SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio -- Sporting his signature bow tie, Shaker Heights Schools Superintendent Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr. delivered a state-of-the-schools address on Tuesday in which he extolled the virtues of the district's schools, while speaking of work still to be done.
Hutchings spoke with pride of the classes offered at all eight schools, staff members, accomplishments of students, and narrowing the achievement gap in terms of graduation rates of white and black students.
He also told of the need to make $150 million in physical upgrades at schools, and the importance of bringing to the district more teachers of color, particularly male teachers.
The Superintendent over the course of about 45 minutes told an audience of just over 100 at the high school's auditorium that the district has been spending every dollar as if it was its last.
But, he said, "At some point, patchwork doesn't work anymore. We've identified $150 million in repairs needed at Shaker schools.
"In our schools, our buildings need repairs. If we want to be able to compete with other school districts and make sure all our students have a great educational experience, we're going to have to take care of our buildings."
On May 2, voters will be asked to approve the district's request for 3.75 total mills, which would raise through the issuance of 20-year bonds $30 million of the $150 million needed.
The cost would be $11 per month, or $132 per year for every $100,000 of a home's value.
The increase would be offset by a scheduled 1-mill reduction in 2020, and a 2.3-mill reduction in 2026, as previously issued bonds are repaid.
Most of Hutchings' talk was about how well worth the cost is for a public education in Shaker Heights.
Comparing Shaker Heights High School and those in other communities, he said, "There is no competition. We are the originals, the trendsetters."
All grade levels in Shaker Heights provide International Baccalaureate instruction, which led Hutchings to state of the high school, "We have the most AP (advanced placement) and IB courses in the area, and maybe the state. We still have the highest SAT scores coming out of the high school."
Hutchings spoke of the achievement gap, when it comes to high school graduation, being reduced in his four years as superintendent from 27 percentage points to 11.
In June, Shaker Schools will graduate its 100th senior class.
Hutchings told of Shaker Schools being one of only eight in North America "where every single student is an IB student and every single teacher is an IB teacher."
Hutchings received applause when he told the audience that "International families are welcome in Shaker Heights.
"This year, we're working to refine and make more robust our curriculum for international students," he said.
Speaking to President Donald Trump's recent appointment of Betsy DeVos as education secratary, Hutchings said, "How can we contribute to Shaker Schools success? We need you all to aggregate."
Hutchings said Shaker Heights residents need to let DeVos, an advocate for school choice, know that public schools are providing future doctors, lawyers and school principals.
"We are not so bad in the public sector," he said.
Meanwhile, a goal Hutchings announced a couple of years ago, remains to be accomplished. Hutchings said the district is looking to partner with a college to attract black teachers. He said, however, that one problem is that not enough blacks are attending college with the idea of becoming teachers.
Hutchings lauded the accomplishments of high school students Isabel Wang, who won the Ohio Civil Rights Connections' MLK Day writing contest, and state diving champ Lyle Yost.
Still, Hutchings said, there is work to be done for the district, which is in its third year of a five-year strategic plan.
"It's preparing them (students) for the world," Hutchings said of the district's mission. "It's preparing them to be good global citizens. That's what Shaker Schools is doing for all of our kids."
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