Thursday, July 13, 2000

CPS board wants specifics on plans to restructure

Costs, teacher training scrutinized

By Andrea Tortora
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Before the Cincinnati Board of Education approves plans to restructure five of its nine traditional high schools, members want more specifics on program costs, teacher training and student access.

        The board heard presentations Wednesday to set up unique new school programs — each with an individual curriculum, and with no more than 600 students — in existing buildings.

        The restructuring aims to reduce the number of students who drop out after the ninth grade — which can run from 50 percent to 65 percent.

        Two committees of parents, teachers, administrators and community representatives studied facilities and possible programs at Ai ken, Taft, Western Hills, Withrow and Woodward high schools.

        Walnut Hills, the School for Creative and Performing Arts, Hughes Center and Clark Montessori high schools would not be part of the restructuring.

        Lea Brinker, a Western Hills teacher who worked on the plan, said the programs won't work unless the board provides its full financial and dogmatic support.

        “We as teachers need to be committed to doing what we need to do to meet students where they are,” Ms. Brinker said. “If the board is not committed to extensive teacher training, this will not work.”

        The plans call for schools

        to be organized into two components:


  • A preparatory academy where ninth- and 10th-graders would be taught by a team of teachers that would remain with them for the two years.

            A senior institute for juniors and seniors.

            Both components would be housed in the same building.

            Tenth-graders would have to meet standards to advance to the senior institute, which would focus on core requirements of Ohio's 12th-grade proficiency tests.

            Board members Florence Newell and Harriet Russell said they want more specific figures on the costs of each high school program and teacher training.

            Associate Superintendent Kathleen Ware said there is no additional money in the budget to fund these programs. The district is applying for a $2.5 million federal grant that would fund teacher training. Passage of a November levy and $120 million in payments to the district from the city and Hamilton County in lieu of property taxes on the new riverfront stadiums would provide additional money.

            Board member Catherine Ingram said Wednesday she wants statistics on how well team-teaching works.

            Ms. Newell also wants a more detailed description of which programs are best suited for each existing high school building.

            Committee members did assess facilities. They found:

            • Western Hills is best suited for flexibility and adaptability to a team-teaching scenario. It also needs the least work to improve the building.

            • Withrow is best suited for shared use.

            • Woodward has the highest value to the district and the lowest suitability for shared use.

            Superintendent Steven Adamowski said in general the plans call for a greater number of smaller high schools. The district now has 11,486 high school students. It has the capacity for 14,000.

            “We have to look at this creatively,” Dr. Adamowski said. “If we could recapture or keep the large number of students who leave us, we might need all of our facilities.”

            Committee member and Carson Montessori parent Mike Brestel said the group found that all buildings need technology upgrades, air conditioning and new windows. Those needs are at worst urgent and at best advisable in the five buildings.

            Sylvia Hill, a Woodward parent, said she likes the idea of giving students a choice in their high school studies.

            “Students need more than sitting there and having a lecture,” she said. “They need something other than the traditional "Read a book, take this home, write this down.'”

            If the restructuring is approved, students would be asked to sign letters of intent this December, indicating which high school program they want to attend.

            Then the board must choose two options:

            • Start ninth-grade preparatory academies in 2001-2002 and begin senior institutes in 2003-2004.

            • Start preparatory academies for ninth- and 10th graders in 2001-2002 and begin the senior institutes in 2002-2003.

            Once students select their schools, they and their parents will be asked to sign a one-year contract that requires them to remain at that school.


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