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Old 05-14-2018, 12:09 PM
 
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I have a son with special needs and toured several Cleveland are school districts in April and I was surprised how much I learned just by walking around the schools. Start by calling the districts and leaving a message with the special education director. See who calls back and have a list of questions ready. Ask how they currently handle students like your child. See if they answer fully or try to get you off the phone. Then tour while school is in session. Ask to go to the elementary, middle, and high schools. See who you tour with, and how organized they seem, and who gives you a business card so you can email with questions later. This is their chance to sell you on their district, and if they are not accessible, friendly, and organized now, they certainly won't be when your children are enrolled. Sit in the office and see how the staff treat the students who wander in with a lost item or hurt feelings. At one district I visited, a student who clearly had special needs of some sort came in and was having a bad day. The exasperation and eye rolls from the staff were heartbreaking.


I am coming from Southern California and all of the districts I visited seemed diverse racially. On paper, there is less diversity socioeconomically at some of the districts (using percentage of free lunch as a proxy), and I don't know how important that is to you.


Shaker Heights is a very polarizing district in particular, and I would strongly encourage you to ignore all the marketing/hype and visit in person while school is in session to see if you can envision your child thriving there.


Also talk with other families with kids in special education and *currently* in the elementary school. Schools change a lot in 5-10 years (and Common Core was implemented in the last 5 years alone), and the family with a kid in high school or college who went through a particular school district simply isn't applicable to your situation. Strike up conversations with parents in the lobby or playground.


As a special education parent, you are going to work more closely than most parents with the special education staff, counselors, principal, and assistant principals. You are going to get phone calls and emails from these people when your child is having a bad day. A school district that is a 9 or 10 on a website may be terrible for your child if the special education staff and administrators are overburdened/understaffed, if the classrooms are too crowded, or if the teachers believe that your child has an attitude problem and not a learning difference. There simply is no substitute for going in person, asking some tough (but very polite) questions, and seeing how they respond. That will tell you 75% of what you need to know. Another 10% will come from seeing the expressions on the kids' faces, how they treat each other, how the classrooms are arranged, and what the condition of the schools is. About 5% will come from talking to other parents and reading websites. And the last 10% is going to be a bit of a leap of faith and you won't know until you start.


As an aside, I agree with you that public schools generally are going to have far more resources to help a child with special needs. The dynamic is also very different when you know that at the end of the day, the public school HAS to accommodate your child. A private school can say this isn't working out and that's that.


When I was starting our search, another parent who is in a military family and had moved her special needs child 5 times told me to trust your gut. That's hard to do when you're looking at websites, but I found that once I was there in person, districts that seemed very similar on paper were wildly different in person, and the decision was a lot clearer. Best of luck to you in your decision.
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Old 05-14-2018, 12:18 PM
 
9,625 posts, read 6,378,225 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by treesinthewind View Post
Shaker Heights is a very polarizing district in particular, and I would strongly encourage you to ignore all the marketing/hype and visit in person while school is in session to see if you can envision your child thriving there.
Great post!

Could you elaborate on what you mean by "polarizing?"

Was this the district where office staff rolled their eyes when a special ed student was having a bad day?

Thanks.
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Old 05-14-2018, 01:38 PM
 
9 posts, read 4,905 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WRnative View Post
Great post!

Could you elaborate on what you mean by "polarizing?"

Was this the district where office staff rolled their eyes when a special ed student was having a bad day?

Thanks.
Thanks! Polarizing in the sense that people either love or hate Shaker Heights, both on this forum and IRL. I've had people sing the praises of SH schools like no other district, and people warn me to stay away. That simply didn't happen with any other district I visited.


I don't live there so I don't think my personal observations of SH are relevant to the OP other than to say that you can get a lot of information first from calling and speaking with people from the district (where a lot of special needs activity is coordinated), and there is no substitute for visiting and trying to visualize your child there and working with the people you meet to develop a plan for your child.


The eye roll incident occurred at a different district--it is kind of a blur so I'm not sure which one, but it was not SH. Anyone can have a bad day so I don't want to badmouth a district based on my single observation, but the larger point is that a culture of respect and compassion for the students is at least as important to me as good test scores, and you can learn a lot just from sitting in the office for 10 minutes.
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Old 05-14-2018, 02:07 PM
 
9,625 posts, read 6,378,225 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by treesinthewind View Post
Thanks! Polarizing in the sense that people either love or hate Shaker Heights, both on this forum and IRL. I've had people sing the praises of SH schools like no other district, and people warn me to stay away. That simply didn't happen with any other district I visited.


I don't live there so I don't think my personal observations of SH are relevant to the OP other than to say that you can get a lot of information first from calling and speaking with people from the district (where a lot of special needs activity is coordinated), and there is no substitute for visiting and trying to visualize your child there and working with the people you meet to develop a plan for your child.


The eye roll incident occurred at a different district--it is kind of a blur so I'm not sure which one, but it was not SH. Anyone can have a bad day so I don't want to badmouth a district based on my single observation, but the larger point is that a culture of respect and compassion for the students is at least as important to me as good test scores, and you can learn a lot just from sitting in the office for 10 minutes.
Glad that I asked. I thought that you meant that you had a observed a polarized atmosphere within the SH schools that you visited, and that surprised me.
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Old 05-14-2018, 02:53 PM
 
6,388 posts, read 7,525,140 times
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Opinions on SH schools do seem to vary a lot, but from within Shaker it seems to me that everyone I meet is beyond satisfied with them. Our kid is too young for us to offer any first hand knowledge, though.

I can at least say that the kids coming and going from school are extremely well behaved. I haven't seen any littering, vandalism, or fighting like I have in other places I have lived.
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Old 05-14-2018, 10:31 PM
 
13 posts, read 9,152 times
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Default I’m humbled

OP here. I’m humbled by all of the responses. Planning a visit soon. Will keep you posted. Thanks everyone!
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Old 05-15-2018, 10:16 AM
 
13 posts, read 9,152 times
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Originally Posted by teacherdad View Post
Five and diagnosed ADHD? I'm not going to get too into this, but I've been in education for a long time and that's pretty young. Most kids that age are very active. Please know that ADHD people tend to be very creative and seriously hard working. I would NOT trade my ADHD for anything. It has been a positive. There were times in school that it made it hard. A few teachers saw my potential and kept me busy and distracted when I needed breaks. A few probably retired soon after I was in their class.

My own kids were put on meds to my chagrin. I did not want them losing their creativity just so they could "focus" and get better grades. Now, they are both adults and will not go near a med and state the negative thoughts they had when they were medicated- they could tunnel focus, but they said they lost all their design ideas.

You are a physician and these are your kids. However, I just cringe a bit when a kid that young is "diagnosed" so early. I mean, in some countries they do not even start teaching reading until about 7. Until then, they are playing and learning social skills.

All the best on the interview! I have a former student from here in CAL doing his final residency at CASE.

Rob
Hi Rob
We are not starting meds rather we are focusing on behavior modification and possibly dietary changes. I’m sorry your kids had that experience I definitely don’t want to stifle my child’s creativity either.
Thanks.
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Old 05-15-2018, 03:10 PM
 
Location: CA
1,002 posts, read 872,457 times
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I have attempted to change some diets of my students that are CLEARLY ADHD...one does not use a chair. However, parents just send with cookies and processed foods. It totally hampers his behavior and his impulsive nature has led to others getting hurt at times. He's come a LONG way with me this year, but he really could be better athlete- he's good now, but slowed down by a bit of weight from the crap he eats...and no veggies or fruit. I have a strict rule in my class so I take sugar foods away and hand back to parents.

Michael Phelps and others got busy early on with sports and that helps a great deal. I played year-round...and still had trouble sleeping because my brain would not turn off..same now, but I am aware of when I get manic (ultra productive) and when I come down (depression).

Keep' moving and stick to real food if you can. It really helps keep them calmer.

Good luck! Rob
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Old 05-17-2018, 09:04 AM
 
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Both Shaker and Beachwood are racially diverse with a lot of Black professionals. Both have school districts with very good reputations for special education programs and both have a liberal/progressive vibe the not just preaches, but demands inclusion for individuals of color and with disabilities. Shaker has superior rapid transit access, although Beachwood residents can either walk or have a short drive to Rapid terminals also. One beauty of living in either community is that, from University Circle, you can hop a Red Line Rapid train into downtown for restaurants/entertainment then catch one of the Shaker Rapid Lines (Blue or Green) home.

Beachwood schools have generally overtaken Shaker schools reputation-wise in recent years, although Shaker Schools are still very, very good. There has been considerable white-flight from the schools in the last couple decades, and people necessarily assume they're not as good because of it... They are wrong.

Shaker is closer to University Circle where the 10-15 minute commutes are more realizable -- although Note: while Greater Cleveland rush hours are not generally as bad as other big cities' University Circle (including neighbor Little Italy), given it's growing size and popularity as both a residential and employment center, rush hour traffic, especially along the main arteries (Euclid Ave, Mayfield Rd, Cedar, etc) can get pretty clogged to the point, at times, they become parking lots. Beware.
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Old 05-17-2018, 04:16 PM
 
166 posts, read 146,147 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheProf View Post
Both Shaker and Beachwood are racially diverse with a lot of Black professionals. Both have school districts with very good reputations for special education programs and both have a liberal/progressive vibe the not just preaches, but demands inclusion for individuals of color and with disabilities. Shaker has superior rapid transit access, although Beachwood residents can either walk or have a short drive to Rapid terminals also. One beauty of living in either community is that, from University Circle, you can hop a Red Line Rapid train into downtown for restaurants/entertainment then catch one of the Shaker Rapid Lines (Blue or Green) home.

Beachwood schools have generally overtaken Shaker schools reputation-wise in recent years, although Shaker Schools are still very, very good. There has been considerable white-flight from the schools in the last couple decades, and people necessarily assume they're not as good because of it... They are wrong.

Shaker is closer to University Circle where the 10-15 minute commutes are more realizable -- although Note: while Greater Cleveland rush hours are not generally as bad as other big cities' University Circle (including neighbor Little Italy), given it's growing size and popularity as both a residential and employment center, rush hour traffic, especially along the main arteries (Euclid Ave, Mayfield Rd, Cedar, etc) can get pretty clogged to the point, at times, they become parking lots. Beware.
Prof, your statement that "there has been considerable white-flight from the schools in the last couple of decades" is not supported by the Ohio Department of Education's School Enrollment Data. Here is a "repost" of my original comment on this topic from March 9, 2018. As you can see from the second set of data, Shaker Heights School District has actually experienced the largest increase in white student representation among all districts in metropolitan Cleveland and metropolitan Akron. White student enrollment in Shaker Heights schools has actually increased slightly during the past eight years, not decreased. However, the following school districts have experienced "white flight" during the past eight years, all losing more than half of their white student enrollment during that period:

RICHMOND HEIGHTS (-75%)
GARFIELD HEIGHTS (-66%)
EUCLID (-61%)
SOUTH EUCLID-LYNDHURST (-60%)

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
March 9, 2018 post by dr_j_planning

The Ohio Department of Education has released its FALL 2017 Enrollment Counts (Enrollment Data | Ohio Department of Education). The data show that of the 97 public school districts in the seven counties that comprise metropolitan Cleveland and Akron (Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Medina, Portage, Summit), 15 have a majority of non-white (Black, Asian, Latino) or mixed-race students* including Shaker Heights.

DISTRICT (%NON-WHITE/MIXED-RACE)
EAST CLEVELAND (100)
WARRENSVILLE HEIGHTS (99)
MAPLE HEIGHTS (98)
RICHMOND HEIGHTS (95)
EUCLID (92)
BEDFORD (91)
CLEVELAND (84)
GARFIELD HEIGHTS (84)
CLEVELAND HEIGHTS-UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS (83)
SOUTH EUCLID-LYNDHURST (82)
PAINESVILLE (79)
LORAIN (77)
AKRON (67)
SHAKER HEIGHTS (59)
CLEARVIEW (58)

ALL NORTHEAST OHIO (36)

However, since the recession (Fall Headcount 2009), Shaker Heights School District has shown the largest decline in non-white/mixed-race representation among its student population: it has dropped from 63% in 2009 to 59% in 2017, a decline of four (4) percentage points. On the contrary, non-white/mixed-race representation across all of Northeast Ohio has increased from 32% to 36% during the same period. There are 13 districts in Northeast Ohio that have experienced double-digit percentage point increases in non-white/mixed-race representation between 2009 and 2017:

DISTRICT (2009 %NON-WHITE/MIXED-RACE -> 2017 %NON-WHITE/MIXED-RACE)
GARFIELD HEIGHTS (56.3% -> 86.3%)
SOUTH EUCLID-LYNDHURST (66.3% -> 82.1%)
WEST GEAUGA (3.8% -> 18.1%)
BROOKLYN (29.7% -> 42.8%)
PAINESVILLE (66.3% -> 78.7%)
WINDHAM (7.3% -> 19.2%)
SOLON (30.8% -> 42.4%)
CUYAHOGA FALLS (7% -> 18.2%)
RICHMOND HEIGHTS (84.7% -> 95.4%)
PARMA (11.7% -> 22.0%)
WILLOUGHBY-EASTLAKE (10.4% -> 20.7%)
WOODRIDGE (27.3% -> 37.3%)
MAYFIELD (25.3% -> 35.3%)


*Please note that the Census does not classify Latinos as a race; rather, the Census treats Hispanic as an ethnicity (i.e. Hispanics could be of any race).
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