125 Years of Innovation in Education



Photography provided by Robert A. Flischel and Leah Fightmaster

One of Hyde Park’s longest-standing landmarks, The Summit Country Day School, this year celebrates 125 years of providing rigorous college preparatory education with a focus on character education. The anniversary heralds a new era for The Summit, which underwent major building and renovation projects this past summer. 

“I think the key to maintaining the vitality of a school like The Summit is to be true to the traditions that have created academic excellence and the teaching of good character while innovating and experimenting with new ways to enhance learning as the world changes,” says Rich Wilson, head of school. “This school has always been on the forefront of education in Cincinnati.”  

In the past few years, The Summit has been implementing a strategic plan that strengthens its unique position as an independent, Catholic, coeducational school for students in pre-kindergarten, beginning at two-years-old, through 12th grade. Professional development training and support for ongoing education have led to innovative teaching, cross-curricular collaboration and advanced use of technology in the classroom. 

Construction this summer of a five-story east wing addition to the main building, which houses the Upper School, helped address the strong enrollment demand evidenced by this year’s record freshman class. A spacious reading room dedicated to long-time benefactor and The Summit alumna Helen Williams was added to Williams Library. The art studio doubled in size, reflecting the school’s emphasis on arts education and reputation for gaining admission for students in the top-rated college arts programs in the country. Additional classroom space in the east wing allowed for science laboratories in the west wing to be expanded.

“In science, we have been offering a strong curriculum for years taught by teachers with advanced educational backgrounds, and we have accumulated laboratory equipment that some colleges don’t even have,” says Wilson. “Last year, we further enhanced the curriculum by launching the Science Research Institute, a unique program in Cincinnati which gives motivated students a head-start on college-level research. The missing piece was that the physical facility did not match our curriculum, faculty and equipment. Now, it does. The science experience we offer our high school students truly is best-in-city.”

The Middle School Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) labratory was also renovated this summer and an outdoor learning space was created for use by Lower and Middle School teachers. 

“Our focus on providing a personalized experience for each child challenges us to continually advance our teaching methods,” says Wilson. “We look to the latest brain-based research conducted on children and adolescents to guide our best practices.” 

The strategies that The Summit has initiated in the past few years are laying a strong foundation for the next 125 years. The start of a toddler program in the Montessori opened the doors to two-year-olds. This year music classes designed to stimulate the brains of babies from birth to 24 months are being offered and are filled to capacity. World Language is taught at every grade level beginning at age two. New programs focusing on math and reading in the lower grades and science and math in the middle and upper grades have boosted an already rigorous college preparatory curriculum. 

A continued emphasis on the arts has rewarded students with awards at city, state, national and even international levels. Likewise, the writing curriculum has resulted in awards for students in the Lower, Middle and Upper schools and multiple national publications. Despite a no-cut policy in athletics, skilled coaches and motivated players have made repeated runs to state tournaments in the past five years, bringing home team and individual championships. Summit graduates every year are heavily recruited and the official “School Profile” filed with the College Board shows they gain admission to top-tier colleges and universities across the country. “It’s all about surrounding our students with a culture of excellence,” says Wilson. 

The changes taking place on the Hyde Park campus underscore the strong base of community support for making sure The Summit carries forward the educational vision of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur who founded the school. Their charge to teachers was to focus on the needs of each individual child to help them “grow in grace and wisdom.” 

“We look not only where we have been, but where we are going,” says Wilson. “After 125 years, The Summit Country Day School continues to be blessed.”