Monday, September 22, 2014

Board Facility Update – September 2014

Board Change
The Watson family joined MPA in the middle of our first year (SY 2008-09).  Dawn Watson, like so many of our parents, jumped right into things. After serving on many volunteer teams for MPA, Dawn applied and was elected to the Board of Directors in 2011.  She went on to serve on the Board’s Development Committee and to Chair the Board’s Facility Expansion Committee.  While we accept Dawn’s Board resignation, please join us in thanking her for her tireless years of service to MPA. 

Following Dawn’s decision, the Board shared with our community a need to fill this Board seat with a focus on aptitude, time, and skills supporting our facilities expansion search and development.  We continue to be amazed by the achievements and willingness to serve noted during this Board candidate application process.  Thank you to all who considered answering the call to serve. 

At the September Board meeting, Fraser Hamilton was elected to fill the remainder of Dawn’s term and take over the lead on the Facility Expansion Committee (FEC).  The father of 2 current students and a recent MPA graduate, Fraser brings a depth of experience in this area to the group.  Click here for further information.  Please join us in welcoming Fraser to the Board and thanking him for leading the FEC in what promises to be a very busy and exciting year for MPA.

MPA.  The Demand.  One-Campus matching our quest for excellence.
Before we get into updating on a property, there is a moment from July’s Board meeting we would like to share.  Conducting due diligence on the prior prospective property lead to a recognition that we needed to consider a shift in focus for MPA’s expansion plans.  We are a community school, a charter school.  Charter school model success typically leads to the eventual replication of the school, often many times.  Over the years during our long-range planning sessions, your Board has discussed replication in terms of our ten-year vision.  But the question was posed; “do we model ourselves or compare ourselves to other community schools?”  The answer from the Board was that we do not. 

Historically, MPA has sought out best practices mostly from independent private schools, as well as some program aspects of traditional public districts.  Schools such as Hawken School, Hathaway Brown, The Roeper School (a prestigious private school for gifted children in Michigan) and our top local parochial schools embrace excellence, not expansion.  They embrace a one-campus environment dedicated to serving their mission, their students.  This is the moment MPA embraces and owns who we dream to be.  We dare to demand the best, creative, and consistently executed whole-child educational experience for gifted learners.  We dare to demand less trade-offs like asphalt play spaces, minimal parking, and classroom shortages that impact our academic offerings.  Coming out of our first due diligence period we found acceptable prospects, yet we did not find a facility that could match the powerhouse teaching and engaged learning occurring within MPA’s walls. 

As we turn to discussing a new prospective property which matches our one-campus vision, we ask our community to remember that the process requires several steps.  This may seem to be final from a typical home purchase perspective, yet these actions merely place us in a position to engage developers and funders as well as have serious conversations regarding a property’s viability for MPA.  We applaud MPA’s faculty, staff, and community for their patience with the process to date.  We also empathize with knowing that a move five miles in any direction is an additional burden for some families while being an improvement for others.  This was the case when MPA originally left its base community in Lorain for higher enrollment prospects in Cleveland.  Above all, the Board appreciates that even the most patient member of our community is disrupted by uncertainty.  We are committed to moving forward on a specific site, or announcing a pause in our effort to demand a permanent, one-campus, location for MPA, by or before 2015.

W. 53rd Campus Property 

Site Layout
We are in the process of securing ownership of a campus-site property on W. 53rd street just south of I-90 in Cleveland.  Once this is complete, we will again enter a due diligence period in order to determine site feasibility.  This site meets our main criteria of remaining on the West side of Cleveland while being accessible to major highways. 

The site is the former Joseph & Feiss Cloth Craft (aka Hugo Boss) factory.  It offers two buildings (one approximately 80,000 sf and the other about 25,000sf) on a nearly 7-acre property. 

The current plan is to develop the large building with the water tower as a school building.  The second building will be reviewed for potential future uses.

The size of this property will allow us the benefits of a campus, with the necessary green space for play areas and learning gardens as well as an adequate parking field and room for the car line.  It also affords the opportunity to expand our model to 3 classes / grade over the next 3-5 years, which is an important component in this project. 

Both buildings on the site are on the National Register of Historic Places, which opens doors regarding the funding of a project of this magnitude, while also ensuring the historic nature of the building is preserved. 

Engaging with the Community
Architect Rendering of possible elevation.
As is the case with everything MPA accomplishes, we won’t get there without the help of our community.  We have the opportunity to create a space that is specifically designed to serve the needs of our students with a requirement to have the work done in time for us to welcome our community to this new home for the 2015-16 school year.  We know this is an ambitious timeframe, which is why we need each of you to engage with us and take part of this moment in MPA’s history.  Just remember that a mere 6 years ago this month, a small group of determined parents opened MPA in just three months’ time.  Remember that a larger group of parents met the needs of this school through their service when finances were scarce.  And that as the school has grown, our students – your child(ren) – have reaped benefits of talents shared in compassion, classes, or other volunteer service. 

Cleveland skyline view from the rooftop.
MPA is founded in a moment.  A moment when families who had experience an all gifted, all day, education refused to give it up.  A moment when each family decided for their child(ren) that pull-outs, being labeled, low expectations, sticking out, boredom, trying to fit in, or attempting to meet their child’s curiosities outside of school was just not right, and chose MPA.  There are those who witnessed MPA’s first day of school, or when MPA leased only the second floor of our current building, or the year our first class of 8th graders moved on to high school.  This is our past.  Our future is in this moment.  Our future is in a renewed sense of community at all levels.  This moment offers excitement, curiosity, risks, and potential grand rewards.  We are all here for this moment.

The next Facility Expansion Committee (FEC) meeting will be held on Wednesday, September 24th at 6pm at MPA in the science room on the 2nd floor.  While we have hired a top notch design/build team to help get this done, anyone with specialized expertise, equipment, or knowledge in this area should be added to the resource list.  Just click here to complete the interest form.  You can send an email message to with any questions or concerns.  Be a part of founding our renewed dream, and a new facility.

MPA’s future is right in front of us.