1st for region: Chamber, Lakota, Cincinnati State create academy

Local schools can better teach and prepare students for the work world if schools are more closely partnered with that world.

That’s the view driving a unique partnership between West Chester Liberty Chamber Alliance and Lakota Local Schools — with help from Cincinnati State Technical and Community College — that will see school administrators learning from and interacting with the private sector.

Starting this month, the new “Chamber U Leadership Academy” and its first class of 15 Lakota assistant principals, directors and coordinators — plus two students from Lakota’s high schools — will begin a series of classes and field trips to local businesses.

The novel approach is designed to bring more real-life, private industry perspective to local public school educators, eventually helping to improve the school curricula taught to the next generation of workers, said officials who created the academy.

The academy is a vital key and much needed as the Butler County-based Lakota Schools — the eighth largest district in Ohio — is at the core of the booming Interstate 75 corridor between Cincinnati and Dayton, said Joe Hinson, president and CEO of the West Chester Liberty Chamber Alliance.

“There is more to education today than what’s in textbooks,” said Hinson.

“We want to give our educators the opportunity to learn to lead and to gain a better understanding of what’s happening around them — the future of West Chester and Liberty Townships, the I-75 growth corridor, and the impact our area has on workforce development. Then they can apply what they’ve learned to the classroom,” he said.

Each Chamber U class day will also include 2½ hours of leadership training provided by Cincinnati State Technical and Community College’s Workforce Development Center.

“We’re excited about this program because it ties into efforts by Gov. John Kasich and the Ohio Department of Education to bring more relevance into the classroom,” said Amy Waldbillig, vice president of workforce development for Cincinnati State. “Our goal will be to help participants think collaboratively and to help bring real-life workforce skills into the classroom.”

Lakota East High School in Liberty Twp. and Lakota West High School in West Chester Twp. together enroll 5,200 students and are growing each year along with the area’s residential community and industry base.

Matt Miller, superintendent of the 16,500-student Lakota Local Schools, worked with the chamber and Cincinnati State in creating the new program, which will enroll a new class of Lakota administrators and students annually.

“Chamber U Leadership Academy is an opportunity for members of our administrative team to build upon their skills, learn more about our community and bring that knowledge and leadership back to our schools and our kids,” said Miller.

Miller, who is starting his second year as head of the 23-school district, has launched a series of sweeping reforms for the school system, which is the largest suburban district in Southwest Ohio. Among his stated priorities in the coming years is a greater emphasis of post-high school job skills and career preparation for graduates.

“As we are re-imagining what the high school experience should look like, one area of focus is how to bring real-world learning into our schools. Chamber U is a great opportunity to make connections with our community partners and invite them into the discussion, which will ultimately help our kids,” Miller said.

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