100 days into new job, CPS superintendent identifies key issues: communication and culture

·4 min read
Iranetta Wright, Cincinnati Public Schools' new superintendent, has been on the job for 100 days. She has plans going forward.
Iranetta Wright, Cincinnati Public Schools' new superintendent, has been on the job for 100 days. She has plans going forward.

Thursday marked one week until Cincinnati Public Schools reopens for a new school year ‒ and the end of Iranetta Wright's first 100 days as superintendent.

Q&A:Get to know new Cincinnati Public Schools Superintendent Iranetta Wright

She packed a lot into those 100 days. Wright moved from Detroit to Cincinnati, settling into her new home in Mount Auburn. She hosted more than a dozen listening sessions with community members, talked to about 3,500 people and read through more than 1,100 survey responses to better understand stakeholder concerns and field their questions. Wright developed an engagement campaign for the community, "Be Present," which launched Friday and encourages parents, students, staff and neighbors to share how they are going to contribute to student success and wellbeing this year.

Wright's goal over the summer was to learn as much as she could about the district and take recommendations from the community on how CPS can be better. After her first 100 days, Wright told The Enquirer there were two areas of improvement that stood out in her conversations with stakeholders: communication and culture.

"We have a fragmented culture," Wright said. Through multiple conversations with staff, Wright said she was able to determine "that in some instances there had not been cohesiveness across all systems within the organization. That there is us in the district office, and there are those that are in school buildings."

To dismantle that system, Wright said she is redefining the definition of "the district" and exploring what it means to say "I am CPS" so everyone is "speaking with a common vision, a common mission and a common goal." That goal being to make sure all students have the support that they need to thrive.

Iranetta Wright, Cincinnati Public Schools' new superintendent, visited Taft Information Technology High School on her first day on the new job, Monday, May 2, 2022. She took a selfie with Jakeim Sullivan, 18, left and Iyanna Harris, 18. Sullivan was Taft's salutatorian and Harris, the valedictorian.
Iranetta Wright, Cincinnati Public Schools' new superintendent, visited Taft Information Technology High School on her first day on the new job, Monday, May 2, 2022. She took a selfie with Jakeim Sullivan, 18, left and Iyanna Harris, 18. Sullivan was Taft's salutatorian and Harris, the valedictorian.

"I appreciate the work that's being done by our staff," Wright said. "All of them. Our teachers, our custodians, our paraprofessionals, our school office assistants. Everybody, it takes everyone. It takes all of us to make sure that our children are successful."

The communication piece is a work in progress, Wright said, but district leaders are rethinking how they communicate with parents in terms of transparency and timeliness.

Back to the basics: Superintendent Wright's ABCs

To address stakeholder recommendations, Wright said the district's theme for this school year is "back to the basics."

"Nothing is more basic than the ABCs," Wright said. "And that's academics, behavior and culture."

Wright broke it down like this:

  • Academics ‒ Focusing on what's happening in the classroom, supporting teachers and giving students additional resources for success in the classroom.

  • Behavior ‒ Increasing the use of social and emotional learning and restorative practices, with both students and adults.

  • Culture ‒ Fostering a culture of respect, learning and celebration for all.

In addition to those key areas of focus, Wright said COVID-19 helped shed a light on the need for mental health awareness and support in schools, across all grade levels.

Cincinnati Public Schools' new superintendent, Iranetta Wright, visits John P. Parker schoolin Madisonville  to meet with students and staff on March 11, 2022. Wright had just been appointed to the job.
Cincinnati Public Schools' new superintendent, Iranetta Wright, visits John P. Parker schoolin Madisonville to meet with students and staff on March 11, 2022. Wright had just been appointed to the job.

"We are still in our community destigmatizing mental health and the need for mental health" support, Wright said. "We offer mental health support in every one of our school buildings. I think that that's something that was elevated during (the pandemic) but it definitely is a need, and something that we will continue to work on."

Wright said she will release a report outlining what she's learned in her first 100 days to the school board and the community at large in coming weeks.

Looking ahead: First day of school on Thursday, Aug. 18

A week before classes begin, Wright said there were a dozen custodial vacancies and six security vacancies in the district. Interested applicants can apply on the district's website.

Students are back to school on Thursday. With COVID-19 still a concern and the CDC designating Hamilton County at a high risk community level, Wright said CPS is recommending but not requiring masks on the Cincinnati Health Department's recommendation. The district is encouraging children to wash their hands frequently, ensuring restrooms are stocked with soap, stocking classrooms with antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer and sanitizing classrooms at least once a day.

"The decisions that we make around what we do in COVID and how we're doing our practices, we don't do that in isolation," Wright said. "We do that in partnership with the Health Department."

She wants students to get to school safely on Thursday. Wright encourages parents to talk about street safety with their children whether they ride the bus, walk or bike to school. Everyone in the community should take extra caution driving near schools on the first day.

Kids should lay out their clothes and pack their lunches the night before, Wright said, to get back into their school routine and be ready to go Thursday morning.

As for Wright, she said she'll wake up at 6 a.m. Thursday "and get a good run in, because I know I'm going to need it."

Then it's off to her first, first day of school as superintendent of CPS.

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: CPS Superintendent Iranetta Wright: Key issues from first 100 days