Cleveland Elementary School in upstate Cleveland, New York, was once designated a “failing school.” But with a united community and hard work, the school improved and was named a Blue Ribbon school of excellence in 2010. It was recognized again in 2013. It continues to enjoy strong community support, but the Central Square Board of Education decided to close the school because of declining enrollment, state budget cuts, and rising costs.

The parents are trying to save the school but the local school board is adamant.

Why close an excellent school?

Below is a letter from a parent at Cleveland Elementary School. My advice: Organize the community, run candidates for the school board, write letters to the editor, meet with elected officials, appeal to Governor Cuomo.

Here is a letter from a parent:

Dear Ms. Ravitch,

I am reaching out to you because of your strong views and commitment to the education of our children. It is my hope that raising your awareness to the situation our community is facing will gain your support in our fight to save the community schools in our district.

Cleveland Elementary School is a school in Upstate New York that has experienced a transformation in the past seven years – due entirely to character education and an intentional focus on building relationships with students and the larger community. The school now stands as the pride – and hub – of the community.

The Central Square School District, one which was recently honored in Albany with a NY State District of Character Award, voted to close Cleveland Elementary – a National School of Character, only days apart in the same week. This noble district-wide achievement would not be conceivable without the model and leadership of Cleveland Elementary. Cleveland Elementary, Home of the Shamrocks, was honored by the US Department of Education as a 2010 Blue Ribbon School for Academic Excellence. In 2012 Cleveland Elementary sought and received a New York State School of Character Honorable Mention Award and continued on to earn a 2013 National School of Character Award. This school of academic and character excellence, who also proudly serves as the local food pantry, is among less than 1% of the schools across the country with such distinction.

To many, a school is nothing more than brick and mortar. While that may be the case in other schools, I have to say Cleveland Elementary has been so much more to us. Behind its doors is a sense of community—a family. A culture of developing ethical, responsible, and caring children- in addition to academic principles. The teachers and staff are passionate about their roles as mentors to the children; their dedication and love for what they do is evident in every interaction. If given the opportunity I am certain every parent would want this for their children. This type of education is LOST in over-crowded class rooms and schools….positive relationships cannot be fully developed due to time constraints and demands on the teacher; a student becomes just a student. Our Cleveland Family wants to maintain the ability to engage ALL children—get to KNOW them as people, TEACH them how to be a part of something bigger than themselves. I will never understand how anyone could put a price tag on our children’s development when it matters most.
As a parent of a first grader, the decision to close Cleveland Elementary is truly disheartening and unacceptable. What does it say about the value of education? Cleveland Elementary is so much more than brick and mortar…..It is the HEART of our Community….and the children are our future. Our community takes great pride in the collective efforts and accomplishments our school has achieved. The reputation of our school has been a draw for many families to move to this rural area. Closing this vital part of our community will have devastating effects to us, our community, as well as to those that rely on the services the school provides outside of the academic day.

Although I am certain this decision was not taken lightly, I am concerned it was made in haste under the pressure of a budget crunch. There are detailed options that are more viable and fiscally responsible than closing a Nationally Recognized School that only represents 1% of the tax levy. Perhaps it is easier to target schools that are in less economically prosperous areas. The district has not shared information with its members or been open to conversations regarding these options. We are unaware of a projected long term plan, and truthfully it does not appear there is one. Our concerns lie in knowing the impact closing ANY school with have on ALL of the children in our district? Over-crowding the class room is not the answer to our current situation of low enrollment. This consolidation will put students at 107% capacity. While I know there are no easy answers….I would ask that someone revisit the numbers, the current aid our district just received ($960,055 above what was expected), as well as the goal for our district as we move forward.

What is the incentive for dedicated teachers to strive for excellence in the education of children, if the reward is having your successful award winning school closed? How will our Country ever be Leaders in Education if we cannot see the value in community schools?

Please take the time to visit our Facebook Page, and see for yourself the struggle we are facing.

Our concerns have not been addressed by the board. They will not answer any questions, and have been dismissive and rude. There has yet to be even a letter to parents from the Administration regarding the closure, which is not only a little over a month away.

Thank you in advance for your consideration and time. I appreciate your anticipated support for our Community Schools.


Jennifer S. Leahy

Proud Parent, Community Member &
President of American Legion Auxiliary Unit 858
Cleveland, NY