Cleveland Municipal School District Commits to Building Downtown School

Tonight is a night in Cleveland’s History that I will remember forever.

While it is a difficult conversation, because there are so many things in the school district deserving of additional funding, the decision by the Board of Education to make EDUCATION our city’s next civic statement is going to have impact for decades to come. What a hard discussion, but so important. Today is a GREAT day for Cleveland as the Board of Ed commits the funds from the sale of the administrative headquarters to building a new school downtown.

Last week, I submitted an Op-Ed piece to the Plain Dealer in support of the pending board resolution (CLICK TO READ) to communicate the various reasons I felt this was an important issue to support. That same Sunday, May 12th, Art and Architecture Critic Steve Litt also wrote a very good article (CLICK TO READ) about what opportunities exist as it relates to building a school downtown. While I would like to be fully transparent as I re-iterate my role as chairman of the advisory board for Campus International School, I first and foremost supported this resolution because its the right thing to do, at the right time, with the right funds. I felt strongly enough to make public comments at the meeting, and am posting the notes I used to speak here. While I didn’t get to say everything I wanted because it was very clear that certain points weren’t valuable to the conversation the board was having, I wanted to post my complete thoughts here, even though they didn’t all come out quite like they are written below:

My name is Michael Christoff, and for the past two years I have been fortunate enough to serve as Advisory Board Chair for the Campus International School, one of the CMSDs innovative schools and partnership school to Cleveland State University. I am also a past resident of downtown and a current Cleveland resident living on the west side with my wife Jill.

I’ve been lucky enough to spend my entire time here in Cleveland working on professional design projects and volunteer initiatives that have some part to play in the conversation to make Cleveland better place. In 2011 one of those volunteer engagements brought me into contact with Campus International School and the amazing transformation work being done in the Cleveland Municipal School District.  

Since being infected with the passion of transformation and the personal opinion that there is no greater need in the city than to ensure every single child has access to a great education, I’ve tried to do what little I could to help the educators doing the real work make a difference. Their efforts, if leveraged at the right time, in the right place and in the right way have the potential to make an enormous impact not only on education but also on downtown Cleveland.

Over the past twenty years we – as a city – have made a series of really important, momentum building decisions….we have supported the construction of a gateway to the city with beautiful stadiums, we re-invigorated vacant pieces of downtown with new neighborhoods like Cleveland State University’s north campus district, we’ve reinforced aging neighborhoods and started to dedicate resources to reviving struggling ones, we’ve built important public transportation amenities like the Healthline and as a community we supported the district’s decision to transform education in Cleveland…we’ve done an awful lot to build the momentum and hope for a better future that we’re currently seeing…but we’re not there yet…

We now have a decision about what our next civic statement will be…We have an opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to education and the District’s stated desire to get more students into better schools more quickly. There are successful CMSD schools like Campus International School that are bursting at the seams, with waiting lists for all grades and a DIRE facility need just ONE short year away when we will run out of space in our current building because of how quickly the school is growing. And while tonight isn’t specifically about Campus International School, it IS about establishing the opportunity to leverage this one-time resource wisely to create maximum financial, civic and educational impact.

We can decide to spread the 4.5 milllion around across the district to what I can imagine are dozens if not hundreds of worthy and important curriculum and program initiatives and risk diluting the impact of the one-time dollars, or we can leverage the resource in a way that not only compounds the financial investment to potentially 13.5 million, but also compounds its impact.

The Board of Education, CMSD Administrators, the Mayor of Cleveland and the amazing teachers of the district have done some remarkable things with your transformation work to date. As a current and dedicated Cleveland resident, speaking on behalf some of the parents here from CIS, and some of the residents and business owners that showed up here tonight in support, I’m hoping you will consider continuing that transformation work with the passage of the resolution to allocate the funds from the headquarters sale to build a school downtown.

Thank you again for your time.




In suport of the board resolution, during the public comment period, I made a series of comments for why I thought this was an important issue for the board to support. The week

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