Cincinnati Public Schools community shares ideas to improve local schools

Two years ago, there was a local push from community members to have better access to the decision-makers in Cincinnati Public Schools.  Public schools impact everyone who lives in that community—from parents and caregivers to children to concerned neighbors. While it can be tough to connect with school and district officials, at times, the local community had great ideas to share.

CoHear, the lead engagement partner for Cincinnati Public Schools, has led Policy Pitch Nights for the city of Cincinnati since 2018. They partnered with Cincinnati Public Schools and School Board School last year for the first Education Policy Pitch Night. This annual event connects those great ideas from the larger community to the people in position to help implement them. More than 100 people showed up to listen and lend their support.

The community’s pitches were varied and full of heart. Ideas ranged from integrating mental health support into classrooms, a joint safety initiative between the City of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Public Schools to wider food choices for vegetarian students.

Pitches included:
  • Integrating mental health support and education in CPS classrooms; presenter Kendra Mapp
  • Proposing a more equitable admissions policy for Walnut Hills High School; presenters Rashanna Freeman, Andrea Granieri, Estee Harris, Cindy Jones, and Dionne Thrower
  • Starting a joint safety initiative between CPS and the city of Cincinnati; presenters Elyse Jenkins, Jess Link, Junius Smith, and Dr. Lori Wright
  • Creating a committee for community input to the CPS board; presenters Marjorie Bazin, Bryce Cannon, Larry Hodge, Brice Mickey, and Amy Thompson

The winning pitch was an IEP-implementation tool that would be more user-friendly for parents.Both the audience and CPS panel chose a user-friendly IEP implementation tool for the winning pitch. As one audience member noted, “IEPs are beyond frustrating to undertake and manage. This would dramatically increase efficiency in parental satisfaction and support.”

Superintendent Iranetta Wright shared, “I’m a degreed Special Education teacher. I had the best of both worlds where I taught Special Ed, and I was also a math teacher. This is making sure there is the level of support and understanding necessary of the IEPs, the services, and how those services are provided. I think this is a great thing to have a conversation around, really important to talk about.”

The judges' panel were CPS board president Ben Lindy, CPS superintendent Iranetta Wright, and the policy chair of the CPS board, Mike Moroski. They, along with the audience, had high praise for all of the pitches. Comments such as “This was a great idea!”, “So important to talk about”, and “Thanks for raising awareness on this” were common as community members listened to the pitches.

Everyone who attended the event also got to vote for one idea out of the six. Many audience members commented that all six of the pitches were amazing and hard to choose from.

Even the groups whose pitches weren’t chosen as the winner had connections made at the event. “Let’s continue talking about this” was a common refrain.

View all the pitches from the January 25, 2023, Education Policy Pitch Night on the School Board School page here.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Miyah Byrd.

Miyah Byrd is a storyteller and advocate based in Ohio. Her work has been featured in KIIONA Magazine, Forge, Human Parts, and ThriveGlobal. She is a former educator whose interests include food insecurity, green energy, and the self-sufficiency of the black community.