CMSD Board of Ed Eligibility Requirements – Appropriate or excluding important perspective?

A few comments (admissions?:) to start.

1. My wife and I live in Lakewood (yes, sometimes its hard for me to say, and I could probably throw a baseball and hit Cleveland I’m so close, but it is true that we live in Lakewood)
2. I personally believe the success of the City of Cleveland is inseparably linked to the success of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.
3. I personally believe the success of Northeast Ohio is inseparably linked to the success of the City of Cleveland.

Since moving to Cleveland in 2003, I have been incredibly fortunate to have crossed paths with a truly remarkable network of passionate people who all care about different things, but are connected by a passion to make their community better. I enjoy finding initiatives that are important to me where I can offer a different perspective and some elbow grease to have a positive impact. Either by getting involved or helping others get involved.

Recently, the CMSD has posted two openings on their Board of Education. These positions are incredibly important as the Board is responsible for helping the district administration create and execute a successful transition of the entire school system from its mediocre at best past to a trajectory capable of instilling faith and support for a different future. The board has always (as far as I know) had the eligibility requirement that its members be residents of the City of Cleveland. On the surface, this seems to make sense. The board is meant to represent the thoughts, passions and interests of those they are representing while trying to steer the district in the right direction. For a very long time the board was representing the kids and families that attend the schools, which were entirely comprised of kids from the City of Cleveland.

Since moving to the portfolio model, the District has found itself in a position where the kids that are attending the CMSD schools are located from MANY different communities in Northeast Ohio; not just the City of Cleveland. Additionally, with the CMSD formal support of Charter Schools, the number of kids that are served by “dollars from the District” are probably a bit higher than most would imagine. I think this is probably a good thing; the more diverse the backgrounds of the kids of the public school system, the better off everyone will be.  With how much has changed over the past few years, it seems insane to me that we wouldn’t re-evaluate the rules regarding board eligibility. While I do think the majority of the board should be comprised of City of Cleveland residents, it seems there might be room for at least one ”at-large” member.

I’m not saying any of this because I am interested in one of the two current open spots on the board. While I might sometime in the future have interest in serving on the board, I wouldn’t be interested right now even if it were an option; I’ve already committed to Campus International School at least one more year as chair and I’ll likely stay involved in other capacities for longer because I love the people I get to work with. I’m just concerned that we might be excluding important ideas and perspectives that could help position the district for success.

So while I am definitely not an education or board composition expert, I did want to open up a discussion to whether or not we need to re-evaluate the board eligibility requirements to better align with the ambitions of the district and composition of those it serves.

If nothing else, I’d love to learn why it doesn’t make sense to re-evaluate. Maybe there is a better way to take in additional ideas and perspective? Thoughts?


Mike Christoff

p.s. If you are interested in applying for a board position, you can do so here. It would be an exciting opportunity to give back!


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