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Cleveland Transformation Alliance could run out of money by end of 2023

The Cleveland Transformation Alliance logo.

The Cleveland Transformation Alliance, an organization that assesses school quality and monitors relations between charter schools and the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, could be out of money by the end of next year.

Executive Director Meghann Marnecheck said during a Transformation Alliance Board meeting earlier this month that the organization did not have much luck fundraising in 2022. Local foundations, she said, were focused on helping people with basic needs due to the pandemic. But Marnecheck said she’s hopeful for 2023.

“I think the alliance will be doing more to focus on trying to diversify where our funding comes from, and trying to find individual donors that are really interested in our work,” she said Thursday.

The organization has been in the spotlight recently because it guides conversations with local stakeholders about the Cleveland Plan, which has been the blueprint for long-term improvements for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and local charter schools for roughly a decade.

Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb — chair of the Transformation Alliance — has said repeatedly in recent months he wants to "double down" on that plan as he and CMSD’s board work toward hiring a new leader to replace outgoing CEO Eric Gordon.

The Cleveland Plan, created by a host of local partners, including the city, school district and local foundations, envisioned a mix of high-quality schools that includes CMSD district schools as well as public charter schools that partner with the district.

The Transformation Alliance plays a number of school policy roles in Cleveland. It publishes a “school quality guide” regularly — likely set to return in January 2023 — along with other resources to help parents choose the best school for their children. The Alliance also vets new charter schools that come into the city (although it doesn’t have the power to deny those applications).

Helen Williams, education program director for the Cleveland Foundation and Transformation Alliance board member, noted during the December board meeting that a lot of things have changed in the decade since the Cleveland Plan was implemented. She said she thinks the board should have a deeper conversation about the role the Transformation Alliance plays as the broader education landscape changes in Cleveland.

“I do think that structure and mission and all of those conversations, it’s going to be important this year, particularly with the new superintendent,” Williams said.

Conor Morris is the education reporter for Ideastream Public Media.