Greater Cleveland Congregations (GCC) is a nonpartisan coalition of 41 faith communities and partner organizations in Cuyahoga County working together to build power for social justice.
Despite best efforts within the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD, the district), there has been a noticeable decline in opportunities for parents and caregivers in the district to meaningfully engage in the activities taking place in their child’s school. Many schools throughout the city lack formal parent organizations or parent advisory councils that allow parents to be included in the schools’ decision-making process.
To help bridge the distance between parents and their child’s respective school, the Foundation awarded GCC $60,000 in 2018 to create pathways for engagement between parents and caregivers and select schools within the district.
Through intensive relationship-building, listening, and organizing trainings, GCC’s educational initiative creates deep social connections amongst parents and key stakeholders and builds the infrastructure needed to successfully advocate for policies and procedures that yield equitable investment in each CMSD school.
In 2014, GCC launched, Listen. Act. Win, an educational engagement campaign established to provide space for parents and caregivers to voice their concerns and interests. Through their listening campaign, GCC unearths issues that parents, teachers, coaches, and other key community stakeholders feel could improve a child’s educational environment, if addressed.
Through their partnership with GCC, many parents and other stakeholders develop their leadership and public speaking skills and are inspired to explore other opportunities to be effective agents of change within their communities.
During the 2017-2018 school year, GCC employed their Listen. Act. Win. campaign in four CMSD schools including the New Tech Collinwood High School, Willow, Bolton and Riverside Elementary Schools.
At Willow School in Cleveland’s Slavic Village neighborhood, the gym floor had not been refinished since the building was built decades prior. The gym lacked basic features, including basketball hoops, and limited the students’ recreational options during physical education and after school. As a result of GCC’s organizing, parents successfully advocated for the gym to be renovated and complemented by the installation of safe athletic equipment. In the summer of 2018, CMSD authorized the renovation of Willow’s gym which included a refinished floor and 6 new basketball hoops.
In addition to school-specific advocacy, like what took place at Willow, GCC has begun to converge a power base around common citywide issues that impact larger groups of parents and schools. The goal is to form a collective of schools and build a platform of important issues that need to be addressed. Ultimate success would come in the form of a citywide issue presented to CMSD leadership being met with concern and action.
With support from the Foundation, GCC has increased its capacity to focus on educational organizing, allowing for increased engagement of parents to promote lasting change in the lives of families and in the city of Cleveland.
GCC organizes students, parents, and educators to initiate the changes our schools want and need. Thank you, St. Luke’s for investing in this work for Cleveland’s students and families.
Naeesha Grant, Teacher, Bolton School