Huntington Insights: Southern Ohio & Kentucky | Business Spotlight | Spring 2018

Cincinnati Country Day School & Huntington: Supporting not-for-profit education

Cincinnati Country Day School has thrived for more than 90 years by focusing on a singular mission

By Erik Cassano

To understand what makes Cincinnati Country Day School special among educational institutions in the Greater Cincinnati area, you must first understand the concept behind the school.

Cincinnati Country Day School -- CCDS -- was founded in 1926 on 62 acres in suburban Indian Hill, with 55 male students and five staff members. It was among the first schools in Southwest Ohio based on the Country Day educational model, part of the educational progressivism movement in the late 19th century.

At a time when exclusive college-prep boarding schools provided the most complete, immersive educational experiences, Country Day schools sought to replicate the boarding-school experience in a day-school environment. In addition to traditional academic subject areas, students can pursue athletics, the arts, social activism and other areas.

Today, CCDS continues to provide students from pre-kindergarten to high school with the same well-rounded, immersive experience, relying on more than 100 educators and staff members who have a deep understanding of how their jobs impact the school’s 850 students.

“We have students here from 18 months to 18 years,” says Tony Jaccaci, the head of school. "So it’s very important for us as educators to understand that each student is on a journey, and no one person they encounter on that journey is less important than another. Each person that student encounters will influence that journey.”

Tony Jaccaci, head of school, Cincinnati Country Day School (PHOTOS BY JEREMY KRAMER)

Staff development

To ensure that impact is positive, CCDS maintains small class sizes to give students more individualized attention. It’s one of the main reasons the school’s leadership emphasizes the impact that each teacher can have on a student's educational journey.

Maintaining a student-centric focus requires team-oriented training that reinforces the unified goals. “Our ratio here is about nine students per teacher,” Jaccaci says. “With a ratio that low, our educators develop much stronger one-to-one relationships with our students, so they have a much clearer window into how our students learn. And that's something we discuss during teacher training.”

The entire CCDS faculty meets for daylong training sessions around the beginning, middle and end of the school year. Among other topics, the staff discusses teaching techniques and ways the curriculum can be improved.

“Because we’re an independent school, our curriculum is flexible,” Jaccaci says. “We have an opportunity to adjust the curriculum based on the best preparation for a rapidly changing world.”

These ground-level discussions about curriculum are a critical step in the training and refining process for the entire school, Jaccaci says. The school’s faculty often reverse-engineers curriculum alterations, observing the evolution of how students approach learning, and which lessons and learning experiences gain the most interest and best results from students in a given grade level. The faculty and leadership then use that information to help refine the curriculum -- and the overall educational experience -- for the entire school.

“For instance, we’ll look at our 12th graders,” Jaccaci says. “How do they learn? How do we want them to approach learning? What material must they master before graduation? That all gets taken into account as we continue to shape the curriculum here.”

“If we want our students to be lifelong learners, we as educators also must be lifelong learners.”– Tony Jaccaci, head of school, Cincinnati Country Day School

Vision for the future

In addition to ongoing curriculum development, CCDS relies on its teachers and staff as an important element in the school’s long-range planning.

“If we want our students to be lifelong learners, we as educators also have to be lifelong learners,” Jaccaci says. “We always have to ask questions of ourselves and challenge ourselves to think ahead and be proactive.”

When CCDS was founded, the school adopted an informal motto: Five miles farther. The phrase spoke to the fact that the school’s Indian Hill location took students to the edge of Cincinnati and another five miles beyond, expanding their worlds.

“Now we want to make it 5,000 miles farther, both literally and figuratively,” Jaccaci says. “We want to expand the world of our students on campus, and possibly open up new opportunities for them to travel internationally.”

Change is in the school’s DNA, Jaccaci says, and educators who thrive in an environment of change will thrive at CCDS. “To work here, you must be passionate about your subject area, passionate about education and always asking questions,” he says. "The discussions that will have an impact the school 20 or 30 years from now start now, and everybody -- teachers, staff, administrators, trustees and parents -- must be involved."

One (muddy) step at a time

Cincinnati Country Day School is located on 62 grassy acres in Indian Hill, and to get to know a school with such a large physical footprint? You go there and walk around.

That’s exactly what Huntington did, and because of that, the bank and its bankershave developed a “wonderful relationship” with CCDS, according to head of school Tony Jaccaci.

“They literally put on their boots and walked around the campus,” Jaccaci says. “It got a little muddy, but they toured our facilities and really spent the time getting to know our school and our unique needs.” Huntington understood the true value within a not-for-profit educational facility with a nearly century-long history.

“The value is in the tradition, history and the large alumni base,” Jaccaci says. “The loyalty we enjoy in the community stems from outcomes, not profits. And to achieve those outcomes, we have our people and our campus. Our assets are very unique when compared to a business, or even to a lot of other schools.

“That's why it is very important for us to have a bank like Huntington that goes to great lengths to understand what makes us unique and how they can help us achieve the best possible outcomes for our students.”

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