In one of her first appearances before a local civic group, the new superintendent of Cincinnati Public Schools told the Rotary Club of Cincinnati she decided to pursue the top public school job here because of its size and that she wouldn’t be blazing a trail as the first Black woman leader of the district.
“It was important to me not to add breaking that barrier to my work,” said Iranetta Wright, opening a Rotary Club meeting in which the club annually honors CPS’ best teachers and administrators.
CPS broke the Black woman leader barrier long ago, including with its most recent superintendent who Wright succeeds, Laura Mitchell, now CEO of Beech Acres Parenting Center. Wright also said the district is the same size as the group of schools she oversaw in her last job as deputy superintendent in Detroit.
“I know I can get to every building and get to know everyone,” she said.
She told the group that since starting her role May 2 she has visited and met with people at more than 40 of the 60 CPS schools.
“What I know is that no community is exactly the same, and there is no such thing as cookie-cutter school administration,” she said. “It’s important to me to hear the experiences that already are occuring, it’s important to learn what’s going on that’s going really, really well, what’s going not so well, and from there, we plan and move forward.”
The awards were presented by Interim Assistant Superintendent, Dr. Jonathan Brown, who noted that the award program, often called teacher appreciation, honors more than teachers.
“Some work inside the classroom, some provide service or support our facilities,” Brown said. “It takes all of us to assure our students are able to be successful.”
James Boyd of Newport was named administrator of the year for his leadership and creative solutions as Mechanical Systems Manager for Facilities.
Kerri Hopkins of Sayler Park was named community service/humanitarian of the year. She took a small budget and tight time frame and built the Sayler Park School’s after school program, creating what Brown called “A sacred place where all students are at home and parents have the ability to work, knowing their children are learning in an enriched, safe environment.”
Elissa Veite of Cincinnati was named yeacher of the year for her work with at-risk students in the Strides program at Lighthouse High School in Madisonville.
“Ms. Veite brings out their best. She has high hopes and high expectations and knows every child has a future,” Brown said.
Erin Kernohan, Manager of Quality Improvement, was named innovator of the year for her “out-of-the-box” solutions to educational challenges that impact quality of life as well as quality of instruction for students.
A tearful Kernohan talked about the power of encouragement and vision as she dedicated her award to “my friend and mentor, (the late) Cheryl Broadnax, who saw more in me than I ever saw in myself.”
The Rotary Club of Cincinnati has a mission to promote service above self, and sponsors annual recognition programs for law enforcement, firefighters and educators.