January 2018
Onaway Artist-in-Residence and dancer Nehemiah Spencer performs before students, teachers and guests last month. 
The Shaker Schools Connection

A Message from the Superintendent
Happy New Year to our Shaker families and staff! I hope that all of you had a restorative winter recess. Life gets busy for all of us---young people and adults alike---so hitting the reset button to break up our daily routines is a good thing for our minds, our bodies and our spirits. It also means that our students, teachers, administrators and staff can return next Monday recharged and ready to continue our efforts to engage all students in the Shaker experience.

Here at the administration building, we've already started on our 2018 strategic initiatives from our Strategic Plan. One of our newest initiates, led by Dr. Terri Breeden, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, is to collaboratively establish a plan of action with key stakeholders including students, teachers, administrators, parents and school community members for gifted education in Shaker. Dr. Breeden has enlisted the help of Stanford University professor Dr. S. David Brazer, an expert on leadership and collaboration in education and on achievement gaps in highly diverse districts. Dr. Brazer has visited the District twice and met with several teachers, administrators, community stakeholders, parents and board members to learn more about the District and to help facilitate the formation of a Gifted Education workgroup. The results of this work are closely tied to the first goal of our strategic plan: to engage all students in an enriching educational experience. ( Learn more about Gifted Education in this newsletter.)

Also, I'm looking forward to collaborating with our new Board members who will be sworn in at the Tuesday, January 9 meeting. I had the opportunity to work closely with them at the Board retreat last month---they are a strong, capable team whom I know will hit the ground running to uphold our District's mission, vision, aspirations and core values.

I am confident we have all the right people and the right talent to continue on with the important work we've started together over the last five years---we're in a good place to handle this transition, for sure. And until I leave on June 30, I will continue my work on behalf of our District and I will uphold my promise to act with vision, integrity and passion. I expect nothing less of myself or of our District employees.

Again, a Happy New Year to you all and I look forward to seeing students and staff on Monday.


Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr.
Superintendent of Schools

Developing a Plan for Gifted Education in Shaker
giftedIn November 2017, District administrators began to cull information on developing a plan for gifted education in our schools. "We strive to meet our students where they are so that they are challenged to succeed," says Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Terri Breeden. "This applies to all of our students, whether they are on Individualized Education Plans, take grade-level course offerings, have disabilities that require physical accommodations or are accelerated learners."

To that end, the District has selected S. David Brazer, Ph.D., to guide the District in our development of a gifted education plan. Dr. Brazer is an Associate Professor at Stanford University Graduate School of Education and a co-author of the 2016 book, Striving for Equity: District Leadership for Narrowing Opportunity and Achievement Gaps. Within the national education community, Dr. Brazer is regarded as an expert in leadership and understanding both the inner-workings of public districts and school policies.

Dr. Brazer has visited the District twice since November and met with current and former District administrators, teachers, Board members, students and community stakeholders, including parents, to learn more about our school community and to identify our strengths and challenges as they relate to gifted education. He joined Dr. Breeden at the December 2017 Board of Education meeting to answer questions, share his insights and to present " Addressing Practical Challenges: Gifted Education in Shaker Heights City School District." This month, he will facilitate the formation of a Gifted Education Workgroup---which will consist of administrators, teachers, parents and students---to analyze his finding and draft a recommended gifted education policy for the Board of Education and broader community to review. He also plans to host a high school student focus group in an upcoming visit.

Already, Dr. Breeden visited with and sought feedback from the Superintendent's Teacher Advisory Committee and PTO leadership. "We want to engage all of our community stakeholders from the beginning so that we can all move forward together," Dr. Breeden explained. To continue fostering communication, the District has created an online feedback form---all the feedback received will be shared with the Gifted Education Workgroup at each of its monthly meetings.

More information on gifted education in Shaker is available online:
Shaker Heights Art Students Earn Art eXpressions Awards
Nazeeha Rios' Blue Ribbon-winning work
HbA1c Levels

Fifteen Shaker Heights High School art students received honors for their submissions to eXpressions, the Cleveland Clinic's free, educational initiative that engages middle and high school students in the creative exploration of science and medicine. Shaker Heights High School received more eXpressions art awards than other Northeast Ohio school.

The judges awarded four levels of special recognition for submissions: Blue Ribbon, Red Ribbon, White Ribbon, and Honorable Mention. All winners receive gift cards for their entries. Also, High School art teachers Karen DeMauro, Kathleen Fleming and Christina Stouffer will each receive a $100 educational grant.

Read the names of all the award-winners and see their artwork.
SchoolMessenger Launches Jan. 7
On Sunday, January 7, Shaker Heights Schools will transition to SchoolMessenger, our new communications platform for robocalls, emergency notifications, email messaging, and attendance alerts. This new system enables Shaker families to select which messages they receive and how they receive them.

Information for all families has been loaded into SchoolMessenger, including contact preferences families submitted at the beginning of the year on the yellow Emergency Contact Form. You will not receive text messages unless you opt-in.
  • To opt-in to text messaging: Text "Yes" to 67587. You will receive a confirmation message that you are registered for SchoolMessenger notifications. 
  • To set your message delivery preferences: Log in to SchoolMessenger Parent Portal or download the free SchoolMessenger app on your smartphone. For both the Parent Portal and the app, use your email address on file with the District to sign up and create a password. You will receive an authentication email to verify your account. 
With SchoolMessenger, the District will have the capability to send the following messages via the methods listed below:
  • Attendance (High School and Middle School): Call and Email
  • General Building Announcements: Call and Email
  • General District Announcements: Call and Email
  • School closures: Call, Email and Text
  • Emergencies: Call, Email and Text
  • Weekly Principal Announcements (High School only): Call and Email
  • PTO Information: Call
  • Transportation Issues & Delays: Text and email
Questions? Visit our  SchoolMessenger FAQ or contact the Communications Department, 216-295-1400,  news@shaker.org.
School Spotlight:  Onaway Artist in Residence Program
nemoDancer and Cleveland native Nehemiah Spencer returned to Onaway last month for his third time as the school's Artist in Residence, a program made possible by a grant from the Shaker Schools Foundation. Mr. Spencer, whom the students affectionately call "Nemo", is a fan favorite, encouraging students during their PE classes to move their bodies in new ways. He celebrates the end of each of his residencies with a choreographed interpretive dance he performs alongside fourth grade students.

For the past two years, Mr. Spencer has been accompanied by his friend and percussionist/vocalist Paula Jeanine Bennett (also a Cleveland native), who has written two original songs used in the culminating fourth-grade performances. Mrs. B, as the students call her, wrote "Culture Connects Us" and this year, "In the Garden", a song about how nature is a part of everyday life. The song's lyrics even give a nod to Shaker's parks.

"The kids really take to the dance. They're really eager to learn," Mr. Spencer says. "You recognize these changes in their attention and once you have their attention, it's really magical to see how the dance changes their perspective and their whole mood."

Read more about the program and watch the performance.

The lyrics to the original song "In the Garden" written by Paula Jeanine Bennett, written on the Onaway gym chalkboard.

Dispatch Center 
Change at the City 

Your emergency and after hours non-emergency calls will now be answered by a regional dispatcher located in Cleveland Heights at the new  Heights Hillcrest Communications Center  serving Cleveland Heights, Richmond Heights, Shaker Heights, South Euclid, and University Heights. While things might sound a little different when you call, you'll still get the same great service from City of Shaker Heights police and firefighters. Phone numbers remain the same:

Emergency: 911 or 216-491-1234
Non-Emergency: 216-491-1220

Emergency: 911 or 216-491-1212
Non-Emergency: 216-658-8075 or 216-291-2885
Family-Friendly Sustainable Shaker Event is Jan. 28

The Sustainable Shaker Task Force is hosting an interactive, kid-friendly event at the Dealership, 3558 Lee Rd., on  Sunday, January 28 from noon-6 p.m. 

Bring the whole family to learn about ongoing efforts to make Shaker a more resilient community. Students can get ideas for potential IB or Senior Projects on topics like recycling, solar power, electric vehicles, green electricity, and stormwater management. 

Participating organizations include NOPEC, NEORSD, the Doan Brook Watershed Partnership, the Cuyahoga Solid Waste District, the Shaker Department of Public Works, the Shaker Library, and Shaker Heights City School District.

Employee Spotlight: Lomond Fourth Grade Teacher Kelly Grahl
Lomond Teacher Kelly Grahl

Walk into Kelly Grahl's fourth-grade Lomond classroom first thing in the morning and you'll see his students seated in a large circle on the room's carpet, quietly engaged with the lights low, listening to each other and speaking only when it's their turn. It's a daily ritual called "morning meeting" that lasts a full 20 minutes. Sound too good to be true? Not so, says Mr. Grahl, who is a first-year Shaker teacher. He's just practicing something called Responsive Classroom, an approach to teaching that focuses on engaging academics, positive community, effective management, and developmental awareness. Mr. Grahl says his students have worked hard since August to achieve their morning zen state and better, it sustains them throughout the day. 

Learn more about Mr. Grahl in our Employee Spotlight Q&A. 
Student Spotlight: De'Sean Bodde and  Nya Christian
Senior De'Sean Boddie
When Senior De'Sean Bodde and Junior Nya Christian and aren't bouncing between their classes at the high school or doing homework or practicing with Sankofa, they're on their feet dancing for hours at a time as working professionals.

Last fall, their hard work paid off. Both Nya and De'Sean are members of Elevated Dance Crew, a hip-hop dance company of 27 members from all around Northeast Ohio who perform at local events and at dance competitions. The crew comp eted in November at the World of Dance Chicago Competition and finished second in the team competition. What's more, their performance ( watch it online ) earned them a finalist spot in the World of Dance International Championships, scheduled for July 28, 2018 in Pasadena.

Junior Nya Christian

For both Nya and De'Sean, the opportunity to perform with Elevated and now, to take their  talents to Pasadena next summer, is a dream come true. The experience also has expanded what they thought was possible for their respective futures. Today Nya, who has been dancing since she was three years old, still wants to attend college and study political science, but she is also considering a career as a professional dancer. And De'Sean, who has had little formal training beyond dancing at home with his older brother, hopes to attend Cleveland State next fall to learn the ins and outs of business so he can expand the Elevated brand and inspire future generations of dancers.

"My goal is for everyone to see how big the dance community of Cleveland is," says De'Sean. "We want to show how dedicated Elevated is to hard work. And we want to make an impact everywhere we perform as much as we can."

Nya says that she's grateful for the opportunities in dance---like Sankofa and the Dance Club---at the High School that have enabled her to further improve her skills. "There are a lot of people who are scared to do what it takes to achieve, but I've learned that if I work hard and stay focused, then I can achieve my goals."
IB in Action: Middle School Robotics Duo Think and Communicate Their Way to the State Championship

Katy Christian and Ben Schattinger pose with their robot and their project "How are Robots Engineered to Perform Dangerous Tasks?"

In early December, the Shaker Heights Middle School robotics team traveled to Sheffield Lake to compete in the Brookside Holiday VEX IQ Ringmaster Qualifier. Eighth graders Katy Christian and Ben Schattinger---who have worked together as a robotics team since they were fifth-grade students at Woodbury---took the overall Middle School Excellence Award and earned a spot at the state robotics competition in Marion on February 23.

But what's more compelling than the recognition Katy and Ben have received in competition is their raw passion for robotics and their desire to take their own skills to the next level. Middle School design teacher and Robotics Team advisor Tracey Warren says their passion is catching. "Now our seventh graders are aspiring to be state competitors next year," Ms. Warren explains. "It really is a pleasure to watch Katy and Ben. They really are go-getters who are intrinsically motivated." 

Learn more about Katy and Ben and how robotics channels their inner IB learner profile in our IB in Action Q&A.
Woodbury Afterschool Program Enriches Students in STEM
Dr. Jones teaches students at Woodbury afterschool STEM tutoring program
On Thursdays from October through May, a group of 16 African American Woodbury fifth graders meet in room 324 for after-school tutoring sessions in math. The goal, says Principal H. Danny Young, Jr., is to teach the students advanced math concepts, which, in the future, will lead to placement in enriched math courses in sixth grade and beyond.

"There is so much evidence that suggests exposure leads to opportunity," Mr. Young says. "These tutoring sessions will provide both and, even better, could go a long way toward addressing the District's achievement gap in our STEM classes."

The PTO provided the grant funding to pay for the sessions, which are co-taught by applied mathematician Dr. Andrew Jones and his wife, Julie Lea Jones. The couple guides students through discussions on the properties of math, for example, or instructs students on identifying basic axioms.

Learn more about the Woodbury STEM program. 
Community Engagement: Safe Place Program
This month, Shaker Schools students in grades 5-12 will learn more about the Safe Place program, a national youth outreach program that educates thousands of young people every year about the dangers of running away or trying to resolve difficult, threatening situations on their own. The Safe Place program in Cleveland is a partnership among Bellefaire JCB's Homeless and Missing Youth Program, Cleveland Public Libraries, the Greater Cleveland RTA and Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry's Next Step/Westhaven.

The program creates a network of Safe Place locations---schools, fire stations, libraries, grocery and convenience stores, public transit, YMCAs and other appropriate public buildings---that display the yellow and black diamond-shaped Safe Place sign. All Safe Place locations have trained professionals on site to help youth in need.

Bellefaire JCB reached out to Shaker Schools to help get the word out about the Safe Place program. "We know there are kids who feel alone outside of school and who think they have nowhere to turn. Our goal is to let them know that there are Safe Places to go in Shaker," Coordinator of Family and Community Engagement Keith Langford says. "We're glad to serve as a partner in educating our youth about these services. The more they know, the safer they'll be."
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service is Monday, January 15
Mark your calendars to join PTO CommUnity Builders from 10 a.m.-noon on January 15 at the High School for the District-wide MLK Day of Service. We will honor Martin Luther King's legacy of service and humanity through open-mic and spoken word performances, a collaborative art project and three grade-level service projects to benefit members of our community experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity. Please plan to join us and consider donating to our fundraiser on Payforit (through January 8) for our PreK-Grade 8 service projects (fleece blankets, care kits, and waterproof mats) that will be used by our neighbors in need at the YWCA, MetroHealth, and Bellefaire JCB. Extended family and friends may also donate online. All Shaker Schools families are welcomed to attend.

Other ways to help:
  • We need 500 clean, adult t-shirts to upcycle into cloth bags for care kits. Please contact Stacey Hren to coordinate pickup/drop-off of t-shirts.
  • Drop-off clean plastic bags at several sites across the city---they will be used to make durable sleeping mats for the homeless. Learn more.
  • Volunteer to supervise a workstation, help set-up/clean-up or lend a hand.
We Want your Feedback
Have a comment, suggestion or concern? Share it with us using our new Feedback form on the District's website, www.shaker.org . Simply choose the "Contact" drop-down menu at the top of the website and click on "Feedback." You can select the particular department you want to receive your message.  

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