Top 9 education stories in 2016

Preschool triumph, higher education upheaval
Posted at 7:00 AM, Dec 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-27 07:00:11-05

CINCINNATI -- Schools in the Tri-State enjoyed some big successes in 2016, like passage of a groundbreaking levy to send more children to preschool, and they grappled with national issues like gun violence. And, yeah, Xavier University bought a Pizza ATM. 

Here's our look at the top education stories of the year:

1. Cincinnati Preschool Promise

Cincinnati Public Schools and Cincinnati Preschool Promise teamed up on a $48 million a year school levy that passed with overwhelming public support. More than 62 percent of voters said yes, the biggest CPS levy margin since 1952.

Supporters of the Cincinnati Public Schools levy celebrate its passage Nov. 8.

Related: Cincinnati Public Schools levy backers thrilled with landslide margin

That means that all 3- and 4-year-old children from families that make twice the federal poverty wage or less who live in the school district will get to attend private or public preschool tuition-free. Families that make more money will also get a break on tuition on a sliding scale that is being formed. 

Related: A parent's guide to new CPS preschool program

CPS's K-12 budget also benefited, with more money going toward improving neighborhood schools, buying more computers for students and plugging a deficit. 

Related: Cincinnati Public Schools' big ask: Where the money goes

2. UC cycles through three presidents

Twitter star Santa Ono left UC to lead University of British Columbia in June. Interim President Beverly Davenport, who was provost and chief academic officer, was lured last month to lead University of Tennessee Knoxville. 

Related: Beverly Davenport says she's confident in UC's future

The board of trustees acted quickly to stem the upheaval, naming University of Louisville's acting President Neville Pinto permanent president on Dec. 17. Pinto spent more than 25 years at UC, a big plus for an institution that was looking for stability and a Bearcat partisan.

Related: University of Cincinnati brings home a Bearcat to lead the university

UC President Neville Pinto being congratulated minutes before the board of trustees approved his hiring. Bob Driehaus | WCPO

3. Shooting at Madison Twp. school

The Tri-State held its breath as reports flooded in about shots fired at Madison Junior/Senior High School in Madison Township in February.

Parents embrace outside Madison Jr./Sr. High School. A shooting in a school cafeteria injured four students. Nick Graham | Journal-News

Related: Swift action on a safety plan praised at Madison Junior/Senior High School

Four victims recovered with relatively minor injuries, and James Austin Hancock, 15, was sentenced to six years in juvenile detention

The incident prompted Tri-State schools to reexamine their emergency procedures.


Related: How do we prevent more school shootings? Districts turn to mental health services



4. Clifton Cultural Arts center versus CPS: 

Cincinnati's Clifton neighborhood is normally one of CPS's fiercest advocates, but the neighborhood and school district sparred publicly over the fate of the Clifton Cultural Arts Center, a former neighborhood elementary school building. 

Related: Clifton and Cincinnati Public Schools still clashing over the fate of school, arts center

The district wanted to take back some or all of the building to expand Fairview-Clifton German Language School or to create a new neighborhood school. The arts center wants to stay in the space it spent millions of dollars to renovate. 

After saber rattling last spring about revoking the arts center's long-term lease, CPS has been quiet in the final months of the year about its intentions. To be continued. 


Related: Clifton and Cincinnati Public Schools take a cooling off period, prepare to tackle big challenges

5. Kentucky slashes higher ed funding

While nearly every other state in the country continued to boost higher education spending to make up for cuts made during the Great Recession, Kentucky opted to reduce spending again by 4.5 percent in its two-year budget.

The cuts forced NKU to eliminate 105 jobs, raise undergraduate tuition 3 percent, and curtail expansion of popular majors and programs. 

Gateway Community & Technical college cut 20 jobs through layoffs and attrition and also raised tuition. 

Related: Northern Kentucky University, Gateway adjusting to deep state spending cuts

6. Ohio changes diploma rules

Lawmakers sought to give students more ways to earn a high school diploma, eliminating the Ohio Graduation Test in favor of multiple paths, including certain scores on the ACT test or passing a series of end-of-course tests. 

Related: Ohio high school students have new choices when it comes to earning a diploma

The changes may have been well-intentioned, but school leaders say they may lead to vast numbers of students failing to graduate on time

7. Same-sex schools grapple with transgender issue

Public opinion and public policy regarding gender identity evolved rapidly in 2016, and Greater Cincinnati's same-sex Catholic high schools had to grapple with the best path forward. 

Related: Cincinnati has long tradition of single-sex high schools. Where do trans kids fit in?

8. College campuses attack hunger

A college education may be the path out of hunger for people struggling with poverty, but in the mean time, hundreds of students struggle to pay their bills while having money left over to eat properly.

This year, Cincinnati State and Gateway added food banks to their campuses to help their most needy students, joining Tri-State universities that already run food banks. 

Related: Cincinnati State and Gateway open food pantries in response to students struggling with hunger

9. Pizza ATM!!!

Perhaps Cincinnati has given greater things to the country, like the Heimlich Maneuver and Dr. Albert Sabin's polio vaccine. But it didn't feel like it when WCPO broke the news that Xavier University would be introducing a Pizza ATM to the western hemisphere. The story spread across the globe like wildfire, and XU's marketing folks found themselves talking on global cable news networks and being interviewed by hundreds of other media. 

Related: Get ready, America, the Pizza ATM is here, courtesy of Xavier University

Behold, the Pizza ATM.

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