Cincinnati Community Education Project

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The Context

Over the next decade, the Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) will implement an ambitious plan to improve school facilities across the district. Combining funds from local tax dollars, tax abatement linked to the construction of Cincinnati's new stadium, and state dollars, CPS will renovate, retrofit, and, in some cases, rebuild schools.

The Project

The plan to renovate and build new facilities presents a unique opportunity to engage those who have the greatest stake in the success of their neighborhood schools - the parents, students, school staff and teachers, and other community members - in a process to design schools that are truly responsive to the needs of the whole community.

To that end, KnowledgeWorks Foundation, the Children's Defense Fund, Cincinnati Public Schools, and Concordia, Inc. have piloted an initiative to create Community Learning Centers in six Cincinnati neighborhoods. Community Learning Centers are schools that bring together multiple partners to offer a range of services and opportunities to children, youth, families, and communities - before, during and after school, and on weekends - to raise student achievement and contribute to the healthy development of neighborhoods. The successful development of these Community Learning Centers during the Cincinnati Public Schools' Facilities Planning process can only occur with the committed and ongoing participation of a wide cross-section of community members.

Community members in Walnut Hills have completed the first phase of their work and have submitted a proposal to Cincinnati Public Schools for a new Community Learning Center in the heart of their community. Avondale community members have been working for several months on developing proposals to serve their neighborhood and expect to submit a proposal to CPS in the spring of 2002. The Over-the-Rhine community began planning for their community learning centers in January of 2002 and expects to submit a proposal in the fall of 2002.

The Partners

The Children's Defense Fund (CDF) is a nonprofit research and advocacy organization that has been instrumental in engaging the community in school reform efforts for the past two years. CDF has successfully helped several Cincinnati Public Schools organize and empower their Local School Decision Making Councils and Parent Teacher Organizations; facilitated staff and curriculum changes at schools that were selected for complete overhauls based on the district's Accountability Plan; and redesigned the training offered to members of the Local School Decision Making Councils. CDF organizes and facilitates meetings of the Community Learning Center steering committees.

KnowledgeWorks Foundation is the lead funder of the Community Learning Centers pilot initiative.  KnowledgeWorks Foundation is Ohio's largest public education philanthropy.  The Foundation provides funding
and leadership for education initiatives throughout the state and is focused on removing barriers to quality education.

The P&G Fund is an additional partner in the funding of the Community Learning Centers pilot initiative.  Located in Cincinnati, the P&G Fund is a separately chartered corporate foundation, which manages the Procter & Gamble Company's charitable contributions.  The primary focus of The Fund is education, which P&G considers the primary vehicle to solving many of the problems facing communities.

Concordia, Inc., a nationally known architecture and planning firm, has developed a community engagement process over the last 15 years that has been implemented in rural, suburban, and urban communities throughout the country. Steven Bingler, President of Concorida, Inc., co-authored a publication of the U.S. Department of Education: Schools as Centers of Community: A Citizen's Guide for Planning and Design. Working closely with CDF, the Concordia Planning Process is now being implemented in Walnut Hills, Avondale and Over the Rhine.





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