Growing, Achieving, Enhancing: An Exciting New School Year Begins
Students at Hyde Park School
Cincinnati Public Schools
Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) enrollment continues to grow and is projected to hit 36,282 for the 2019-2020 school year. “That’s 458 more students than the previous school year,” says Sarah Trimble-Oliver, the district’s chief information officer.
“This is unique for urban districts around the country, and it definitely far surpasses any other urban district in Ohio as far as growth,” Trimble-Oliver says.
She cites a report showing CPS enrollment is far outpacing other Ohio urban school districts. Specifically, from 2013-2017, seven of the state’s Urban 8 school districts – Akron, Canton, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown – gained 682 students combined. During the same time period, 4,462 more students enrolled in CPS.
To what does Trimble-Oliver and CPS attribute this exciting boost in student enrollment?
“There are two reasons for this growth that we can see from our data. We are seeing an increase in the number of school-age children in the City of Cincinnati, so some of that growth can be attributed to more families living in the city. The second reason is, we do have more parents choosing our schools over charter schools in our district, which may be the biggest contributor to our growth.”
The west side neighborhoods, specifically, are welcoming more families with school-aged children – a central theme for the past two years, she notes.
“We have a great pre-school program – The Pre-School Promise – which has increased the number of pre-school students we serve by several hundred,” Trimble-Oliver continues. “Our Vision 2020 initiative, which is about giving our neighborhood schools programs that leverage their community’s resources and what their community’s interests are, has brought growth to our district, too. And our high schools are seeing a lot of growth, and I really think that has to do with our strong career focus. We have great partnerships with businesses in the area that are giving our high school students career experiences and career skills, making huge career pathways for students. Our career pipeline is unparalleled.”
MORE STUDENTS, MORE SCHOOLS, MORE TEACHERS
Three new school sites (not new construction) opened in time for the 2019-2020 school year.
“We moved Gamble High School to the former Mercy High School building. We hope to expand Gamble, and now we have the room to do that,” Trimble-Oliver continues. “The former Gamble High School site is now Gamble Montessori Elementary School. And we also re-opened Clifton Area Neighborhood School, which will house grades pre-K through second grade, and then each year for the next four years we will add a grade until we reach sixth grade.”
Obviously, more students plus more schools equals the need for more teachers. CPS hired close to 300 new teachers to accommodate this boost in enrollment as well as replace teachers who retired last school year.
“Growth is a top priority in our district’s three-year strategic plan,” Trimble-Oliver points out.
The plan, which was rolled out in early August, also details steps the district is taking toward quality improvement.
“We’re always working toward improving and trying to be the best we can be so that our students are prepared for life,” she adds. “ In order to do that, the strategic plan was devised as a blueprint to guide us.”
CPS wants families and students to stay here if they’re here or come here if they’re not. Of course, great learning environments for students start with great employee experiences, school district officials note. So, the district focuses on providing innovative engagement and development of its more than 5,500 employees who teach and connect with students, families and the community-at-large. As such, CPS was named one of Ohio’s 2019 Best Employers by Forbes Magazine.
According to Susan Bunte, CPS assistant superintendent, the district recently redesigned its leadership structure with recommendations from the University of Washington, and hired four Directors of School Leadership to lead day-to-day evaluation and performance enhancements at its 65 schools. As part of this program, all district directors and managers have graduated from the prestigious Leadership Pipeline Institute. Also, many senior leaders are enrolled in “I2S2” Training and “Impact U” through Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, in addition to involvement in leadership programs through the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce.
CPS continues to invest in its workforce, enhancing the employee experience, Bunte notes. She oversees the expanding Talent Development Department, established last year, which offers training, resources and professional development training to teachers, principals, administrators, paraprofessionals and other support staff.
“As a district, if we are to attract the very best teachers, the very best principals, the very best Central Office employees, the very best lunchroom managers – if we can have the very best folks in front of our students, that enables us to help them reach even higher levels of achievement,” she explains. “So, it’s vital we attract – and retain – the best and brightest out there. And it’s equally important that we help those folks grow and develop to be the very best they can be so that they can better serve our students.”
An Employee Care Center, located in the Central Office Building, for example, was established to consolidate district employee-centered services in one area to help teachers and staff save time – and steps – during their workday.
Bunte, who began her career at CPS as a special education teacher, still remembers the note she received more than 2 ½ decades ago from a CPS Central Office administrator after she had been with the district for just a few years.
“It was three simple words: I see you. That was all it said. I was in my early 20s. So, I asked the administrator what it really meant. She said – and I’ve never forgotten it – ‘Susan, it is incumbent upon us who are leaders in the organization to look for talent and to really think about the people we see who may be able to manifest that talent – maybe not in this moment, but perhaps later in their careers – and who can grow and stretch.’ And I think that’s our mission at CPS, to really be able to see each one of our teachers, our staff, and help personalize their individual experience here in such a way they know we truly see them.”
The Talent Development Department, for example, presents employees nominated by fellow employees with a variety of rewards and recognitions throughout the school year. Gift certificates, balloon bouquets and other fun symbols of the district’s appreciation for its employees for a job well done are personally delivered to recognized employees at their workplace.
“They’re small things, but one of the things we’ve learned is that they mean something to people,” Bunte says. “And I think that as we continue to grow and develop our leadership, and grow and develop our teacher leaders and others, we become the ‘see-ers,’ going out of our way to make sure everyone has a chance to be seen. I just think it’s really exciting!
“One of the things I learned working with the University of Washington and their consultants was that unless we all work together, we will never be able to maximize student achievement. That really resonated with me. Every single person in the Cincinnati Public Schools District is important, no matter what role they play.”
Cincinnati Public Schools’ Central Office is located at 2651 Burnet Ave, Cincinnati, OH 45219. For more information, visit www.cps-k12.org/.