Helping schools get better

Dale Patrick Dempsey

When Robert Pohl visits a school, his aim is to look at all aspects of its operation, from finances to academics. But the first thing he looks for is a sense of urgency.
"It should permeate the entire school, from the principal to the secretary to the custodian," Pohl said.

Pohl is director of Keys to Improving Dayton Schools, or k.i.d.s., for short. The organization was established in 2003 to see if a dedicated group of professionals could help improve the educational options offered to children in Dayton and southwest Ohio by providing high quality technical assistance in business management, organizational leadership and academics. Since its inception, k.i.d.s. has formed partnerships with charter schools in Cincinnati, Columbus, and Springfield. Pohl would like to develop partnerships with district schools and private schools.

The primary mission of k.i.d.s. is to ensure that students from tough urban neighborhoods do as well, or better, academically then their middle class peers. It is a mission to which Pohl has given much of his life, working with children of color as a teacher and school leader in Santa Barbara, rural Mississippi, East Los Angeles, and the Haight Asbury district of San Francisco.

"We have not delivered high quality education to these children," he said. "At k.i.d.s. we want to prove it can be done across multiple schools."

To that end, k.i.d.s. receives generous financial support from people and organizations dedicated to improving primary and secondary education: the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Dayton-area philanthropists.

A graduate of The University of Notre Dame and Boston University, Pohl has specific ideas of what works in urban schools including high expectations for all students and teachers and a language-rich curriculum. "I'm a huge fan of E.D. Hirsch's Core Knowledge," Pohl reported. "And I'm a firm believer in a disciplined environment in which all stakeholders take responsibility for student achievement."

School leaders in charter, district and private schools exist in a complex environment, needing to provide data on student achievement, financial reports, facility management, food services and transportation of students. At k.i.d.s., by providing high quality technical assistance in business management, organizational leadership and academics, they aim to give schools the support needed to be successful.

To learn more about k.i.d.s., surf to http://www.kids-ohio.com/.

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