Cincinnati Public Schools has a habit of innovating and implementing exciting changes that allow for educational customization throughout the district. This year alone, CPS has opened three new facilities: The Spencer Center for Gifted and Exceptional Children; a Rising Stars Academy campus at Carthage School; and LEAP (Language Enrichment and Academic Proficiency) Academy in North Fairmount. Like all Cincinnati Public Schools, the new sites accommodate the diverse and varying needs of students district-wide.
“[Spencer Center] students are coming from 35 different schools and get to meet students from all across the city,” says Nina Ginocchio, principal. “We opened a new school that attracts students from all walks of life.”
At Spencer, there is a major focus on ingenuity and innovativeness. “Third graders researched and prototyped their dream lunch boxes and then presented them to their classmates. Fifth-graders researched, prototyped and presented cell phones that served a variety of needs, like on-the-spot food delivery and built-in umbrellas for waterproofing, [and] seventh graders designed Google surveys that could help them to answer the question, ‘How might we design a school that meets our needs and helps us build relationships?’” says Ginocchio.
Cooperation and teamwork aren’t exclusive to the students at Spencer, either. Faculty and staff set the example by immersing themselves in the culture and routine of the school. “Our teachers are an all-hands-on-deck team,” says Ginocchio. “They jump in to help with arrival, dismissal, transitions, and never stop smiling. It feels amazing to be surrounded by such a collaborative and supportive bunch.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by Cheryl Broadnax, Assistant Superintendent of Cincinnati Public Schools, when she talks about another of CPS’ growth projects – a new Rising Stars Academy location in Carthage that joins four other standalone RSA facilities to provide quality preschool education.
“They have professional educators, highly trained to promote learning through discovery and purposeful play. We reinforce healthy habits: daily breakfast and lunch served family style, music and art activities, etc.,” she says.
The standalone Rising Stars facilities, in combination with locations within existing schools, allow CPS to service more than 2,000 children ages 3 and 4. “Carthage has filled quickly, as this area has had a high demand for preschool from our families,” Broadnax says. “This addition means about 80 families in that area now have access to quality preschool that had not existed before.”
With free tuition for families who fall within the poverty level up to 200 percent, Rising Stars Academy offers a first-rate preschool education to underserved children. “We seek to have a diversified group – ethnically, racially, and [at varying] income levels. The community near Carthage has had quite a number of English-as-a-second-language families,” says Broadnax. “This Carthage location also has been designated as a district hub that will do on-site enrollments and community outreach for parent activation. In the future we hope to see it grow into another Community Learning Center.”
Sonty believes in the importance and benefit of studying a second language. “Spanish language enrichment is important for many reasons. It is generally important that in a global society, we all learn to become more tolerant and culturally understanding as diversity increases,” she says. “Learning another language not only contributes to this goal, but it also positively impacts a student’s ability to learn perseverance, flexibility and problem solving, as well as improves their ability to understand their own native language.”
LEAP joins other Cincinnati-based language enrichment facilities, including CPS’ own Fairview-Clifton German Language School. “Our school is closely modeled after the German language school in Cincinnati Public Schools, with respect to our language enrichment model,” Sonty says. “I like to say that while Fairview exists and has existed to honor the deep legacy of German heritage and history in our city, LEAP Academy exists to honor the present-day history being made on the West Side of Spanish-speaking immigrants making their home in Cincinnati.”
While LEAP’s program is focused on serving younger students in its inaugural year, Sonty says that there are plans in the works to expand that age range. “We have classrooms from pre-school up through third grade, and we will add a new grade level each year until we are preschool through sixth grade,” she says. “We currently have 164 students enrolled and are taking applications for new students.”
Perhaps Broadnax best sums up CPS’s continued commitment to going beyond the basics in offering educational opportunities for students of all demographics, talents, and interests.
“Just visit one of our sites and see for yourself,” she says.
Quick Facts about Cincinnati Public Schools
The Central Office for CPS is located at 2651 Burnet Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45219. For more information, call 513.363.0000 or visit www.cps-k12.org.