The Cleveland Triangle: A Booming Partnership Between a School District, Local Businesses and a Community College

October 16, 2018, by Jimmy Minichello


digital-cleveland1"Sound rolling," instructed the floor manager to the crew.

"Camera rolling."

"Announcement 4, take 2."

Following the strike of the clapboard, the student running “camera one” gave the anchor sitting behind the desk a silent 3-2-1 count.  

"There will be a Key Club meeting this Thursday for all members from 3:15 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. in room 174. The Key Club will discuss service events and brainstorm possible future events," reported the anchor, reading her script through a teleprompter.

This wasn’t CNN. It was ENN, the Eagle News Network—the student-run TV news channel that can be viewed at Avon High School.  

In another corner of the broadcast journalism classroom, two students were digitally editing a news reporter's "stand-up" while a third student, a few desks away, was busy editing video footage soon to be incorporated into a news story.

digital-cleveland2Meanwhile, in another part of the school, student-engineers wearing goggles and perhaps thinking about careers in architectural design, were digitally creating a foundation of a house on their computers. Down the hall, it was clear that hopeful graphic designers of tomorrow were engaged in an Introduction to Adobe class. They were working on a variety of digital media art projects.

These activities, featuring models of effective teaching and learning, formed the beginning of AASA Digital Consortium’s fall meeting, held at the Avon Local School District in Avon, Ohio, located about 20 miles away from downtown Cleveland.

"It was an honor to host the AASA Digital Consortium," said Michael Laub, superintendent of the Avon Local School District. "It was an awesome opportunity to showcase what our students were doing with superintendents from across the country."

digital-cleveland3Home of the Eagles, Avon High School opened its doors in 1998 and experienced a substantial expansion in 2008 to house as many as 1,600 students. The Oct. 8-10 meeting marked the third Consortium gathering this year with previous meetings held in St. Louis and Charlotte respectively.

"When I went to school," said Laub, "technology was what you took. We're fortunate enough to have educators who see the value and understand how technology has integrated in everything we do in life."

"Technological tools are becoming less of a novelty but more of the norm to support learning," said Nick Polyak, superintendent of Leyden High School District 212 in Franklin Park, Ill. "Technology is something that’s everywhere in supporting education. Technology is a must-have."

Superintendents and other administrators who also visited Avon Middle School on the first full day of the Consortium enjoyed a firsthand view of computer tech programming instruction along with classrooms implementing digital arts media and an animation lab. They also visited an algebra class where students were able to participate in a graph exercise using hand-held devices to submit responses to the teacher’s lesson that were shown on a smartboard mounted in front of the classroom.

digital-cleveland4"When we think about technology in schools, we need adults who are willing to take risks and reinvent themselves. That way, we'll create students who are also willing to take risks," said Polyak, who serves as co-chair of the Consortium and co-moderator of the popular #SuptChat program, a lively discussion held on the first Wednesday of every month through Twitter.

The day also featured a visit to the Cleveland Clinic, a nonprofit academic medical center and a clinical and hospital care provider. Ranked No. 2 on 2018-19 U.S. News Best Hospitals Honor Roll, the Cleveland Clinic places a priority on reaching out to the community to connect residents with resources and programs to transform students through academic achievement and career preparedness. For more information, visit the Cleveland Clinic's website.

The third and final day of the Consortium began with a visit to Lorain County Community College where the tour's first stop placed the group into the Fab Lab—a 5,000 square foot facility available to the community. The personal fabrication laboratory features advanced computer software and contemporary tools for cutting, milling, electronics, engraving and other processes of rapid and automated prototyping. Students from the school district can learn to use commercially available technologies to “conceptualize, design, develop, fabricate and test” objects.

digital-cleveland5"Students get to pick three different content areas during Techno Fridays and we have them do something in every content area," said Kelly Zelesnik, dean of the engineering, business and information, technologies division at LCCC. "Students learn that if a project doesn’t work the first time, it didn’t fail. At the Fan Lab, we start teaching students that not working the first time isn’t failure. Learn from what didn’t work and try it again. It’s establishing a growth mindset."

Another highlight of the LCCC visit was a walk-through inside a Micro-Electro Mechanical Sciences (MEMS) lab, led by Johnny Vanderford, who trains future mechanical and electrical engineers.

digital-cleveland6"Laboratories are having a hard time finding folks who are able to do this work," said Vanderford. "We listen to the companies. We train [our students]. A company across the street hired students here because they're trained in my classes. Overall, we've got a good bridge between industry and education."

Before wrapping up the fall meeting, administrators found out about additional examples of partnerships between local educators and businesses with a visit to nearby Berea-Midpark High School. Highlights of the visit included a look at a soon-to-be completed TV studio, where a local station provided equipment to the school in order to provide future broadcast journalists with opportunities to create newscasts and hone their skills in electronic news gathering.

The visit also included a stop at what could’ve easily been mistaken for a prop room in any Hollywood science fiction movie studio. This was an art workshop where students created lifelike figures that could easily be used in any picture for the silver screen.

"The services provided to us over the past two days were spectacular," said Glenn Robbins, superintendent of Tabernacle School District in Tabernacle, N.J.


"The thing that was the most amazing thing to me during this trip is the assurance that public education is in really good shape and [the Consortium’s fall meeting] was the icing on the cake," said Donna Wright, director of schools for Wilson County Schools in Lebanon, Tenn.

To join the conversation via Twitter about the Consortium’s visit to the Avon Local School District, access #AASA_DigitalConsortium

Click here to access the AASA photo gallery.

The 2018-19 Digital Consortium will host its next meeting on March 3-5, 2019, in Philadelphia, Pa., hosted by the Ephrata Area School District.

To learn more about the program, visit the AASA website, which includes AASA’s recently produced case studies featuring several members of the Consortium. Superintendents and other school system leaders can also contact Mort Sherman, AASA associate executive director, leadership services, at, or Debbie Magee, program manager, at