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Iranetta Wright Wants to Start Early

The new Cincinnati Public Schools superintendent is focusing on building the next generation of teachers.

by Sarah M. Mullins

In February, Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) announced Iranetta Wright as the new superintendent of Ohio’s third largest school district. Before moving here, she was deputy superintendent at Detroit Public Schools, where she led principal leadership initiatives and implemented programs to improve low-performing schools.

On her first day in Cincinnati, Wright hit the ground running with a 100-day plan to “engage, explore, evaluate, and equip.” By June, she’d visited all 65 schools in the city; hosted more than 13 listening and learning sessions with parents, staff, partners, students, the community; met with each principal; and held a principal academy.

“My goal when I first arrived was really to learn everything that I could about our city and about Cincinnati Public Schools,” says Wright. “I want everyone to know that I’m accessible and visible. I value questions. I value commentary. I listen, and I want to discuss challenges. I am committed to frequently communicating with the community and ensuring there is continuous feedback.”

Among the goals she’s passionate about, Wright says teacher development and access to college education are two areas of focus. According to a National Education Association survey, 55 percent of teachers are considering leaving the profession earlier than they originally planned. CPS acknowledges the national trend and is dedicated to nurturing the pipeline of teachers graduating from area universities, says Ben Lindy, president of the Cincinnati Board of Education. “We are focused on building strong talent pipelines for teaching positions [and] racially diverse pipelines so that more and more of our students can see themselves reflected in their teacher,” he says. “That’s also true for finding great principals, because principals set the culture for school building and great teachers want to work in buildings with strong culture.”

Starting in sixth grade, CPS Strong offers summer programs to prepare and expose students to the academic discipline they’re interested in. Once students are juniors and seniors, the program helps students apply to college—then helps with the application process and obtaining scholarships, financial aid, and other resources that aid in the college search process. Once a student is on campus, support continues to make sure students achieve academically and have a successful college experience.

“We’re looking to double the rate of students who are actually going into post-secondary education,” says Wright. “We recognize that it’s important that there is strength in Cincinnati. We think of collective workforce development, making sure that we’re keeping the best and brightest students in Cincinnati, so that they are able to give back to the city. Our partnership with area universities and other pathways will definitely help accomplish this goal.”