CLEVELAND (WJW) – Going over the game plan. That’s exactly what the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s first-year CEO Dr. Warren G. Morgan set out to do on Thursday.

Speaking to a crowd of a few hundred, including many CMSD students, Morgan discussed his vision to improve a district that serves more than 36,000 students.

One of the ways he’s doing that is by listening to parents, students and community members.

“To date, I’ve hosted over 30 listening sessions across Cleveland,” he said.

Morgan said topics like student safety and improved nutrition are among some of the top concerns for parents and students.

However, Morgan determined it was time to reconstruct goal-setting and standards, creating a new strategic plan for a path forward.

That plan includes five strategic priorities and five core values to help steer the ship over the next five years.

Some of the district’s goals include getting 90% of students enrolled in college, employed or enlisted and improving four and five-year graduation rates to 90%.

“They’re ambitious,” Morgan said. “We want to set them, you know, high. So that means it’s going to be challenging. It’s not an easy route to get there, but we want to make sure we’re pushing and doing every strategy that we can so that we can reach for those goals.”

On the 2022-23 state report card, CMSD scored one of five stars on graduation, with 74% of students hitting the mark in four years.

“Looking at our grading practices to make sure it’s equitable,” he said. “Also, making sure teachers have support to provide students with opportunities to close the gap.”

Morgan also said the district is facing budget issues at the end of the fiscal year as $465 million in federal COVID relief funds will be expiring, creating an $18 million gap.

“The federal recovery funds have actually helped us provide services that our students needed before,” Morgan said. “But we didn’t have the funding and resources to do it, and we were able to do it. And so now we’re going to have to make some choices of how do we continue them to maintain the high level of programing, to continue to make our kids safe, continue to leverage off safe passage routes and everything that we’ve done with less funding.”

Morgan said he will be speaking with other districts and leaders around the country for suggestions to avoid drastic cuts to needed programs.

“Who knows what other strategies may come again, whether it’s from federal resources, state resources that may help us to close the gap,” he said. “But we’re looking at all options at this point.”