Connections made through Broadway P-16 helped Carlotta Jackson pay back rent and stay in her Slavic Village apartment.
In Broadway-Slavic Village, supporting students means supporting their families
by Justin Glanville Photos by Julia Van Wagenen
A few months ago, we visited Fullerton School of Academics, a K-8 school in the Broadway-Slavic Village neighborhood. Fullerton is an investment school, meaning it receives special resources to provide in-school social services with the goal of improving academic outcomes for students. This month, we revisit the school to learn about the Broadway P-16 Program, a collaborative effort to boost the success of students in the Broadway-Slavic Village neighborhood.
Last November, with the holidays on the way and two kids in school, Carlotta Jackson was on the verge of eviction.
She was only a month behind on her rent, and had just started a new job. But her landlord had a strict policy of starting eviction proceedings for all tenants more than 30 days late on their rent.
“I was stressing,” Jackson says. “I had all these bills, I was working all these hours. If I had to move, I didn’t know what I was going to do.”
She’d relocated to Cleveland in 2014, so she didn’t yet have a strong local network of family and friends.
“But the main thing,” she says, “was I wanted my kids to be able to stay where they were comfortable.”
That meant not only keeping them in their current home but in their current school, Albert Bushnell Hart. Her 14-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son had both been thriving there, and she didn’t want to uproot them.
A network of support
Help ended up coming from the five-year-old Broadway P-16 Program.
P-16 is not an organization, but convenes and supports existing organizations throughout Broadway-Slavic Village and beyond. Supported entities include the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, the Literacy Cooperative, Slavic Village Development Corp., the Boys & Girls Club and the Cleveland Housing Network.
The idea is to bring together resources to make sure kids the neighborhood receive a quality education — from preschool through college. That often means helping not just students, but their families too.
Wraparound support is a key component of Cleveland’s Plan for Transforming Schools, the guiding document of the Cleveland Transformation Alliance.
“A lot of families in the neighborhood feel isolated,” says Kurt Karakul, president of the Third Federal Foundation, which co-created, oversees and helps fund P-16 programs. (The Foundation is an arm of Third Federal Savings & Loan, which has been based in Broadway-Slavic Village since 1938.)
Families may not have reliable transportation to get their kids to school, Karakul says, or may feel their kids are unsafe walking to school. Many don’t have steady incomes.
“So we’re asking, how can schools be a source of support for entire families,” he says. “Because that’s how kids are going to have the best chance of success.”
Many Cleveland parents end up in a predicament similar to Carlotta Jackson’s. During the 2014-15 school year, more than half (55 percent) of all students in Broadway’s four K-8 schools moved at least once, often because their families could no longer afford rent or mortgage payments. Frequent moves cause stress for kids that can lead to academic setbacks and sometimes dropouts.
That’s why the Cleveland Housing Network (CHN) is a key P-16 partner. The agency offers a variety of programs that provide affordable housing for the city’s families.
Through P-16, CHN offers targeted assistance to families of school-aged children in Broadway-Slavic Village. That includes short-term help with mortgage payments, rental assistance — and connections to a wider network of support.
“Usually when a family is facing a housing crisis, it’s a symptom of something bigger,” says Kate Carden, CHN’s assistant director of community training. “So for example, we’ll make a lot of referrals to workforce development agencies.”
Carlotta Jackson — in the midst of her eviction scare — heard about CHN’s P-16 program from Sharra Wimberly, Fullerton School’s wraparound site coordinator. Wimberly’s job is to connect families to outside support.
Days later, staff at CHN had checked Jackson’s income and employment status and called her landlord for a reference. The agency paid off her $500 back rent, and staff now calls her every month to make sure she’s staying above water.
So far, she is. She has a steady part-time job as a cashier at a drug store, she’s caught up on her rent and bills, and she’s engaged to be married. She hasn’t needed direct help since that single rent payment.
“Don’t get me wrong — I don’t have everything I want and I’m not rich,” she says. “But I’m taking care of my kids, and that’s the most important thing to me.”
Her son recently made honor roll for the first time, and her daughter is about to graduate from 8th grade. She says those things may not have happened if the kids had needed to change schools.
That’s exactly the idea of the Broadway P-16, according to Karakul.
“We need to support kids all the way through school so they’re prepared for college and then a good career,” he says. “If we’re going to turn Cleveland around, it’s got to be through the schools.”