Dr. Cathy Whitehouse founded The Intergeneration School (TIS), a charter school on Cleveland’s east side, as a place that values children as independent learners.
“TIS takes a lifespan, developmental approach to education,” she says. “We’re all on a learning journey, and we should honor the uniqueness in each learner.”
TIS just celebrated its 10-year anniversary. In that time, it has become one of the highest-performing schools in Cleveland, consistently earning “Excellent” marks from the State of Ohio.
This year, Whitehouse and her staff will attempt to replicate TIS’s success when they open a charter school on Cleveland’s near west side. The Near West Intergenerational School (NWIS), a tuition-free, public school, is slated to open in August.
The seeds for NWIS were planted when the Ohio City Babysitting Co-op, a group of parents seeking to create a new school in their community, contacted Whitehouse. “They said to me, ‘We don’t want to move, but we don’t know where our kids will go to school. Can you help us?'” says Whitehouse. “TIS was a good match for them.”
Before it opens, NWIS must sign a sponsorship agreement, find a location and enroll enough kids. Yet Whitehouse says she is “delighted” that NWIS has gotten this far. “Among the many things that we can do to transform Cleveland, making sure that every family has access to free, high-quality education is one of them,” she says.
TIS has received a planning grant from the State of Ohio, and is applying for a second grant to help pay for start-up costs. Whitehouse has asked the Cleveland Municipal School District (CMSD) to sponsor NWIS, and hopes to lease a CMSD building.
“When TIS started, they wouldn’t even talk to us,” says Whitehouse. “There’s been a wonderful change. They saw what we were doing and said, ‘If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.'”
TIS is a member of the Breakthrough Schools, a coalition of top-performing, urban charter schools that recently won a $2 million grant from the Charter School Growth Fund, a national foundation that supports innovative charter schools.
In addition to NWIS, Citizens Academy plans to open a 6th-8th grade middle school this fall. Two more Breakthrough charter schools are slated to open in 2012.