From Phil McHugh – President and Executive Director of CISE

Thank you for all your positive comments we received about our first quarterly newsletter. We are grateful for your continued interest in CISE!

Under the leadership of Mari Thomas, CISE is participating in a feasibility study to address the needs of our students who may desire a career or technical path rather than a direct route to college. We also know that numerous businesses have job vacancies due to the lack of skilled workers. Ideally, we desire to match the needs of these businesses with the interests of our students to create a winning partnership for our community. Learn more about Mari below and stay tuned as we share our progress.

We are excited to share that CISE has agreed to support our eleventh elementary school, Romero Academy of Annunciation, which will open this fall. This will be our second school in partnership with Romero. As you may recall, the first school was Romero Academy at Resurrection which began in 2020. CISE is very pleased with the success at Resurrection, and we look forward for continued success at Romero Academy at Annunciation.

I would also like to recognize Marilyn Stoeckle who passed away last October. Marilyn was a faithful donor to CISE who also named CISE as the beneficiary of her retirement account. We are excited to re-launch our St. Benedict Society to recognize those individuals, like Marilyn, who have named CISE in their estate planning.

It is through your generosity that CISE continues to grow. Thank you for supporting our mission. Together, we are making a difference in the lives of the children we serve.

CISE Advocates – Improving High School Graduation Rates

Remember how excited and nervous you were about starting high school? A new building, making friends, changing classes, managing all the homework – it’s a lot of change. Now, imagine if you weren’t so lucky as to have the financial and emotional support you needed to adapt to all these changes. For many CISE students, this is the case. Most face significant financial challenges. They may have unstable home lives, have jobs to help support the family, or live in homes where no English is spoken. All of this on top of the regular stress of starting high school make this transition especially challenging.

This is where high school advocates enter the picture. For each Catholic high school CISE students attend, CISE provides funding to offer extra support for these students. The advocates are there to help students navigate four years of high school. They make sure CISE students don’t fall through the cracks and connect them with the extra support and resources needed to be successful and make it to graduation. An advocate can be someone to talk to, someone to help the student have what they need, or even someone to help the student’s family find outside resources.

At Elder High School after the final bell every Tuesday and Thursday, CISE advocate Sharon Montgomery holds study sessions called “Learning Strategies.” On this day five CISE boys show up to receive tutoring and homework help. Ms. Montgomery shares, “I think the students and the school are lucky to be partnered with CISE. It is such a helping hand for everyone involved. The CISE advocate helps students realize that there are many ways and many resources to help them become successful. They just have to put forth the effort.”

Oliver, now a senior, attended St. William Grade School where he was awarded a CISE high school scholarship. As a freshman at Elder, Oliver was very unsure of how he would fit in or if he would be able to keep up with the rigorous academics. 

When Ms. Montgomery was asked what success looks like to an advocate, she glances across the room at Oliver and smiles with pride, “He’s worked hard his entire four years and probably never missed a study session. He’s here for every session we have.”  

Oliver recalls, “When I first got to Elder and met Ms. Montgomery, she helped me a lot with everything. That’s when I started realizing how much I can do and how much I can achieve; that’s how I’ve gotten this far.” Oliver has come a long way since freshman year. In March he was recognized as Elder Student of the Month and has been on the honor roll his entire senior year. Ms. Montgomery adds, “The rewarding part is when a student who wasn’t sure if he could be successful ends up on honor roll or achieves other goals. It’s an honor to work with these students as they enter young adulthood.”

At Seton High School the girls enjoy “The Wellness Room”.  It’s a space set aside for studying, talking, counseling, or just unwinding. There you’ll find comfy furniture, salt lamps, rock fountains, and just about everything needed to create a peaceful atmosphere. The space is run by Jenny Jenkins, the CISE advocate and a social worker at Seton. Mrs. Jenkins describes the special challenges many CISE students face, “Financial challenges for sure, but that also effects so many other parts of their lives. Without adequate financial resources, oftentimes students don’t have their other needs fulfilled. A lot of them come in with some mental health issues already, mostly anxiety and depression. Most of them come in a little behind academically.”

Angela, who attended St. Joseph Grade School, is now a senior at Seton. She hopes to pursue a career in animation. Angela faces more challenges than most kids her age. Her mother does not speak English, making communication with the school very difficult. Angela’s father, who is the sole income provider for the family, recently had to move back to Guatemala. Angela talks about how the Wellness Room and Mrs. Jenkins have helped her navigate these difficult times, “I come in most every day during study hall and lunch. Sometimes she (Mrs. Jenkins) emails me during my classes to follow up with me on a situation we are trying to figure out. If I’m absent she always messages me asking if I’m ok or if I need anything. Just checking up on me.”

Mrs. Jenkins notes, “A lot of the CISE kids need a lot more. So, I work with the families. I might intervene and help them communicate with teachers. If there’s any mental illness, of course we support that, sometimes connecting them with outside resources. I always make a point to check in regularly and make sure they have what they need.”

Angela is grateful for the resources her advocate provides, “It’s helped me a lot, just realizing that I have someone who supports me, who I know is there for me and always being able to rely on that. Some students might not have that opportunity so I’m very grateful knowing I can do this because I have that support.”

There are many more stories of students in need of extra support. The caring work done by Ms. Montgomery and Mrs. Jenkins, and other CISE advocates is making a difference for these students. In the past few years, the graduation rate for CISE students attending Catholic high schools has risen dramatically, now up to 87%.  The extra care and diligent work of the advocates is a key part of the success of the CISE students. 

About CISE: CISE (Catholic Inner-city Schools Education) supports ten inner-city Catholic grade schools with 2300 students, PK-8th grade. Currently over 400 CISE scholars attend 14 Catholic high schools in Cincinnati. This year CISE was honored to award high school scholarship to 80 deserving students. Learn more:


Article & Photos by Debi Haines


Pictured above: Angela, Gia, Keyli, Jenny Jenkins, and Kailey gather during lunch in The Wellness Room at Seton High School.

Ms. Sharon Montgomery & Oliver at a Learning Strategies session at Elder High School.
Gia and Keyli unwinding at The Wellness Room at Seton High School.

Welcome Dr. Mari Thomas


Dr. Mari Thomas will be joining CISE as an independent contractor, leading a feasibility study on the status of options within the Archdiocese for Career and Technical High School education. Mari comes to CISE with over 25 years of service in Catholic Education, most recently as Principal at St. Ursula Academy.  Mari has a passion for students with learning differences and for ensuring that every student has the opportunity to reach his or her potential.  She is skilled in strategic thinking, collaboration, and student support. 

CISE’ commitment to the work Mari will be doing comes from the emergent need of our students, for a pathway to employment that will effectively move them towards financial independence. At the same time, our local communities are in need of a skilled work force.

We are very excited to champion this feasibility study to address this issue for our CISE students as well as many local companies.

Meet Joanne Browarsky, Principal of St. Francis de Sales

My name is Joanne Browarsky and I am the proud principal of St. Francis de Sales School. It is hard to believe I have been serving within the Archdiocese of Cincinnati now for 24 years, the last nine of which have been at SFDS. They say time flies when you are doing what you love.   

As an alum and past administrator at Purcell Marian High School and now principal of St. Francis de Sales School, both Marianist institutions, I have both benefited from and now am blessed to model the Marianist Charisms in my daily life. “Educating in the family spirit” I pride myself in the relationships I have formed with my scholars, my staff, and their families alike. 

I did not attend my first public institution until earning my bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Miami University. However, it was there that I found my true calling of ministry from the St. Mary’s parish community in Oxford, Ohio. I also credit my time at Miami for discovering the roots of my passion for working in the inner city, returning home to complete my student teaching in the West End of Cincinnati. I later earned my Master of Education in Administration and Superintendent Licensure at Xavier University. 

My career, as well as my path to St. Francis de Sales School, both seem to be mostly driven by God’s providence. I often say in jest, I have not applied for a single position I have served in education, rather, God has somehow called me there, through the intercession of others. Having been “called home” to direct the Student Support Services Program at Purcell Marian High School in 2011 directly led to my being in the right place at the right time to be recruited as the new principal of St. Francis de Sales School when the principal retired in 2014. God has a way of putting you right where you belong, sometimes when you least expect it.  

When I am not “principaling” I enjoy spending time with my family and doting on my “magnificent seven” nieces and nephews. I love to be outdoors, enjoy camping and hiking, exercise, and as I often tell my staff, do whatever I can to keep my mind, body, and spirit healthy to continue doing this work for many more years to come. I am blessed to lead such an amazing team, be part of a supportive parish community, and believe strongly in the CISE mission. As I tell my scholars on a regular basis, there are people out there every day, championing your cause, whom you will never meet.  

Thank you to CISE for being one of them.  

Pint Night at March First Brewing

Join Us for Pint Night at March First Brewing.

July 11, 2023 (11:30am-8pm)

Come out for the fun and earn money for CISE!

For every pint sold on July 11th, $1 will go to CISE. (16oz. of beer, seltzer, or cider)

You will also be able to take part in a raffle that day. More info to come