Warren Morgan, the next CEO of Cleveland Schools spoke briefly about his 100-day plan during his announcement in May, 2023.
Warren Morgan, the next CEO of Cleveland Schools spoke briefly about his 100-day plan during his announcement in May, 2023. Credit: Paul Rochford / Signal Cleveland

Cleveland Schools’ next CEO, Warren Morgan, came to his job interviews prepared. Most notably, he brought a plan for his first 100 days on the job. Now that he’s in, Signal Cleveland asked for a copy. In a series of PowerPoint slides, Morgan outlines his ideas for a district-wide listening tour and “culture audit” of each district school.

Morgan’s first 100 days officially begin July 1.

Morgan shared his leadership philosophy during his first news conference last week. It centers around what he calls the “three L’s,” listening, learning and leading. 

The slides structure his first 100 days into four phases, a pre-entry phase, and one for each “L.”

His pre-entry task list includes meeting with Mayor Bibb, his Chief of Education Holly Trifiro, and the school board to learn more about the district and understand their expectations. He also said he will continue analyzing the Cleveland Plan, which outlines long-term strategies to improve Cleveland Schools. District and community leaders created the plan in 2012, when the Cleveland Metropolitan School Board faced financial difficulty, low graduation rates and low enrollment. Solutions include raising performance levels of district and charter schools and closing failing schools. 

Here’s what Morgan’s 100 days look like: 

  • Phase 1 (Listening): Town hall meetings with parents, students, community members, teachers, school leaders and central office staff. The plan prioritizes building community trust, setting up ongoing events such as school visits, coffee chats, CEO communication videos and newsletters, and community outreach walks. 
  • Phase 2 (Learning): Brings more formal and detailed listening sessions with what Morgan calls ‘advisory groups’. They will help the CEO create a ‘Listening and Learning Report.’ This phase also includes conducting school and community safety audits, which Morgan said during his interview with students would consist of building and facility checks, reviews of emergency drills, and assessing the distribution of security staff.
  • Phase 3 (Leading): A continuation of activities mentioned in the first two phases, but adds meetings with leaders at each school to discuss tailoring district policy to school-specific needs. In this phase the CEO and the district’s division heads will review the ‘Listening and Learning Report’ and map out a timeline for a strategic plan. Morgan also wants to assess current staff and develop a ‘performance management protocol.’

What Warren Morgan wants to learn in his first 100 days

Other key priorities include investment in staff and student wellness benefits, which he describes as including at-home learning options, a flexible calendar, and partnerships with outside organizations focusing on quality of life. He also sees an opportunity in the district’s English and math scores. Though performance is low, Morgan’s plan says CMSD has outpaced most other districts in the state in improvements since the start of the pandemic in 2020. Morgan wants to invest in literacy tutoring, the Cleveland Reads program, and giving teachers more opportunities for professional development. 

The final slide of his plan lists what Warren Morgan wants to know more about. He asked what the district’s racial equity plan looks like. He also wants to know, “given the district’s investment in Say Yes! Cleveland” (CMSD pays for one-third of the cost of the family support specialist program, about $3.1 million) if parents and community members have the same goals as the district when it comes to what students do after graduation.

According to CMSD spokesperson Roseann Canfora, Morgan’s contract has not yet been finalized. Once it is, the board must vote to approve it.

A student leader weighs in

Mayar Abdelhady, a 9th grader at Cleveland School of Science and Medicine

Mayar Abdelhady has three years of high school ahead of her, so she cares deeply about the future of the school district under newly appointed CEO Warren Morgan. She said she likes what she sees in Morgan’s 100 day plan, but as a freshman who likes school and is involved in many activities, she‘s also got some suggestions for the new CEO. 

Abdelhady, who attends the Cleveland School of Science and Medicine, said she was particularly impressed with how prepared and organized Morgan was during the student interview panel in April–a panel she moderated. She said she likes his commitment to hearing from students, parents and the community, and is curious to see how the listening sessions play out.

She suggested that Morgan conduct a survey for students and parents at the beginning and end of each school year and maybe even host a panel discussion, like the interview sessions, where students can ask tough questions and make policy suggestions.

With an eye on a future career in health science, Mayar also said she would like to see science education be a priority.

“I want to know more about science curriculum and stuff like that. He’s stated that there need to be improvements in upper level math and upper level ELA, but I just want to know more about science, too,” she said.

Addressing burnout

Abdelhady said she also really appreciated that Morgan addressed student and teacher burnout and that she wants to know more about the “flexible learning options” mentioned in his plan.

She said she’s a part of an afterschool club that discusses issues surrounding public health (Health Professions Pipeline Program, or H3P), and this issue has come up a lot, particularly in the context of schools returning to in-person learning after the COVID-19 lockdown.

“It’s not just keeping up with the pace. It’s being in school after such a long time of sitting at home and just doing work. And I feel like some teachers took it easy on the students when they were at home. And so now they got back to normal school with normal academic pressures and some students just can’t,” she told Signal Cleveland.

Abdelhady said she herself has felt burnt out, and she recognizes that she’s able to focus more when she’s had a break from work. She offered an idea that could fall under Morgan’s suggestion to introduce flexibility to students’ schedules.

“I thought maybe you could have [a break] for like a few days, not too much so the school [work] doesn’t fall behind, but a few days where the students can do something outside school, like, you know, on field trips in their field,” she said.

She gave a shout out to her own principal, Michelle Perez, who she said sometimes gives students structured free time outside during sixth and seventh period before they head home.

“Burnout is a really big thing….I think [Morgan] should just really enhance strategies to prevent burnout. [If] Dr. Morgan or teachers or staff can decrease it, it would really benefit the school,” she added.

K-12 Education Reporter (he/him)
Paul, a former City Year Cleveland AmeriCorps member based in a charter school, covered K-12 education for Signal Cleveland until August, 2023. Paul joined us from Cleveland Documenters, where he focused on creating infographics and civic tech to make public information more accessible. Paul is also a musician, photographer and graphic designer.