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Westwood resident June Gilliland, left, receives some help from volunteer Gail Stewart at the clothing area of My Neighbors Place. Also shown is Westwood resident Ace Elliott. My Neighbors Place is undergoing renovations as part of an upcoming anniversary.


Students exit the main staircase after they are dismissed for the day at Mother of Mercy High School.

Schools make changes. Public reacts. No one is happy. Hannah Sparling and Jennie Key

The way Rick Blessing sees it, parents like him are important when they’re writing tuition checks. They’re important on Sundays when the offering plates pass by or when it’s time for a school fundraiser. “We are not important,” he said, “when it comes to having our questions answered or making decisions or having those decisions communicated to us. And that is frustrating.” Blessing is mad about a recently announced merger between Mother of Mercy and McAuley high schools on Cincinnati’s West Side, but his complaints about timing and communication echo those of other parents at other schools, mad about other decisions. Communication among schools and those they serve is a big deal in Cincinnati. Or, some would say, a big mess. You might remember when Cincinnati Public Schools kicked out top leaders at the School for Creative and Performing Arts. Or when CPS switched to an online lottery for seats at magnet schools, axing the traditional campout system. Or when La Salle High School pushed out then-Principal Tom Luebbe . That all happened in the course of 13 months. Over and over, it’s the same story: School leaders announce a change, and there’s an outcry from parents and community members, asking why they weren’t told earlier or asked

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to give input. They hold protests and press conferences. They show up en mass at school board meetings. Officials acknowledge they could probably do better, but communication is a huge job. And at least some of the onus must be on the other side. “It’s not always possible to engage people every time, exactly when they want to be engaged,” said CPS Superintendent Mary Ronan. Sometimes, she said, “decisions are made, and the engagement comes later. That’s not necessarily ideal, but that is in fact what has ended up happening.” Legally, there are different requirements for public schools and private, but communication goes deeper than what a school by law must reveal. A school is the epicenter of its neighborhood. All sides agree that if a school is thriving, the neighborhood thrives with it. Houses are worth more. Businesses are attracted to the area, bringing jobs with them. If a school is struggling, the neighborhood struggles, too. Decisions that impact schools impact everyone. So, the question is, who should get a say in those decisions? After the Mercy-McAuley announcement, tensions ran so high that some tossed out the idea of a ransom of sorts: Demand answers, and withhold church offerings in an escrow account until they get them. Blessing thinks that’s a bit far-fetched. But the fact it was even mentioned, he said, is an indicator of how strongly people feel. See SCHOOLS, Page 2A

Westwood charity undergoing renovations Forrest Sellers

WESTWOOD – My Neighbors Place in Westwood is receiving some improvements just in time for its anniversary. Improvements are being made in the building’s entryway and kitchen in connection with the organization’s 10th anniversary. “It will certainly make it look nicer and more welcoming,” said volunteer June Brandt, who assists at the registration desk near the entryway. My Neighbors Place is a community development organization and facility serving lower income residents in Westwood. Westwood United Methodist Church, which helps operate the facility with other churches in the area, provided $25,000 for the renovations. To say that Sarah Beech, who is director for My Neighbors Place, was surprised would be an understatement. “I had originally just asked for the carpeting to be replaced on the entryway and stairs,” she said.

My Neighbors Place volunteer Kathy Rouse, who is known as the Coffee Lady, prepares coffee for visitors at My Neighbors Place.

Among the renovations: » Laminated flooring in the main entryway. » New carpeting for stairs going up to the second floor where the facility’s clothing closet, which provides clothing and other items, is located. » Improvements to the kitchen area including new cabinets, better lighting and a new coat of paint. “The kitchen is used a lot,”

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Vol. 90 No. 17 © 2017 The Community Press ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Paid for by Citizens Committee for Oak Hills Local Schools Treasurer, Rick Ahlers, 5448 Dengail Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45238-4705

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