Friday, February 10, 2012

Spartanburg's Cleveland Elementary considering new format

One of Spartanburg District 7's historically challenged schools may get a radical makeover in format, if the local board and the state department agree to allow it -- and if an additional $400,000 per year can be found to fund the change.

The plan calls for a start date of July 13, extending the school year by five weeks and extending teacher contracts from 190 days to 215 days, which accounts for the additional cost.

Two more community meetings to publicly discuss the plan are on the calendar for next week, and the matter is tentatively slated to go before the school board for approval next month. The plan will also require a state waiver as South Carolina law dictates that the school year not start before the third week in August. The proposed Cleveland calendar would put students back in school on July 13.

"We're going to be doing enough things around here to where when you walk into Cleveland, when you drive up to Cleveland, you're going to say ‘Something's different,'" said District 7 Superintendent Russell Booker.

Booker said district and school leaders are ready to address serious achievement and opportunity gaps at the school head on. Four of the school's last five state report cards show an absolute rating of "at risk." The school was ranked as "below average" in 2010 after it was identified as a Palmetto Priority school and received significant funding to make improvements, but the financial assistance was taken away when Cleveland showed academic gains. Further, Cleveland's poverty index in 2011 ranks the school as 29th in the state with 98.9 percent.

"Poverty certainly is not an excuse for student achievement, but it is the number one correlation to student achievement," Booker explained.

The proposed calendar that would take effect in July is not the same modified 180-day calendar Cleveland and Mary H. Wright Elementary operated on in the past. The new calendar is 205 mandatory school days, and largely mirrors the calendars for other District 7 schools except for the additional five weeks at the start of the year. May 31 is marked as the last day of school for Cleveland, although summer programs will be available to students through the month of June.

A pair of community meetings are scheduled to invite public comment on the proposal.

The next community meetings on the new focus at Cleveland Elementary are scheduled for Monday at 5 p.m. at the Bethlehem Center, 397 Highland Avenue, and on Feb. 16 at 5 p.m. at Macedonia Baptist Church, 502 South Daniel Morgan Avenue.

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