By Jordan Vogel, opinion contributor to the Enquirer
I am filled with hope.
This August, Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) launched its three-year strategic plan: A Roadmap to Destination Cincinnati Public Schools. The plan will establish CPS as a district of destination — for students, families, staff and partners.
"A district of destination…" Can CPS actually achieve that bold vision? Let me provide a window into how the proverbial strategic plan sausage was made.
In early 2019, CPS invited me to participate on a Strategic Plan Design Team comprised of a cross-section of community stakeholders. CPS' strategic planning work had already been in progress since the summer of 2018. The work entailed thousands of hours of contribution from hundreds of people across our community over the course of a year. The process was comprehensive, rigorous and eminently inclusive.
To get to the final output of a three-year plan, there were two intangibles that were omnipresent and held by all the stakeholders, especially CPS staff: the desire to win and unwavering love for children. Let me explain.
During our full-day work sessions, it was immediately apparent to me there was a competitive spirit in the room. CPS had been intentional about engaging the community in this work, leveraging our influence and passion. All were invested in CPS becoming a school district of destination.
For a goal this audacious, winning almost always needs to be fueled by something bigger then ourselves. This intangible element is what I experienced as I went through this process with the team. In a word, it was love.
When someone would recommend a system or curriculum change, it was quickly evident the only litmus test that mattered was whether the student was at the center of our decision-making process.
So when things got heated — which wasn’t often, but it happened — a refrain broke out from CPS staff, "That's not going to work for my babies." This became the central tenet of our work and in fact, the clarion call of our team.
Some key outcomes of this work are:
- Strategic investments will ensure that Cincinnati Public Schools is the first choice for students, families and staff;
- Opportunities and options for students and families are expanding;
- Plans are being implemented for continuous improvement, strategic growth, and long-range financial planning;
- This fall, Cincinnati Public Schools will take key steps toward long-term financial and strategic planning for the district — making smart investments through the budget and asking voters to support a 10-year, $65-million renewal levy on the November ballot.
So why does this all matter to me? In my role as vice president of Talent Initiatives at the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, I think about talent all day, every day. Expanding and diversifying the region’s talent base is our charge, and we intend to win our region's war for talent. This includes attracting talent to the region, retaining the talent we have and creating pipelines of new talent.
The ultimate goal of CPS' plan is to see our children become community leaders and influencers — and CPS is currently developing 36,000 of them. Soon they will join our organizations and have important and far-reaching impact. As they thrive, so will our community. We need CPS to succeed so that our region can grow and thrive.
My son is a rising senior at Walnut Hills High School. He is MY baby (even though he is now taller than me). And I know that CPS' staff sees my baby as their baby too. His CPS education has been filled with academic excellence. But it has also been filled with love. He knows that his CPS family cares about him, his academic achievement, his health and safety and his future.
The road ahead will inevitably present bumps, detours and obstacles. But I posit that the outlook for our babies and our community has never been higher.
I am filled with hope.
Jordan Vogel is vice president of talent initiatives at the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber and served as a member of the design team for Cincinnati Public Schools' strategic Plan