• Fri. Jun 25th, 2021

CPS Superintendent Laura Mitchell resigns; takes position as Beech Acres Parenting president/CEO

By Dan Yount

The Cincinnati Herald

At Monday night’s Cincinnati Public School board meeting, superintendent Laura Mitchell announced her resignation.

“As we leave the old shore mentioned quite a few times. The education during the pandemic, and pre-pandemic,” said Mitchell. “We look to a new coast. New shore of opportunities. It’s time for a transition. Tonight I’m announcing publicly that I’m resigning as superintendent of CPS,”

Mitchell’s final day with the district will be June 11.

Mitchell, a Cincinnati native who became CPS superintendent in the summer of 2017, had renewed her contract with the district last August for another four years to end on July 31, 2024.

During her 27-year career with Cincinnati Public Schools, Mitchell spent the past four years as superintendent of the district. The past year has been difficult for the district as the Board of Education and Mitchell struggled with various plans to educate students during the coronavirus pandemic, with much of the school year incorporating a virtual learning program as buildings sat idle. About 6,000 of the district’s students were unaccounted for during that period.

Mitchell said is leaving “to pursue an unexpected professional opportunity,” according to a statement released from the district. However, Beach Acres Partnering Center released a statement Tuesday announcing that its next President and CEO will be Laura Mitchell, “whose extraordinary passion for families, children and community form a perfect fit with the contemporary parenting agency’s innovative, successful track record of helping parents and communities raise children who can thrive in today’s complex and confusing world. Ms. Mitchell will lead Beech Acres as it builds upon 42 years of progressive innovation under the guidance of Jim Mason, who is retiring in June.’’

“It has been a privilege to spend 27 years of my professional career with Cincinnati Public Schools, the last four as your superintendent,” said Mitchell in a release from the district. “As much as I appreciate my experiences here, which began as a CPS student at Bond Hill Elementary and The School for Creative and Performing Arts, there is a season for all things, and it’s time for me to embrace a new calling.”

Laura Mitchell. Photo provided

Although Mitchell’s former resignation was announced during Monday’s board meeting, board members said they were informed a few weeks ago.

CPS board president Carolyn Jones said the school board would name an interim superintendent by May 24 while they search for Mitchell’s successor. Jones could not say whether the board planned to fill the position in time for the fall.     

Jones said, “We’ll keep the community informed, engaged, we’ll include them in our search process,” said Jones. “Right now we’re at the point of letting this soak in.”

Jones said, “We are sad to see Superintendent Mitchell leave but we are immensely grateful for her leadership. She has elevated Cincinnati Public Schools to new heights of achievement, led our district through a global pandemic, and reimagined what’s possible for all of our students. Thanks to her dedication and service to our staff, students and families we know the future is bright at CPS

“I think she did an incredible job guiding this district through some tumultuous times through the pandemic with grace,” said Ryan Messer, vice president of the CPS board. “I think because of that, we’ve landed on a pretty solid foundation that we can almost say is post the height of the pandemic.”

Among the milestones accomplished during Superintendent Mitchell’s tenure:

  • Voters’ approval of three levy renewals in four years.
  • Enrollment grew from 64.3 percent of the school-age population to 68.5 percent.
  • Cincinnati became the only urban district in Ohio rated “Effective” on the state’s report card.
  • My Tomorrow integrated new career pathways and post-graduation planning to help students entering the world of work. Significantly increased college scholarship dollars awarded.
  • Magnet program focus in neighborhood schools increased academic achievement and raised student enrollment.
  • Seven new schools opened in five years to keep up with increased enrollment.
  • A three-year strategic plan launched in 2019 transitioned into a new refreshed three-year plan, in effect now.

Mitchell, 52, grew up in Bond Hill and graduated from CPS’ School for Creative and Performing Arts, according to the district’s website. She earned a bachelor’s degree in 1991 from Bennett College, a Historically Black Womens’ College in Greensboro, North Carolina. After a short stint teaching in Athens, Georgia, she moved back to Cincinnati to teach in CPS. She later earned her master’s in education administration from the University of Cincinnati and her superintendent certification from Xavier University.

Mitchell has served in a variety of roles at CPS. She taught at the former Central Fairmount Elementary School, was assistant principal and then principal of Westwood Elementary School, worked as a teaching coach and then served as deputy superintendent and chief academic officer from 2005 to 2017. In 2017, Mitchell replaced then-superintendent Mary Ronan, who now serves as superintendent of the Norwood City School District.

In a statement released by Beech Acres Parenting Center, Mitchell said, “I’m excited to embrace this new calling as President and CEO of Beech Acres Parenting Center and build on the achievements of the past 42 years under Jim Mason’s leadership. I look forward to being a part of the effort to help more children, families and caregivers unlock the power they already have to fully thrive during these challenging times.”

Mitchell is already a member of the Beech Acres family. She has served on the Beech Acres Board of Directors since 2016, and her familiarity with its people, programs, and the community position her for a seamless transition to accelerate the agency’s growth. Her first day with Beech Acres in this new role will be June 15.

“Laura and I enjoy an authentic relationship, and we share a hopeful vision for the well-being of children, their families, and the institutions that serve them,” Mason said. “Her compassion for others and strength-based leadership style will leverage Beech Acres’ positive culture to achieve greater levels of community impact than ever before.”

Mitchell has a special understanding of the challenges faced by many of the families and children Beech Acres serves. As superintendent of Cincinnati Public Schools, she sees the personal struggles children bring into the classrooms and has witnessed firsthand how Beech Acres’ unique, holistic strength-building approach can make a real difference in their lives.

A Beech Acres search committee conducted a thorough, nationwide search after Mason announced his retirement last year.

“We are looking forward to the next chapter of Beech Acres,” said Jenny Franta, the board chair for Beech Acres. “Laura’s passion for children and families, business acumen in leading complex organizations, her combination of strategic thinking and inspirational executive leadership, and her commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion make her the ideal candidate to lead Beech Acres.”

Mason led the former General Protestant Orphan Home through its transition from a 19th century orphanage to the 21st century parenting center it is today. He received numerous awards and recognitions for his forward-thinking approach to children and families. Under his leadership, Beech Acres deepened and expanded its mission, inspired by his vision, which focuses on intentionally building upon children’s strengths.

Also contributing to this report were Tyson Thorp and Jake Ryle of WCPO 9, Frances Russ, Communications Officer, Cincinnati Public Schools, and Peter Osborne, for Beech Acres Parenting Center.