Thursday, May 24, 2001

CPS' Kilgour rated among best in U.S.

By Lori Hayes
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Kilgour Elementary — a high-achieving neighborhood school in a low-performing urban district — stands out among this year's national Blue Ribbon Schools.

        The only urban Ohio school among 14 state winners and 264 winners nationwide, the Mount Lookout school is the first Cincinnati Public School in 10 years to garner one of the nation's most prestigious education honors.

        “It confirms that we're on the right track doing the right things for our children and community,” Principal Mary Ronan said.

[photo] The Blue Ribbon designation is proudly displayed Wednesday at Kilgour, as Krystopher Oquendo, 9, attends choir rehearsal in the gym.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
| ZOOM |
        Five Greater Cincinnati schools were named 2000-2001 Blue Ribbon Schools on Wednesday. (Two Tristate schools earned the distinction last year.)

        Called “models of excellence,” Blue Ribbons Schools must be nominated by their state education agencies or the Council for American Private Education. Winners are selected by a national review panel.

        Selected from 453 nominations, this year's other local winners are Edwin H. Greene Intermediate School and Maple Dale Elementary, both in Blue Ash, Sycamore Schools; Miamitown Elementary, Southwest Local Schools; and St. Pius X Elementary in Edgewood, Covington diocese.

        While more than half of this year's winners are in suburban communities, only 14 percent are urban schools. The others come from small cities and rural areas.

        Kilgour has now earned Blue Ribbon recognition twice — first in 1991-92 — since the program began in 1982 and is one of only five of CPS' 75 schools to receive the honor.

        Previous CPS winners besides Kilgour:

        • Hoffman Elementary (1987-88 and 1991-92)

        • Roselawn Condon Elementary (1985-86)

        • School for Creative and Performing Arts (1984-85)

        • Walnut Hills High School (1984-85).

        CPS, rated in “academic emergency” on Ohio's testing system, includes a small group of high-achieving magnet schools and a large number of failing neighborhood schools. School districts considered to be in academic emergency met eight or fewer of the state's 27 standards, such as test scores, attendance and graduation rates.

        Kilgour, however, has performed above state averages on Ohio's testing systems and is CPS' only neighborhood school that's been able to compete with the district's magnet schools.

        Ms. Ronan credits a strong academic program, experienced teachers and parental involvement.

        “A lot of schools are in trouble because they're trying to educate the children without the parents,” she said. “We have parents here out in the playground and in the classrooms every day. That's made a difference.”

        In 1995, the school was awarded a five-year Venture Capital state grant. Kilgour used the $25,000 a year to join Co-nect, one of the New American Schools reform designs. .

        Elementary and secondary schools are honored in alternate years with middle schools participating with the high schools. Previous winners are eligible to reapply after five years.

        The Tristate's other Blue Ribbon Schools this year are first-time winners.

        Miamitown Principal Carter Cordes points to teamwork among staff and parents.

        “All the pieces fit together beautifully,” he said.

        Mr. Cordes also praised his district's leadership. Miamitown is the sixth of Southwest Local's seven schools to be named a Blue Ribbon School.

        St. Pius X is the third school in the Covington Diocese to earn the award, and four of Sycamore Schools' seven schools, including this year's two winners, have earned Blue Ribbon recognition.

        Maple Dale Principal Linda Wulff said her school, through continual research and training, focuses on using the best teaching and learning strategies and creating a warm environment for children.

        “Those two focuses guide every decision we make about our school,” she said. “We're trying to implement strategies that lift learning to a more powerful level.”


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