The Story of CISE

In the early 1980s, the inner-city neighborhoods of Cincinnati were undergoing a major change. Demographics were shifting, poverty rates were on the rise, and the Catholic schools were closing as a result. Rather than allow these schools to be closed or be unused, CISE was founded to provide inner-city children, regardless of religious background or economic circumstance, with the opportunity to have a quality education in a neighborhood Catholic school.

The first CISE campaign was instituted in 1982 by the Archbishop of Cincinnati, Joseph Bernadin, and businessmen Ralph Lazarus and Edward Harness. This triad of community leaders of three different faiths united with the mutual goal of utilizing these parish schools, providing Catholic school opportunities for challenged families, and leveraging the generosity of the broader community. This initial campaign raised $45,000 and was a revolutionary new source of funding for CISE.

While CISE started as an effort to keep vulnerable inner-city elementary schools open, it has evolved into a comprehensive solution aimed at alleviating poverty and fighting inequality through access to quality education. CISE accomplishes this through excellent academics, the formation of values for life, and a safe, structured, and supportive environment in which all are welcome.

Maintaining an inclusive and welcoming atmosphere is essential to CISE as 70% of CISE school students are non-Catholic, and 85% are minorities. The competitive academic advantage of CISE produces results.  95% of CISE third-graders passed the Third Grade Reading Guarantee – outperforming the statewide average. This an important literacy milestone as research shows that learning to read early and well in the primary grades positively impacts students in later years. 76% of 8th-grade graduates are accepted into Catholic high schools. Many CISE students are also among the first in their families to attend college; 94% of CISE students who graduate from Catholic high school are accepted into college. In addition to excellent academics, the formation of critical values such as discipline, responsibility, perseverance, respect, and cooperation that extend far beyond the years of formal education are provided in CISE schools. While CISE is proud of these accomplishments and the life-changing impact they have on the over 2,600 students they serve, CISE acknowledges that their work has just begun.

Cincinnati is in the midst of a childhood poverty crisis. It is imperative for CISE to expand its reach to serve more students in the region.

CISE Staff

Mabe Rodriguez – Executive Director/President

Dr. Cate O’Brien – Assistant Director of School Programs

Debbie Weitz – Assistant Director of Development

 Mikayla Germain – Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications

Tammy Miller – Accountant

Tom Haber – Compliance and School Funds Manager

Frances Dudley – Administrative Assistant

Sharon Civitello – Marketing and Communications Support

Board of Trustees

Donald Mellott, Chair

Cynthia Kenny, Vice Chair

Lawrence H. Kyte, Jr., Secretary

David Williams, Treasurer

Mabe Rodriguez, President

Rev. Steve Angi

Patricia Armstrong

Joe Bride

Sam Burchenal

Pat Burke

Miguel Chavez

Matthew Fellerhoff

 Tom Finn


Dr. Robert Flick 

Susan M. Gibbons

J. Scott Golan

Robert Greiwe

Matthew Grever

James B. Hagerty

Patricia Headley

Robert J. Hodge

Tom Jennings, CFO 

Dr. Jane Knudson

Lelia Keefe Kramer

Allison Kropp 

Samantha Marx

Phil McHugh


Paul Naberhaus

Susan Pichler

Nicholas Ragland, III

Blake Roe

Christopher Rueve

Harry Stanten

Ann G. Schoen

William P. Shula 

Katelyn Smith

Louise Stakelin

Eddie Tyner

Jay Vollmer 

Andrew Williamson

Rev. James Bok, OFM (Emeritus)

Jack Bunker (Emeritus)

Harry Fath (Emeritus)

Richard Greiwe (Emeritus)

Robert E. Stautberg (Emeritus)

Susan Tew (Emeritus)