Cincinnati Business Group Urges ‘Mini-District’To Drive Reforms

By Lynn Olson — September 18, 1991 2 min read

The Cincinnati public schools should create a pilot “mini-district,” separate from the rest of the school system, to drive education reform, according to a report by members of the city’s business community.

The report, issued last month by a volunteer task force known as the Buenger Commission, describes the school system as “plagued with problems.” It cites “political discord, inefficient management, antiquated systems, and an administrative structure that has the tendency to maintain the status quo.”

To address such problems, it advocates creating a system of school based management, streamlining and decentralizing the central administration, upgrading the district’s infrastructure, and providing incentive pay for teachers, principals, and administrators.

The report also suggests changing the superintendent’s title to president and enabling him to focus more on education by creating a new position of vice president to handle the district’s day-to-day affairs.

But one of its most unusual ideas is to create a “pilot district,” composed of one or more high schools and their feeder schools, to implement the recommendations over five years, beginning with the 1992-93 school year.

Although this district would receive its basic operating budget from the school system, it would function separately and have its own president, whose salary would be funded from non-school-system sources.

‘Reservations’ Voiced

Members of the city’s education community and its board of education reacted favorably to the report last week. Robert L. Braddock, president of the Cincinnati school beard, said that “a majority of the beard favors implementing most of the report, if not all of it.”

But Mr. Braddock said he had “reservations” about the concept of a pilot district, “unless it’s done with integrity.” If the pilot district were allowed to hand-select teachers, principals, and students, he said, “you know you’re going to have a success on hand.”

He also said the school system would have to obtain waivers from the state and from union contracts to proceed with the idea, and that he might favor implementing change on a districtwide basis instead.

The system currently faces a $50-million operating deficit, which it hopes to eliminate through a tax levy that will be presented to voters in November. Task-force members vowed to support the tax increase and spelled out more than $9.8 million in savings, but did not offer other sources of funding for their nearly $141-million proposal.

The task force was created and chaired by Clement L. Buenger, chairman of the beard of Fifth Third Bancorp, at the request of former Superintendent Lee Etta Powell.

A version of this article appeared in the September 18, 1991 edition of Education Week as Cincinnati Business Group Urges ‘Mini-District’To Drive Reforms