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CISE schools keep Catholic education strong in low-income neighborhoods

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By Walt Schaefer
For The Catholic Telegraph

Inner-City Catholic Schools illustrate how education can succeed in some of Cincinnati’s less affluent neighborhoods. In the past six years, each of the eight schools operated by the Catholic Inner-City Education Fund (CISE) have shown a steady increase in enrollment largely attributed to quality educational opportunities coupled with initiatives designed to keep the schools functioning at the highest level.

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“We are seeing increases in all of our schools. Overall there has been an enrollment increase in each of the past six years,” said Cate O’Brien, assistant superintendent of the CISE schools. “The number has grown from 1,280 students in 2008 to 1,800 (today). That’s a 40 percent increase.”

There are eight schools in the CISE program: St. Boniface, Northside; Corryville Catholic; Holy Family, Price Hill; St. Francis Seraph, Over-the-Rhine; St. Francis de Sales, Walnut Hills; St. Joseph, West End; St. Lawrence, Price Hill and Resurrection of Our Lord, Price Hill.

“Parents send their children to CISE schools just like any other Catholic school,” O’Brien said. “However, the principal will sit down with the parents and tuition discussed. It would be on a sliding scale. They don’t turn away students because they can’t afford it, but they will pay something.

“The schools are not districted. Students come to all CISE schools from pretty much across Cincinnati’s urban area. A lot of our parents, however, are dependent on Cincinnati Public Schools busing so they often bus to neighborhood schools. That has some influence on where they go,” she said.

Cary Powell, director of the Inner-City Catholic Schools Education Fund, said: “Professional Learning Communities (PLC) is an example of the kind of initiative our schools are implementing. All of our schools are an example of excellence where we see these PLC’s being put into place fostering development in our teachers.

“Our schools are small,” O’Brien said. “There has been a significant amount of time and resources and training of teachers in CISE schools to work together to impact achievement. We are structuring our schools to work together making database decisions around instruction and learning. That’s CISE wide.”

“We really feel strongly,” Powell said, “that we focus on excellence and improvement in our schools. We are a funded organization. If we raise the focus on our schools, and our product to be excellent, the fund-raising will happen. If so, dollars follow and children will follow. We really do believe our uptick in enrollment across our schools has followed improvements across our schools.

“Our schools were good before; and we continue getting better all the time.”

This story originally appeared as part of the Catholic Schools Week section in the February 2015 print edition of The Catholic Telegraph.

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