Our History

A Beginning

Constellation Schools evolved from the desire of a small group of individuals to open a Montessori school in Cleveland’s Old Brooklyn neighborhood. After a lot of hard work and many community meetings held over the course of two years, a change in Ohio law establishing community schools (or “charter schools”) lead to the creation of Old Brooklyn Montessori School (OBCE). OBCE opened in August of 1998 with three employees and 27 students. Ms. Cherie Galjan, the current principal of OBCE, was its first employee and was given the difficult task of being both administrator of the school and head classroom teacher. In its second year, OBCE expanded to 87 students and added additional teachers and staff.

Expanding and Creating a Universal Appeal

The early successes of OBCE and the desire to improve public education, drove some of the original developers of OBCE to become more actively involved in Ohio’s charter school movement. As a result, Richard Lukich, Gerald Preseren and Thomas Babb created Constellation Schools, a management organization, and worked together to develop proposals for additional community schools. Although they were pleased with the community support for OBCE and its Montessori curriculum, they recognized the challenges it presented in public education: difficulty finding quality Montessori trained and state certified teachers; the high cost of Montessori materials (about $30,000 per classroom); and, the fact that a Montessori education does not appeal to everyone.

As a result, a more traditional curriculum utilizing a competency-based model was selected for OBCE and all new schools. To ensure the new schools stood out from existing public schools and the growing number of charter schools, a comprehensive character education (values) component was integrated throughout the curriculum, and small class sizes. The growth of the schools was tightly controlled, initially serving children in kindergarten through third grade and expanding to K–8 over a period of six years, to allow them to develop a sense of community. This slow growth also allows for a more selective process in hiring teachers, which ensures the development of a quality staff.

In 2000, Parma Community School became Constellation School's second school, and in 2001 three more schools opened: Westpark Community Elementary, Elyria Community Elementary and Lorain Community Elementary. Subsequent years brought additional growth with Puritas Community Elementary opening in 2003 and Madison Community Elementary and Stockyard Community Elementary in 2004.

In 2006, Old Brooklyn Community Middle, Westpark Community Middle, Lorain Community Middle, and Puritas Community Middle separated from their elementary school and became middle schools educating students in grades fifth through eighth. Outreach Academy for Children with Disabilities also opened in 2006 to serve students that are medically fragile. In 2007, Westside Community School of the Arts, our first arts-based school, opened in Old Brooklyn, but a year later moved to the St. Philip & James school building in the Jefferson neighborhood in Cleveland. Since our middle school programs formed in 2006 the next school to emulate this program was Stockyard Community Middle educating students in grades seventh and eighth.

Constellation’s growth is a steady progression that is determined by the community in which it is located. As a result, Elyria Community School expanded into a second building, the former Elyria City School - Eastgate building, to accommodate middle school students. Besides the expansion in Elyria, Collinwood Village Academy and Eastside Arts Academy opened for the 2011-2012 school year bringing Constellation’s high quality education to Cleveland’s east side for the first time. These two schools serve students in kindergarten through sixth grade and follow Constellation’s traditional growth model.

The Purpose of Constellation Schools

Constellation Schools is an umbrella management organization, providing business, administrative, educational and financial support services to its managed schools. This structure allows these overhead expenses to be spread over all the schools, reducing the financial burden on individual schools. With Constellation performing most of the administrative functions, the building principals and teachers are freed up to do what they do best – educate children. Administrative centralization also eliminates duplicative services at each school. This type of efficiency is often used in business to increase efficiency. Within Constellation, it serves to improve performance and accountability. As the schools benefit from administrative centralization, more resources are available for students and teachers, resulting in more opportunities for students and better schools.

Success of the Organization

In a little over eighteen years, Constellation Schools has grown from one school, 27 students, and 3 employees to seventeen schools educating more than 4,800 students and over 650 employees. A total of eleven buildings are owned by the schools which occupy them evidencing their acceptance within their communities and their financial strength. These include: Old Brooklyn Elementary, Parma Community, Elyria Community, Lorain Community Elementary, Westpark Community Elementary, Madison Community Elementary, Stockyard Community Elementary and Westside Community School of the Arts. These building also house Old Brooklyn Community Middle, Westpark Community Middle and Lorain Community Middle.

Schools under the Constellation umbrella have demonstrated academic success throughout the years.

2004/2005 School Year
Parma Community School and Westpark Community School were both rated “Effective” by the Ohio Department of Education.

2005/2006 School Year
Westpark Community School was rated “Excellent” was named a “School of Promise.”
Parma Community and Old Brooklyn Community School was rated “Effective” by the Ohio Department of Education.

2006/2007 School Year
Old Brooklyn Community Elementary was rated “Excellent.”
Parma Community, Lorain Community Elementary, Old Brooklyn Community Middle, Westpark Community Elementary, and Puritas Community Elementary were rated “Effective" by the Ohio Department of Education.

2007/2008 School Year
Old Brooklyn Community Elementary and Madison Community Elementary were rated “Excellent.”
Old Brooklyn Community Middle, Puritas Community Elementary and Parma Community were rated “Effective” by the Ohio Department of Education.

2008/2009 School Year
Old Brooklyn Community Elementary, Old Brooklyn Community Middle, Puritas Community Elementary and Outreach Academy were all rated "Excellent."
Lorain Community Elementary, Westpark Community Elementary and Westside Community School of the Arts were rated "Effective."
Old Brooklyn Community Elementary, Puritas Community Elementary and Old Brooklyn Community Middle were also designated as “Schools of Promise” from the Ohio Department of Education.

2009/2010 School Year
Constellation Schools: Old Brooklyn Community Elementary, Constellation Schools: Old Brooklyn Community Middle, Constellation Schools: Elyria Community, and Constellation Schools: Outreach Academy were rated “Excellent.”
Constellation Schools: Parma Community, Constellation Schools: Lorain Community Elementary, Constellation Schools: Lorain Community Middle, Constellation Schools: Westpark Community Elementary, Constellation Schools: Westpark Community Middle, Constellation Schools: Puritas Community Elementary and Westside Community School of the Arts obtained an “Effective” rating.

2010/2011 School Year
Constellation Schools: Old Brooklyn Community Middle received the highest rating of “Excellent with Distinction” after achieving an “Excellent” rating for the past 2 years.
Constellation Schools: Old Brooklyn Community Elementary achieved an “Excellent” rating for its 5th consecutive year.
Constellation Schools: Outreach Academy upheld its “Excellent” rating for its 3rd consecutive year.
Constellation Schools: Lorain Community Elementary and Westpark Community Elementary received an “Excellent” rating.
Constellation Schools: Parma Community, Elyria Community and Westside Community School of the Arts obtained an “Effective” rating.

2011/2012 School Year
Constellation Schools: Old Brooklyn Community Middle, Constellation Schools: Lorain Community Elementary, Constellation Schools: Westpark Community Elementary, Constellation Schools: Westpark Community Middle, Constellation Schools: Puritas Community Elementary and Constellation Schools: Outreach Academy received an “Excellent” rating.
Constellation Schools: Old Brooklyn Community Elementary, Constellation Schools: Parma Community, Constellation Schools: Elyria Community and Constellation Schools: Westside Community School of the Arts received an “Effective” rating.

2012/2013 School Year
Constellation Schools: Elyria Community was recognized as a High Progress School of Honor.

2013/2014 School Year
Constellation Schools: Lorain Community Elementary was recognized as a High Progress School of Honor.

The Ohio Department of Education implemented a new school report card for the 2012/2013 school. Schools were no longer designated a “Rating” instead the school received a letter grade in different categories. No overall grade was given for the 2012/2013 and 2013/2014 school years. However, Constellation’s schools continue to achieve outstanding results because of the many dedicated people who put our students’ needs first to ensure every student has an opportunity to be successful. Constellation’s schools continue to be one of the highest performing charter school organizations in the state of Ohio.

The Future of the Organization

Constellation’s growth is designed to be slow and deliberate to insure success and eliminate one of the most costly errors many small businesses make – expanding too quickly. Because Ohio’s community schools receive significantly less funding than traditional public schools receive, it is imperative that Constellation Schools and the schools that it manages maintain strict fiscal discipline at all times. As the organization grows it will continue to focus on bringing new public school educational opportunities for students who have historically been under served.

Conclusion

The founders of Constellation have established a community of schools that benefit from outstanding participation and support from staff, students and parents. Constellation has developed a reputation for its high standards and dedicated teachers, and for delivering a quality educational program in a safe and pleasant environment.