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VOTE411 Voter Guide

Shaker Heights Board of Education {_getChooseLabel(this.selections.length)}

Term: 4 yearsThree seats are to be filled on the school board. Only one incumbent, Alex Dykema, is running. The three other candidates are Lisa Cremer, Ayesha Bell Hardaway, and Heather Weingart. (The other two incumbents, Todd C. Davidson and Annette Tucker Sutherland, are not running.)
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    Lisa Cremer MSW, MPH

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    Alex Liston Dykema Attorney and non-profit consultant

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    Ayesha Bell Hardaway Law Professor

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    Heather Weingart Former hospitality operations and marketing executive. Currently focusing on family, Shaker Heights schools and community.

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Biographical Information

The Shaker schools recently won voter approval for a bond issue to accomplish district-wide repairs and maintenance of its buildings, postponing or rejecting a substantial project to replace the Middle School. What are your plans for that building and how will you keep the community up-to-date on how the bond funds are spent?

What do you consider the most important issues facing our school system?

How can you as a board member effect district policies that govern areas such as (1) diversity of the teaching staff to reflect the student body, (2) the inclusion and comfort of all students, no matter their race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity?

How should our community approach the future of the Shaker Heights Library--how should we determine whether it remains independent or joins the county system?

Age 36
Education Princeton University, Bachelor of Arts, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, 2004. Boston University, Masters of Social Work, Clinical Practice. 2008. Boston University, Masters of Public Health, Health Policy and Management, 2009.
Current occupation Vice President of Educational Enrichment; Lomond PTO, Community activist.
Qualifications for office I have experience working with government agencies and securing funding for research projects. I have developed programs that have successfully helped to lift up families in underserved communities. I am experienced in analyzing data and making appropriate interpretations of that data that translate to policy recommendations. I have teaching experience from working in special education in public and private schools.
Campaign Phone (216) 765-3404
Email address lisacremerforshakerschools@gmail.com
Twitter @LCforShaker
Thanks to the Shaker voters, we passed the levy and improvements have been made to make the middle school structurally safe. People choose Shaker schools for the wide array of academic and extracurricular opportunities and the teachers who provide these options. While we need to have a clear plan moving forward that addresses the needs of our physical structures in a financially responsible way, we also need to focus on spending money on the people and programs that enable our students to thrive.

According to the Five-year Forecast, the next operating levy will be needed in 2020 for funds in the 2021 fiscal year. As a board member, I will ensure that we take ownership of that detailed, ongoing review.
One of the most important issues in our school system is developing a culture of respect and tolerance. All students need to feel safe in order to take advantage of the opportunities that are available to them. All stakeholders in the community should feel like they are able to voice their concerns and ideas.

Another chronic issue is communication. While implementing changes, we must respect all the voices that comprise our community. We must be proactive by anticipating potential concerns in the schools and community. Once we make a decision, we must communicate clearly and thoughtfully and follow up as necessary.

Furthermore, our diversity is our greatest strength but also our greatest challenge. We must ensure that we are providing the best educational experiences for ALL children by eliminating systemic barriers in a mindful way.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, public education is taking a beating now, and this is of great concern. We need to advocate not only for less testing and more financial support but also in support of public education, a cornerstone of democratic societies.
(1) This is a national problem. As a board member I will be intentional in our search for excellent teachers from all backgrounds. Students need to see mirrors of themselves in our schools. Our hiring policies and reputation must be attractive enough to recruit excellent teachers of all backgrounds. At the same time, we must continue to nurture and celebrate our diversity.

(2) Inclusiveness and excellence are the hallmarks of our community. As a board member, I will work to create a welcoming and safe learning environment by being a leader in LGBTQ policies and by continuing to support the implementation of restorative justice practices throughout the district.
Libraries are extensions of our schools, providing services that meet our unique community’s needs. At the same time, we have precious resources in Shaker Heights, and the tax burden is a concern. Joining the county system is a difficult decision, but it is our duty to explore this option. Our three taxing authorities must collaborate moving forward to make informed decisions in the best interests of our community that stay true to our Shaker values.
Age 51
Education Brown University-BA Lewis and Clark Law School-JD
Current occupation I am an attorney and consultant working with non-profits to build their organizational capacity.
Qualifications for office My professional skills and experiences have been extremely helpful during the last four years and my experience as a Board member, Board President, member of the Board's Policy, Facilities, and Finance and Audit Committees, as well as the Mayor's Financial Task Force have refined and enhanced my skills for a second term.
Campaign Phone (541) 488-5540
Email address alexforshaker@gmail.com
It is wonderful that our voters supported our recent levy request allowing us to address our most pressing needs. With that secured, any future discussion of the Middle School should be within a broader Master Planning framework including issues of enrollment, educational needs and funding. An active facilities committee of teachers, administrators and community members with expertise in design, facilities and fundraising will be critical. The information collected in the recent facilities process should help develop a long-range plan, define the goals for the building, identify ways to leverage private dollars for portions such as a pool, auditorium and a science facility for all our K-8 students. To be successful, I believe any proposal must clearly identify the educational benefits involved, long term costs savings, private and corporate donations, and how the proposal fits within a broader master plan for the Shaker Schools and the City’s developments such as the Van Aken District. In terms of the current funding, staff presented a draft list of priority projects at the September Board meeting. This will be refined based on cost, capacity, and the need to maximize the impact of the funding. Along with regular Board updates and public postings, each year the community should receive an update of the proposed work and its completion so everyone is aware of how their dollars are spent and the impact it has on our students and their learning environment.
The Shaker Schools must address two key issues: expanding academic achievement for all students while maintaining our historic strengths and breadth of education; and, developing our long term economic sustainability. Taking concrete steps so that every student reaches their full potential benefits not only each student but the entire District. This furthers our Mission and pushes us to ensure that all students graduate with the tools for a successful life, whether through college or a career. We must build on our accomplishments and our renewed efforts to achieve this goal. These include; curriculum enhancement, professional development, constructive engagement with families and students, and focused efforts such as the Equity Task Force, to identify ways to enhance success for all students from our highest achievers, to those who struggle and all in-between. To sustain that academic success, we must build a solid financial future. With the limits of our State funding system and potential changes to federal tax codes, the coming years will require a clear understanding of our financial options and a creative approach to collaboration and funding potentials. We have had significant success in trimming our spending while preserving our programs, but new efficiencies will be harder to find. We must collaborate with the City and Library and seek private and corporate donations where possible in a continuing effort to reduce future levies and lengthen our levy cycle.
Through its polices, the Board sets the tone and direction of the District. Towards this end, we recently revised our policy manual to comply with state law and to ensure it reflects our goals and aspirations. As an example, our prior non-discrimination policies did not expressly include protection from discrimination based on “sexual orientation and gender identity”. They now do. Similarly, while the Board should not be intimately involved in the hiring of teachers, it should set guidelines. We include that “broad cultural interests, mature judgment, a variety of experiences, and an enthusiastic approach to the challenges of life are other factors considered in the selection of teachers. To the greatest degree possible, each school’s staff shall include experienced Shaker teachers, teachers new to the District, both male and female teachers, and teachers from varied cultural, racial, and ethnic backgrounds...” (Policy GCD). This Board policy affirms the importance of breadth in our staff and encourages hiring the best workforce possible to meet the needs of all our students. The Board should also ask how policies are met and act to ensure that our students and staff feel comfortable. As an example, through the creation of the Equity Task Force, the Board has authorized and encouraged a deep discussion of the barriers that may exist within our District. These discussions reflect our polices and will foster greater inclusion and success for our entire student body.
The Library Board is an independent entity tasked with responsibility for the library and its future. They have notified the School Board of their intention to move forward with a levy to address their needs as an independent library. The Library passes their levy requests through the School Board to place them on the ballot and, as with any levy, the final decision rests with the voters of Shaker Heights. The School Board has limited discretion in its review of the Library’s decision, but as with any school levy, the School Board and public should be fully informed. Therefore, the School Board directed its Finance and Audit Committee to review the proposal and provide its expert review. This simply provides more information to the Library, the School Board and ultimately the voters if a levy request comes before them. This allows the School Board to exercise its fiduciary obligations without impinging on the independence of the Library Board. It also leaves the final decision whether to remain independent or join the county system directly up to the voters. This process highlights our need for institutional communication between all of Shaker’s taxing entities. It would benefit everyone if we had a formal structure which ensured direct communication between the Library, City Council, Mayor’s office and the Schools. This should not limit our autonomy, but rather enhance communication and understanding between the taxing entities which impact Shaker the most.
Age 42
Education Shaker Heights High School, 1993; B.A. The College of Wooster, 1997; J.D. Case Western Reserve School of Law, 2004
Current occupation Law Professor
Qualifications for office My personal and professional background has helped prepare me to serve on the Shaker School Board. In my different professional roles, I’ve seen the heights young people can reach when our educational systems succeed, and the depths they can fall to when these systems fail. I have been a Shaker student, a Shaker parent, the spouse of a Shaker teacher at one time, and a volunteer both at my children’s schools and on District committees. I believe the combination of these unique perspectives will allow me to better represent the diverse points of view of Shaker residents. In volunteer positions, such as serving on the Board of Directors of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center and as the General Counsel for the Olivet Housing and Community Development Corporation, I’ve learned how a Board can govern, and most importantly, how it can lead.
Campaign Phone (216) 789-4534
Email address ayesha@hardawayforshakerschools.com
Passing May’s bond issue established the basic framework for what is possible over the next several years at the Middle School: we know what the Middle School needs and we now know how much money we have to work with. Spending these funds should be guided by the same general principles: maximizing the impact of every dollar and finding ways to reduce ongoing operating and maintenance costs, while creating the best-possible learning environments for all students and staff. I learned how important improving communication with the entire community and engaging more residents in creating academic successes were when I worked on the communications portion of the District’s 2014 Strategic Plan. Communicating about bond funds needs to go beyond keeping the community up-to-date. The community needs to be a partner in the oversight of the project. At every stage residents should have clear expectations for what is being done, how much it will cost, and when it will be finished. We can accomplish this by insisting on: proactive transparency – making decisions in public and letting the public “check our work”; setting and meeting clear expectations for all parties – including contractors –about the information we will be collect and communicate; dialogue – so that we listen as much as we talk. I would like to explore creating a regularly updated “dashboard” that summarizes graphically the important information about the project and shows where the project stands at any given moment.
The two most important issues facing our schools, in my mind, are: 1) Raising more students to the level of academic success Shaker is known for, to create more equitable outcomes for everyone, and, 2) Ensuring Shaker schools maintains and builds upon its long history of academic excellence through sufficient funding from a healthy tax base and supportive community. In the past, we have often treated these issues as unrelated or at odds – as if education was a zero-sum and for one group to succeed another group had to lose. But the truth is that for Shaker these goals are interdependent and must be treated as such. Shaker is an inclusive community that provides opportunity for all through its excellent public school system. During the course of more than 30 years of attendance, engagement, and service in our district, I’ve learned that inclusion and opportunity are Shaker’s fundamental differentiators and our competitive advantage. People move here and invest here because of our promise of inclusion, academic excellence, opportunity that our schools provide. The better we are at delivering these things for all students, the more attractive we become to potential residents who will strengthen our tax base by choosing Shaker as their home. By helping more students take advantage of Shaker’s promise, without taking away from those who are already succeeding, we can create a virtuous cycle that addresses both of these critical issues.
From my perspective, diversity and inclusion are the minimum, base-level goals that any public organization/institution should meet. While diversity and inclusion remain important priorities, Shaker Heights, with its rich history of integration and diversity, should also work toward higher goals. Our district and the board must now aim to ensure that our leaders, administrators, staff, and students identify their unintended and implicit biases that affect the health and success of our community. This will help the district see student differences as valuable assets to our learning communities and will help foster a commitment to eliminate obstacles to educational success. As a board member, I will be committed to supporting the district throughout this process. It will undoubtedly present challenges; some conversations will be difficult. But a community like Shaker, which is built on a set of common interests and values, can work through these issues in healthy, respectful, ways. Working to remove cultural biases and barriers will also help us diversify our teaching staff and achieve inclusion and comfort for all students. There is no magic number of diverse staff members we should hire. In my experience, the best solution to this problem is to walk the talk. If Shaker shows it’s serious about creating an authentic, inclusive, and successful educational environment, even more like-minded, highly qualified professionals will want to join us.
The School Board’s primary role in governing Shaker Library is to appoint the members of its Board, so, first and foremost, we must continue to recruit talented, committed residents to govern the library on the community’s behalf, trust them to do their jobs, and hold them accountable if they don’t. The Board of Trustees must carefully analyze the impact either choice will have on our community. We also need to stop reducing this issue to a discussion of taxes alone. Shaker voters don’t support local taxes because we like being taxed. We do it because we like what those taxes pay for and think they matter. As with any asset, what matters most about Shaker Library is not just what it costs, but what it’s worth. Shaker Library is one of the best libraries in the country. It ranks in the top 2% of the roughly 1,400 libraries with similar budgets. Nearly half a million people visited our library in 2016 and more than 31,000 people are library card holders. If we are going to consider inclusion in the county library, we need to ask the right questions in the right order and work with the Library board to answer them. We need to know if our current approach is worth it? Are we getting enough value from our investment? How important is that value to the people who receive it? If it’s not worth it, can we get better value elsewhere? And can we base any decision to purchase library services elsewhere on a full and accurate assessment of the benefits, costs, and risks of doing so?
Age 44
Education Bachelor of Arts in Business, Michigan State University
Current occupation Former operations and marketing executive in large, luxury hotels, private city and country clubs. Responsibilities included financial and human resource management across multiple properties on different business models. Currently focusing on family, Shaker Heights schools and community.
Qualifications for office My family and I have lived in Shaker for the past 10 years. Our children attend Woodbury and Shaker Middle School. Utilizing my business skill set I have successfully and productively served our schools in several capacities including various PTO roles and Presidencies, PTO Council President, Chair of A Night for the Red & White and Chair for the successful 2017 $30 million capital bond issue. I have implemented several community building, outreach and fundraising programs like the Chromebook education sessions to educate parents on our transition to a Google District, Senior Clap Out, and placing the Woodbury Bell at the front of the school with a new paver garden and more. I look forward to using my energy, experience, focus and commitment to work for you and our children on the Shaker Heights City School Board of Education.
Campaign Phone (216) 220-6993
Email address friendsofheatherweingart@gmail.com
Twitter @hlweingart
We can successfully, with community support, replace the Middle School building if we continuously communicate the need and the story to our community. We need to provide opportunities that engage all community members. This directly connects them to our schools, even if they do not have children currently enrolled. Advertising tools, like banners outside construction projects pointing out our tax dollars at work, lends credibility to the Board’s intentions and direction. Constant outreach, including electronic updates, town hall meetings, and one on one relationship maintenance, will organically spread news of how and when dollars are being spent and managed.
The most important issue facing our school system is perception versus reality in reference to the quality of education being provided. We are often questioned by stakeholders regarding information that does not paint an accurate picture of our schools. Misinformation and misunderstanding affects our conversations from equity to state report cards to athletics. We can work to offset this with a comprehensive, overarching approach of communicating and collaborating with key messengers and messages in each part of our community. We can better promote the unique and successful work being done in our schools by developing and nurturing strong bonds with our entire community; our realtors, our senior citizens, empty nesters, private school families, etc.
Our Board of Education, Administration and teachers must mirror the values we uphold in our community. The makeup and policies of the Board should reflect the population we educate and represent. Our policies and financial decisions should support and encourage continuous evaluation and expansion of our academic offerings and social environment to be inclusive of everyone. As a Board Member I will work alongside our Administrators to continue current initiatives like the recruitment and retention of African-American teachers at all grade levels, female stem teachers and male elementary teachers of the highest quality. The Board should model and support an atmosphere of open mindedness and acceptance and expect the same from the Superintendent in the daily management of the District.
The Shaker Public Library has been a community treasure since 1937. The right decision for the future of the Shaker Heights Public library rests in striking a balance between a legacy of Shaker independence and the long term financial responsibility of that legacy. With any important decision, all the facts should be considered. I agree with the Library Board of Trustees that providing a letter of intent to the Cuyahoga County Public Library for the purpose of gaining insight as to the CCPL’s intentions after acquiring SHPL could be misleading to the public and CCPL. The library should go on the May ballot and allow voters to decide if they wish to continue locally supporting an independent school district library. If the levy fails, the Board of Trustees should reconsider merging with the CCPL.

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