Businesses in Cleveland have always been involved with the Cleveland Municipal School District. Three years ago, however, the Greater Cleveland Partnership helped to turn casual relationships into an unprecedented partnership program called the Business/School Partnership Program.
Today, more than 200 businesses and organizations work with the district's 103 schools, providing everything from internships, guest speakers, tutoring, equipment and financial support.
"We can't afford-from an economic workforce standpoint-to not do the best we can for our students," says Linda J. N. Prosak, executive director of institutional advancement. "Our district is fortunate to have business partners that have 'adopted' our schools. Each school has unique needs, and through these partnerships, they are getting them."
Plan in place: The partnership program's overall goal is to help students graduate and be prepared for success; to that end, it focuses on improving student performance and increasing literacy.
An auspicious beginning: Cleveland businesses have been involved with the district since the mid-'80s, according to David Anderson of the Greater Cleveland Partnership. "Right now, we're focusing more on quality than quantity," he says. "We're trying to provide feedback on the impact of partnerships and address key emerging needs of the district."
A little fine-tuning: Last year, the internship program got a boost with new eligibility criteria. "We wanted to streamline the process and drive the quality of offerings," says Anderson. During the past summer, 300 high school students interned at companies such as American Red Cross, CVS/pharmacy, GE Lighting and the U.S. Department of Justice. Even better, most of these internships were paid positions.
New directives: Next up, says Anderson, is to increase literacy efforts for kindergarteners through eighth-graders. "We're asking partners to focus on literacy: either through tutoring, offering performance incentives to motivate kids, or serving as guest speakers." In addition, some partners may invite seventh- and eighth-grade students to do job shadowing to help them understand the link between academics and careers.
Career education: For high school students, the focus is on career education: job shadowing, internships and workshops on necessary employment skills such as resume writing and interviewing.
Teacher training: Staff members from some of the area museums, such as the Cleveland Museum of Art, have begun providing professional development to teachers.
Law enforcement: This fall saw the debut of an unprecedented partnership with the lawyers of Cleveland. Once a month, 500 attorneys are going into 10th-grade social studies classes to work with small groups of students to help them pass the Ohio Graduation Test and to provide career counseling to improve the "pipeline" of minorities flowing into legal careers in the region.
3Rs program: It's all part of the Cleveland Bar Association's 3Rs program (Rights, Responsibilities, Realities). "We help students understand the First and Fourth Amendments, which affect their daily lives," says Hugh McKay, president of the Cleveland Bar Association. "We're hoping this large-scale blitz of the Cleveland city high schools will make a real difference for the students and the city." DA
Ellen Ullman is DA's former features editor.