Have Family, Need Hearth

The first threatening letter arrived in yesterday’s mail. It wasn’t unexpected. Dr. Mark Freeman, the Shaker Heights school superintendent, advised parents of the severe consequences of last month’s defeat. Yes, that is the same Mark Freeman that once taught shop class at Woodbury Junior High. And with all of the subtlety of an eighth grade boy fashioning a peg board, Dr. Mark hammered the tax-weary parents of Shaker.

I don’t usually monitor the school program termination threats in Shaker Heights. Phillip and Jennifer attend the South Euclid-Lyndhurst Schools; a district that has enjoyed a fair amount of success is passing reasonable property tax levies. But change, at least in my life, is inevitable.

Alissa and I are looking for a home. No we are not getting married. We are forming a domestic partnership. Regular readers are well aware of my limited success in marriage. (How’s that for charitable?) So we decided to try something different. My house in South Euclid would not be comfortable for the six of us and I really believe that Phil, Jen and I need a change of scenery. A good part of each week-end is now spent trekking through houses.

Our first question was “Where?” R.J. and Meredith, Alissa’s two children attend the Shaker Schools. The system, minus the threats, is excellent. The houses are made of brick, stone, and plaster. We have friends in Shaker.

We have lived in South Euclid for nine years. I don’t want to “damn with faint praise”, but our schools, services and housing stock are good. In every category you can find someplace that is better and lots of cities that are much worse.

An up-and-coming area is Solon. Everybody hates Solon until they move there, then they become cheerleaders. It is a remarkable phenomenon. Our friends offer to show us around and call us every time a house comes on the market. The schools are very good. The problem is that the only houses we have seen in Solon that we like are over $300,000. It costs that much to make Solon look like Shaker.

But Shaker has its problems. The taxes appear to be about 50% higher. More importantly, after the last levy failed, School Board Member Marvin McMickle told the Plain Dealer that the culprits were “Republicans and people with axes to grind.” Somehow he felt that parents having to organize to rid their schools of ineffectual principals, a school board that refused to be held accountable for its actions and a district that budgeted nearly $10,000 for office donuts and gift baskets could all be overlooked. Now the threatening letters and bullying have begun. I know that it has given us second thoughts about Shaker.

So, we’re back to where we began. We want to move at the end of this school year. Shaker? South Euclid? Solon? I told Alissa that this would be a whole lot easier if it was ten years later and the kids were out of school. This isn’t something that I wish for. I’m in no rush to see the kids grow up any faster that they will. But once a month we’re allowed one wishful moment.