January 15, 2013

CMSD: Roseann Canfora: 216.647.6072
Civic Commons: Dan Moulthrop: 216.548.6423

CMSD opens online dialogue to engage citizens in strategic planning

To support its transformation agenda, CMSD has enlisted the support of The Civic Commons to engage the Cleveland community in online dialogue about the District’s

4-Year school reform plan.

Cleveland, OH – The Cleveland Metropolitan School District has secured the help of Cleveland-based Civic Commons to expand its outreach efforts into the critical realm of social media.  The District is expanding community meetings that began in December into opportunities for people to participate in online dialogue about changes they want to see in their schools and to suggest ways to increase student achievement.

An online civic conversation begins today, as part of that effort, and will be promoted and supported through the Cleveland Public Library system.  Civic Commons, an online engagement organization known for its work with assisting businesses and organizations in productive two-way conversations, has been enlisted to facilitate a range of conversations on its microsite at  The dialogue can also be accessed from the CMSD website at

CMSD and its community partners, including the Cleveland Public Library and the Cleveland Leadership Center, are encouraging citizens to attend community meetings and to join the online conversations and to offer personal insights, experiences and suggestions for how to shape the 4-Year Implementation Plan for improving Cleveland’s public schools.

Citizens can participate in online conversations focused on the five strategies of the Implementation plan:  (1) quality schools (2) quality teachers and leaders,(3) improved curriculum, (4) fiscal accountability, and (5) creating demand for CMSD schools.

Specifically, members of the entire school community—students, families, teachers, business owners, leaders, neighbors, and anyone with an interest in seeing the district improve—are invited to answer questions about how to fix existing schools, open new ones or sponsor quality charter schools; how best to attract, support and train effective educators, or how to design the most effective curriculum and ensure that needed equipment, technology and instructional materials are available to students, CEO Eric Gordon said.

“It is essential that we engage all stakeholders in the school reform process, particularly because the community played such a major role in passage of the Cleveland Plan legislation and passage of the school levy,” said Gordon.  “We are committed to ensuring that community’s voice and vision is at the heart of the plan when finalized.” 

Gordon said the decision to expand the community outreach into the realm of social media was to make sure as many voices as possible are represented in the final four-year reform strategies.  Dan Moulthrop, Curator of Conversation at Civic Commons, says the civil and transparent online environment at Civic Commons will increase the level of dialogue and provide even more opportunities for CMSD to expand the conversation.

“Online engagement is a powerful tool for tapping the collective brain-power and energy of the community,” said Moulthrop. “We’ve found that moderated online conversations in this type of environment yields posts and interactions that are articulate, rich with detail and often build on ideas contributed by others”

Civic Commons President Mike Shafarenko said this kind of dialogue doesn’t just extend the conversation. It helps strengthen the community.

“The entire Cleveland community has a stake in the success of Cleveland’s public schools, and having a voice in the process enables citizens to feel a greater sense of ownership in the process of transforming our schools" said Shafarenko. "The school district has boldly chosen to ride the cutting edge of school reform, so it is not surprising they are also choosing to ride the cutting edge of online engagement to increase and sustain community support for CMSD initiatives.”

The primary goal of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District is to become a premier school district in the United States of America. CMSD envisions 21st Century Schools of Choice, where students are challenged with a rigorous curriculum that considers the individual learning styles, program preferences and academic needs of each student and where the skills of high quality educators, administrators and staff are supported and developed. CMSD is committed to achieving its strategic goals to (1) create and support quality schools, (2) build capacity of quality teachers and leaders, (3) design effective curriculum, assessment and instruction, (4) create demand for our schools, and (5) serve as effective resource stewards.

The Civic Commons, a social media site dedicated to civic good, was founded in 2010 with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Fund for Our Economic Future. In addition to its tools for citizens, the Civic Commons provides subscription-based engagement services for organizations and businesses on a national basis. The services are dedicated to building two-way conversations to expand and deepen the relationship between organizations and the communities they serve.





  • In February 2012, Mayor Frank Jackson and CMSD issued a document entitled “Cleveland’s Plan for Transforming Schools: Reinventing public education in our city and serving as a model of innovation for the state of Ohio.” This document presents a bold vision for the future of public education in Cleveland. It articulates the fundamental idea of a “portfolio schools” strategy that forms the basis for the district’s transformation.
  • In June 2012, the Ohio General Assembly passed legislation (H.B. 525) that made significant changes to state law to enable the implementation of the Cleveland Plan. These changes include dramatically increased autonomy and flexibility for the District and its schools, the modernization of employment practices, and increased incentives for district and charter school partnerships.
  • On November 6, 2012 Cleveland voters passed a 15-mill levy to support the district’s transformation efforts. This levy will expire after four years (the end of 2016). The district realizes that it must demonstrate real success in order for voters to renew their support after this critical investment.