ACS is Growing!

ACS is delighted to welcome the newest member of our team, Christina Graw, who has joined ACS staff as an Office Administrator. Christina will play a critical role in keeping ACS running smoothly, and supporting ACS clients in meeting their goals. She will be responsible for writing and editing content for ACS’ newsletter, and managing website updates. She will also provide administrative support to the ACS team by scheduling meetings and coordinating all travel needs for staff.

Christina has four years experience in marketing for government and non-profits, including the creation and management of successful social media campaigns and the development of a variety of marketing materials. She also volunteers as social media manager for the Malachi Center in Cleveland. Welcome, Christina!

Individual vs. System Leadership: ACS translates this from theory to practice

When most people talk about leadership they are referring to it in a very traditional sense. A traditional leader has the ability to bring people together to accomplish a goal they could not complete as individuals. This is the core of training and professional development sessions developed by ACS. Another component of ACS’ work with local, state, and national organizations, however, focuses on leadership-system leadership.

System leadership refers to the way organizations collaborate with each other, engage their constituents across social and economic boundaries, and improve upon their challenges and weaknesses. System leadership also contributes to the growth of a system. Many of ACS’ clients are working with complex problems that require system coordination and collaboration. Whether its creating change in the way that child care operates in a country or state, working with communities to ensure that youth have the tools and resources they need to succeed in school and in life, or working with national organizations to improve systems in several different states -ACS fully understands how to cultivate and implement system leadership within an organization.

How is your organization working toward system leadership? The Stanford Social Innovation Review recently published an article by Peter Senge that talks about the importance of system leadership and how to cultivate it.

Check out this video where leaders from Boston organizations gathered to hear Peter Senge (author,  The Fifth Discipline), John Kania (managing director, FSG), Molly Baldwin (CEO, Roca), and Alan Khazei (Founder and CEO, Be The Change, Inc.) reflect on what it takes to be a system leader and offer their perspective on the importance of this thinking when working on critical social issues.

ACS has tools in place to help your organization implement system leadership. The first tool we offer is our set of Collective Impact Questions. These questions take planning strategy from a single organization and allows multiple stakeholders to work together on a shared agenda in a community.

The second tool ACS offers is our coalition building tool. This tool will provide you with the basic structure and strategies needed to carry out a grassroots coalition.

NAEYC Issues a Call to Action for Early Childhood

For nearly ninety years the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has been the voice of high quality early learning in the United States and around the globe. Among its many accomplishments, NAEYC is known for developing a global standard for early childhood programs and professional development for early childhood providers.

With the help of ACS, NAEYC is doubling down on its policy work for young children by issuing a Call to Action, which outlines NAEYC’s commitment to guaranteeing that all young children thrive in learn in a society that is dedicated to ensuring they reach their full potential. The Call to Action encourages NAEYC affiliates to support the organization’s efforts to ensure that children birth through age 9 have equitable access to developmentally appropriate and high quality early learning, and that the early childhood education profession exemplifies excellence and is recognized as a vital and critical role in our communities.  The NAEYC Call to Action includes a number of specific actions that advocates can take.

PRE4CLE Announces Expansion Grants – A Major Milestone for High-Quality Pre-K in Cleveland

PRE4CLE, Cleveland’s high-quality preschool expansion initiative, announced last week that it has awarded Preschool Classroom Expansion Grants to help increase the number of high-quality preschool openings in the Union-Miles, Buckeye-Shaker, and Glenville neighborhoods. ACS has worked with PRE4CLE from its’ very beginning – from facilitating the development of a roadmap to bring high-quality preschool to every child in Cleveland by 2020, to developing and managing the implementation of a 2-year strategic communication and advocacy plan. These grants represent a major milestone for PRE4CLE – marking the first preschool expansion dollars awarded by PRE4CLE to high-quality providers in Cleveland.

The purpose of these grants is to increase the number of high-quality preschool programs (having at least 3-stars through the state’s Step Up to Quality rating system) in the Cleveland neighborhoods that currently don’t have enough high-quality preschool seats to serve the children who live in those neighborhoods. In the Union-Miles and Buckeye-Shaker Square neighborhoods, expansion is necessary to meet families’ demands. In Glenville, there are preschool programs, but few are high-quality.  The grants, a key element of the PRE4CLE plan, focuses new resources towards the highest need areas of the city.

“From ensuring our staff stay up to date on the latest in child brain development, to making sure our kids are eating healthy and get to experience the music, culture, technology, and resources our community has to offer, we take high-quality early learning seriously. With PRE4CLE as a partner, we are now able to expand that cultural exposure to more children who need it most,” says Fundamentals Academy Director Lisa Ogletree, whose family has been providing quality education to children in the Buckeye-Shaker neighborhood for over 20 years.

Ohio Educator Spells It Out for State’s Policymakers

Valerie Strauss, a reporter with the Washington Post recently featured a very poignant and honest blog post by Scott Ervin, who has worked as a teacher, principal and discipline specialist over the last 15 years throughout Ohio. The post, entitled Teacher: I’ve loved my ‘very difficult’ job. But now Ohio has made it ‘impossible.’ Highlights many of the challenges that ACS hears regularly from teachers and administrators across the state — all amplified by a juxtaposition of cuts to funding and increases in mandated compliance, paperwork, and accountability measures.

Ervin addresses Ohio’s policymakers directly, explaining that increasing mandates prevent him from doing the things he believes to be crucial to support students, “I used to be able to do things that are absolutely necessary when working with at-risk kids: home visits, calls home, and taking time with kids outside of school.” Now, he says, “I literally do not have a single second to get things together so that I can attend one of the meetings you have mandated that I attend.”

Ervin also calls attention to Ohio’s new A-F report card, which has been of concern to many teachers, administrators, and parents throughout the state. “My school, even with our 60 percent poverty rate, was listed as ‘excellent’ with your old rating system. The next year, with almost the same scores, in your new rating system, we received an ‘F’. How does that make sense? I hope you can understand the position of many educators who feel that you all don’t even want us to succeed.”

Need to Speak Out? Check Out These Tips

At ACS, we’ve helped many of our clients learn how to be better spokespersons for their organizations and causes. In our opinion there is nothing better than in-person training and coaching, but we were happy to see a recent article in Education Week entitled, “Becoming a Better Public Speaker: Tips from the Greats.” When we read this article, it was almost as if the writer had attended our spokesperson training! There are great tips and tricks summarized here such as telling a story and showing your own passion for the topic. There’s also the author’s more subtle reminder to practice a presentation many times before you give it.


Those kinds of basics are always important, but we also take it a step farther. In our spokesperson trainings and one-on-one consultations, we help our clients decide what to say, create a message frame, and pivot away from distractions and stay on point under pressure­ — even in the most challenging situations. Want more help building the skills that will make your next speaking engagement a hit? Contact Scarlett Bouder to schedule a spokesperson training for yourself or your team, and check out these three tools on our website:

ACS Client, PRE4CLE, rapidly accomplishing high-quality preschool goals

On July 2, 2015 Freshwater Cleveland featured  ACS client PRE4CLE, which in just 16 months, is nearly halfway toward their goal of enrolling 2,000 children into high-quality preschool. ACS has developed the communication and advocacy plan that drives PRE4CLE local, state, and national activity.

PRE4CLE, Cleveland’s plan to rapidly expand access to high-quality preschool opportunities for the city’s three and four-year-olds, is raising the bar for high-quality preschool. Seven hundred existing preschool slots were improved to PRE4CLE’s high-quality standards. Another 450 high-quality slots were created to meet the demand.

At the heart of PRE4CLE’s success is the unique collaboration of Cleveland’s public, private, business, philanthropic, and faith-based community. The Cleveland community is putting its money where its mouth is. To date, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Cuyahoga County, and philanthropic partners have contributed more $9 million in public funding to support high-quality preschool opportunities for the city’s three and four-year-olds.

You can read the full article here:

Learn more about PRE4CLE’s efforts on their website:


Buzzsaw Gives Jargon the Boot

With new words and phrases being developed seemingly every day it can be easy to fall prey to peer pressure and lead a life of jargon filled emails, reports, and presentations. Fortunately, Hamish Thompson, managing director of London public-relations firm Houston PR has created a simple online tool for shaming your colleagues and clients alike.

When presented with questionable English, simply copy and paste the offensive statement into Buzzsaw and you’ll be presented with an analysis verifying your suspicions…your co-worker just sent you a jargony sentence.

So, next time your boss sends you a sentence like this, “It’s critical that our firm streamline our ‘outside the box’ approach to client interfacing so that we can become an industry frontrunner among thought-leaders”, simply “reply all” with the prbuzzsaw link. We then suggest you pack up your desk.

ACS works with our clients to develop powerful and succinct messaging (without the jargon). Click here to view ACS’ communication tools and resources including, Tips to Remember- Give Jargon the Boot.

The Ohio 8 Coalition Steps Up for Special Student Populations

Despite the increasing numbers of students across the state who are gifted, economically disadvantaged or who have limited proficiency in English, the Ohio House’s and the governor’s versions of the state budget, as well as the Senate’s version, propose no additional funding for these students. With ACS by their sides, members of The Ohio 8 Coalition have spent hours in the Ohio House and Senate advocating for a 2 percent increase ($43 million) in funding for these students, equal to the lowest increase in funding proposed for other student services. This tiny increase would result in significant support for students and come at a cost that is a mere pittance in the House’s proposed $71 billion budget.

The Ohio 8 represents the largest urban public school districts in Ohio, which serve nearly half of the state’s gifted students and more than 30 percent of the state’s students with limited English proficiency. In addition, 86% of students served by the Ohio 8 are economically disadvantaged. To read more about The Ohio 8’s stance on funding special student populations, read this June 14th Letter to the Editor in the Akron Beacon Journal.

HMS Helps Ohio Combat Medicaid Fraud

Ohio delivered more indictments for Medicaid fraud than any other state in the last year — thanks in part to the work of ACS client HMS. “The Ohio Medicaid Fraud Control Unit is doing as good or better than any (other unit) in the country,” said Lloyd Early, special agent in charge of Medicaid fraud, in a June 5th article in the Dayton Daily News.

HMS works with the state Medicaid agencies to help detect fraud as part of its contract to provide program integrity services. For several years, ACS has helped HMS identify and pursue growth opportunities for its business in Ohio. As a result of HMS’s work, clients like the State of Ohio are able to recover millions of dollars every year and save billions more through the prevention of erroneous payments. That’s a win-win for everyone!