The CTM Education Committee prepared and transmitted a letter with attachments to the Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) Board of Education (BOE) and Superintendent Mary Ronan on February 4, 2017. This letter was written to summarize the work of the Committee in advance of a “Fact Finding” meeting with some members of the CPS BOE and CPS Administration on February 7, 2017.
The text of the letter in full is below with links for each attachment.
Attn: Cincinnati Public Schools Board of Education, Superintendent and all other interested parties:
On September 14, 2015 Clifton Town Meeting (CTM) voted to create an ad-hoc committee made up of both CTM Trustees and community members to focus on education and improving access to quality public education seats. Over the past 15 months, this group has worked on community engagement, coordination and teamwork with other neighborhood groups, and collection and analysis of data related to school-aged children in the Clifton area. The following is a description of the educational access challenges that brought the Education Committee together and some of the specific efforts the committee has engaged in over the past 15 months.
A. Educational Access Challenges in Clifton
In the wake of the change in magnet school enrollment, many families in Clifton are unable to gain access to the only public school located within our neighborhood unless they win a lottery spot at age 3 to Rising Stars Academy. For those families who do not win the lottery during this small window of opportunity, significant barriers exist to gain access to quality public education in our neighborhood. We have heard from community members who are struggling right now to get their own children into KG (see Attachment A). To complicate this problem further, census data indicates while a robust number (approximately 180 children per year), are born in Clifton, CUF and SGV combined, many move out by elementary school years and a concerning number attend private schools with use of vouchers or charter schools (see and also see Attachment B). In the year 2015-16 alone, the cost to the taxpayers for oucher/charter enrollment was $895,000 (this number excludes the cost of transportation) just using data for 45220 (see Attachment C1 Voucher School data, Attachment C2 Voucher Charter Data, and Attachment C3 Charter School data $ 45220). With the change in magnet enrollment policy, we have concern that this number will continue to grow if the current situation does not change. The Clifton neighborhood has been negatively impacted by families moving out of the neighborhood and potential buyers deciding against moving here, as described by the realtor who sells more homes in Clifton than any other (see Attachment D ). We have collected other personal accounts giving insight into why many do not choose the Clifton neighborhood or choose to utilize vouchers or charter schools instead of public education (see Attachment E letter 2 and Attachment E letter 1).
B. Coordination with Neighborhood Groups to Identify a Solution
The Education Committee has engaged with representatives of the CCAC to form the “Working Group,” which is comprised of Fairview parents, and representatives of the CCAC, CTM, CUF Council and Spring Grove Village Council. This group has met regularly toward the goal of identifying positive solutions for our neighborhood. Together, we hope to achieve a two-building solution to gaining school access and maintaining the CCAC as a neighborhood asset. (see Attachment F Signed Joint Statement of Spring Grove Village, CUF and Clifton). As outlined in Attachment J, members of both the Working Group and the CTM Education Committee have identified and visited potential sites. Potential spaces for a permanent location are listed in Attachment J.
C. Community Engagement
Our group’s effort follows a detailed community engagement plan (as seen in Attachment G). Pursuant to this plan, we are continuing to implement many outreach activities, including community forums, door to door contact with neighbors, engagement at public events, contact with neighborhood day care and preschool facilities, identifying supporters to sign petitions and intent to enroll forms, social media advertising, mailings, visits to community groups, businesses and organizations, and play groups for families with young children. The community forums and door to door efforts have resulted in positive community feedback for starting a new school. Additionally, we have identified a growing number of supporters through a petition with 261 current signatures and enrollment forms with 38 current
potential students for a new neighborhood school (see Attachment H). Summaries from all 6 community forums in which this group has participated are described in Attachment I. Considering the connections with potential new families ready to attend the proposed neighborhood school together with a formal commitment from CPS, we expect to gather further support enabling a strong start. In addition, we are optimistic about potential Uptown community partners working with us and being a big part of the school’s success once the project has a CPS commitment.
D. Data Collection and Analysis
The Education Committee has collected and analyzed data that demonstrates the potential for our neighborhoods to have a unique and successful neighborhood school. Through our community engagement efforts, we have learned that racial, religious and economic diversity is a priority for a new school environment. We have completed extensive research of the old Clifton School and found that this school did include both racial and economic diversity (see Attachment K Cincinnati Magazine Aug 1975-Clifton and Attachment K Cincinnati Magazine Aug 1975-Clifton-school excerpts) into the 70’s and beyond, and that current data (see Attachment L) shows that diversity does exist in our neighborhoods’ population. We welcome and are open to having boundary lines for the new school that are parallel to old lines which included areas of Avondale (see Attachment M) in addition to the neighborhoods of CUF and Spring Grove Village. We have been working together with both CUF and Spring Grove Village since January of 2016 and look forward to engaging Avondale in addition to Rockdale in relevant conversations moving forward.
E. Proposed Solution
The CTM Education Committee proposes both a short-term and long-term plan for creating a new, successful neighborhood elementary school in the Clifton area. We are eager to form an Advisory Steering Committee and partner with CPS for the purpose of working to finalize a temporary and, in time, a permanent location for a new school. In addition to location, we are ready to work with CPS to initiate programming planning and to establish beneficial partnerships. The CTM Education Committee believes it is important to offer a new opportunity to those who are now in the position of having to decide on public vs. private education. Opening both a preschool classroom along with a KG class this Fall (’17-’18) at Rising Stars Academy on Vine Street would meet an immediate need in the Clifton area and provide additional preschool slots for CPS. Growth of the new elementary school could then be executed by adding a grade each year and consequently would not disrupt other existing schools in the area.
Thank you for your consideration of our plans and we hope to work closely together soon.
Clifton Town Meeting Education Committee