or faster, than we did in the last four years.”
That’s the sentiment we must carry with us into the next 12 months and beyond: every day working for better education, improved safety, more equality and more jobs. There is so much left to be done, and that should be what drives us forward.