As a year of perhaps unprecedented turmoil winds down in Shaker Heights City Schools, David Glasner is making the transition to superintendent from his position as interim principal at Shaker Heights High School.
On July 10, 2018, roof repairs resulted in a fire at Fernway Elementary School that displaced the entire school.
In addition, Mercer Elementary School — the elementary district in which Glasner lives — received a grade of “D” on the Ohio School Report card.
In the fall, Shaker Heights High School was plagued with personnel difficulties that resulted in turnover of both football and cheerleading coaches, and an English teacher’s reprimand and reversal. The principal of the school was reassigned following an investigation.
Glasner was named as substitute principal in November as the issues reached a climax.
With interim Superintendent Stephen Wilkins, Glasner fielded questions in a stormy meeting that drew more than 900 people to the Shaker Heights High School auditorium.
In addition to questions about personnel issues, black students raised issues of equity at the meeting.
“I think the tensions underlying the meeting, there were some big-picture, long-term tensions that have always been simmering in our district that really came to the forefront in that meeting,” Glasner told the Cleveland Jewish News. “I think that meeting was certainly a reminder of the issues around equity and the achievement gap. …”
In a nearly hour-long interview, Glasner named equity and the achievement gap as two central issues facing the district.
“I think underlying that is this idea of trust and relationships. And that came up a lot in the November meeting. Relationships are broken. Trust is broken. That’s at all different levels, right? Administrators and teachers, teachers and students, community and our school district, so one of the things that I’ve promised, and that I’ve made a big part of the work that I’m doing, is to rebuild trust and relationships with our community.”
Glasner said the only way to rebuild trust is through daily actions.
“Simple things like following up on emails or saying hello to people or reaching out and communicating when there are things that people need to know: proactively not just reactively,” he said. “Already in my capacity as interim high school principal, I’ve been working on rebuilding trust and relationships in the high school, and as the incoming superintendent, that’s also a priority for me.”
Glasner attended a student-led meeting that was held to repair some of the damage and asked the group Student Group on Race Relations to lead a second conversation for faculty on creating inclusive classrooms. Glasner spoke of the way that SGORR presented rules or norms for conversations.
“The SGORR students asked, really kind of got to the heart of, what strategies can we use to make sure that every student feels included and valued and celebrated in our classrooms.”
He cited the Shaker Heights High School principal search process as one that solicited feedback and was transparent. Eric Juli, a Shaker Heights resident and member of Congregation Shaarey Tikvah in Beachwood, will become the new principal. The search included interviews with stakeholders prior to the choosing of finalists.
Glasner’s immediate priorities, he said, will be to make certain that the schools are ready for the 2019-2020 school year. He said there are facilities projects that need to take place during the summer, along with Fernway’s renovation. He said he will also focus on curriculum and instruction. Long term, he hopes to develop a strategic plan for facilities in the district that can dovetail with the city’s plan.
In addition, last week he announced plans for shuffling the staff in the central office and will hire for four positions there: chief operating officer, executive director of human resources, director of primary education and director of secondary education.
Regarding Mercer’s “D” grade, he wrote, “Despite the EdChoice designation, Mercer remains an excellent school, with excellent teachers and excellent students.
We have spent this year addressing the areas of compliance that were identified as concerns in our state report card. We are also viewing this as an opportunity to continue to strengthen and improve instruction and learning at Mercer, particularly in the area of literacy, as well as at our other seven schools.”
Glasner was inspired by both his mother, a social worker, and his grandmother, a New York City schoolteacher, to become an educator, and knew his career path when he was in seventh grade. His wife, Elana Glasner, is a teacher at Fuchs Mizrachi School in Beachwood. The couple has three children.
He said Jewish values inspire his work.
“The most important part of the Passover seder is that our goal is to make sure that from every generation – b’chol dor vador – we are instilling certain values and experiences in our students, and I think that is what I aim to do as a teacher and an educator.”