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Cincinnati Creates Training Academy for Educators

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The Cincinnati school district last week announced the creation of a corporate-style training academy for its teachers, administrators, and other employees that is designed to help them work effectively under the system's new structure.

The academy, which will begin its work next fall, is being set up by the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative, a school-business partnership that has been active in the city since 1987.

The establishment of such a professional-development center was a central recommendation in a report by the Cincinnati Business Committee, released last year, that has provided the blueprint for the district's improvement efforts.

The collaborative already has raised $1 million for the academy, and officials said it plans to raise an additional $3 million to provide an endowment for the center.

A local philanthropic organization, the Manuel D. and Rhoda Mayerson Foundation, gave a "leadership'' grant to establish the academy. The rest of the money will be raised from other local foundations and from corporations.

"Training and development of our teachers, principals, and administrators will be the key driving force for sustaining the educational reforms,'' Superintendent J. Michael Brandt said in announcing the project.

Cincinnati joins a number of other districts that have set up staff-development academies. One of the best-known efforts, the J.C.P.S./Gheens Professional Development Academy in Louisville, Ky., was begun in 1985 by the Jefferson County public schools and the Gheens Foundation, a local philanthropy.

'Inside and Outside'

Cincinnati school officials say the need for more intensive and focused professional development was heightened by the reform effort, which has involved a dramatic reduction in the size of the central-office staff and the creation of nine "mini-districts'' designed to bring decisionmaking closer to the schools. (See Education Week, May 20, 1992.)

In the reorganization, for example, the department of curriculum and instruction was eliminated, making way for school staffs to get more involved in designing instruction.

The new academy, which will be housed in its own building, will be directed by Larry Rowedder, now the superintendent of the Cumberland County schools in Fayetteville, N.C.

Mr. Rowedder said the academy will have an advantage in its work because it has been established by the business community and will operate "outside'' the school system.

The district will pay the teachers and administrators who work at the academy, probably for periods of one to three years. Other training will be provided by faculty members from local universities or from business consultants, Mr. Rowedder said.

Tom Mooney, the president of the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers, described the academy as having "one foot inside the school district and one foot outside.''

"I'm not altogether sure why that feels right,'' he said, "but it does.''

'A Corporate Model'

The academy will be governed by a seven-member board made up of Mr. Mooney, Superintendent Brandt, the president of the school board, a representative of the Mayerson Foundation, a business trustee, and two representatives of local universities.

While the details of the academy's offerings are still being planned, Mr. Rowedder said that all school employees--including bus drivers, cooks, secretaries, and other support workers--will be offered opportunities to take part in its programs.

Mr. Rowedder, who will begin his new job in January, said the program offerings will be determined by requests from employees.

"Their attendance and their involvement in the growth programs will be voluntary,'' he said, "and so one of the measurements of our success will be, do people in fact partake? And that will be directly related to the quality of programming that we can provide.''

In addition to responding to employees' requests, the training will be provided as much as possible during the regular workday, said John Bryant, the director of the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative.

In planning the academy, he said, "we were much closer in our thinking to a corporate model that would recognize this as an investment that the company would be making in its own sort of growth and development, as opposed to something that teachers must do on their own time.''

In its report, the Cincinnati Business Committee specifically recommended that employees receive training in the skills necessary to participte in school-based management, in cultural diversity, and in financial management.

Expanding Career Ladder

Mr. Mooney said he would like the city's lead teachers, a cadre of distinguished teachers, to be among the first to receive training. The district is in the process of rapidly expanding its career ladder to increase the number of such master teachers, he said, but they have not received any "serious'' training for their new roles.

In deciding how to use the academy, Mr. Mooney said, "we have to be strategic and make decisions about getting highest impact. This is not to offer a random course and have people sign up.''

He also suggested that the academy might concentrate on offering training for mathematics teachers in the district's new curriculum, which is closely modeled on the standards developed by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

In the neighbhorhood elementary schools, teachers are being encouraged to develop nongraded, multi-age programs, Mr. Mooney added, noting that teachers involved in that "daunting task'' could benefit from the academy's programs.

Not all of the training would take place at the academy, Mr. Bryant said. For example, if teams of teachers in a school were interested in studying together, they could request assistance at their school.

"This is an investment that is being made in the health and well-being of the organization,'' Mr. Bryant said.

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