A Conversation: Glenville High School in Cleveland, OH
By Abner Oakes
ISA's National Director of Outreach and Engagement
Glenville High School in Cleveland partners with ISA, and we recently asked its principal, Jacqueline Bell, and her colleague Nilsa Walker to tell us about the school, its history, and its work with ISA.
Tell us about your school and the young people there. What might a visitor to your school notice first and foremost?
Glenville High School opened in 1904 in Cleveland’s East Side neighborhood and became part of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District in 1906. While the school’s population was 90 percent Jewish in the early 20th century, African Americans migrated to the community as the neighborhoods grew and the population shifted. Glenville is a school with students who have a wide range of experiences, both positive and negative, with a strong connection to the community and its alumni by way of both rich traditions and athletics. A visitor might first notice that our staff and students are engaging and supportive of one another; students have developed strong connections both to peers and staff within these walls.
What would you say are the greatest strengths of Glenville — and what have been your greatest challenges?
Glenville’s greatest strength is that we have a staff of educators that show our students that they are special; our students know that they are loved and appreciated individually and collectively. However, one of our greatest challenges has been overcoming teacher beliefs and reliance on past practices. There was a desire to work just within a teacher’s own classroom walls, not collaborating with colleagues or sharing best practices, and course content has been, at times, superficial as teachers lowered expectations for their students to prevent struggle. Nonetheless, we persevere every day to support staff in changing their mindsets and leveraging relationships with students to ensure our young people meet every challenge with hard work, good humor, and lifelong goals in mind. With ISA’s help, we will continue these efforts.
How has ISA helped you and your teachers? What’s been the most valuable part of your work with ISA?
Our ISA coaches have built strong relationships with our content area teachers, and with these relationships, staff members feel comfortable seeking coaches out for instructional support. Perhaps what has been most valuable has been having ISA and its coaches as thought partners, offering suggestions for professional development and planning supports to help us make school initiatives more effective. This year, for example, our coaches collaborated with us to take observations from our work with the staff throughout the school year to plan goal-setting and instructional planning sessions for our annual summer institute.
For new schools partnering with ISA, what advice would you give them?
Be clear about what goals you have for your school so that you can clearly articulate them to your ISA coaches. It will be easier for them to support you when they know what you and your team are aiming for. One of our school-wide goals for this year was to increase our performance index on the Ohio state test by 4%. With this in mind, our coaches were able to set goals with the individual teachers they support and their content area teams to support them in implementing best practices that improve student achievement outcomes.
Where do you imagine Glenville going in the next five years? What does the future hold for your school and its students?
In the next five years, we imagine Glenville as a model learning environment that allows students to not only take ownership of their personal learning goals but to also apply what they have learned in a way that is impactful to their communities. We see educators focused on building student confidence and students willing to take chances. We see our school as a place for students to see the value in both themselves and their peers around them, collaborating to apply what they know to solve problems that exist in the world around them.