Building Relationships with Families
Educator Q&A, Tom Loughead, Principal,
Romero Academy at Resurrection
For greater Cincinnati native Tom Loughead, tutoring in an Upward Bound program at the University of Cincinnati inspired a lifelong passion for education. Tom taught in Indianapolis with Teach For America and in Cincinnati Public Schools before becoming a blended learning coach for teachers at four Cincinnati inner-city Catholic schools. In 2020, Tom relaunched the Resurrection School in Price Hill as Romero Academy as the founding school leader.
1. What motivated you to become an educator?
From a very young age growing up in Ohio, I had a desire to serve. It comes largely from my mom and dad. They always gave me the opportunity to volunteer.
During one of my summer breaks in college, I tutored bright first-generation, college-bound high school students through the Upward Bound program at the University of Cincinnati. I recall one student who ranked in the top five percent of his public high school class but had never been asked to write a full essay. I learned firsthand the opportunity gap between the quality of education I received growing up in suburban Ohio and the education experienced by my peers attending under-resourced schools. I realized that I wanted to dedicate my professional career to changing this situation.
2. What was your path to leading Romero Academy at Resurrection?
My path to becoming a principal started when I taught high school in Indianapolis through the Teach For America (TFA) program. After finishing my two-year TFA commitment, I became a mentor teacher at my Indianapolis high school where half of my day was spent teaching students and the other half was spent coaching teachers. I enjoyed being able to expand my impact.
After my time in Indianapolis, I returned home to Cincinnati to teach U.S. history with Cincinnati Public Schools. I later went to work for Seton Education Partners helping Catholic schools within the Archdiocese of Cincinnati implement a blended learning technology program made possible by a grant from AGS. In my role at Seton, I learned that there was the opportunity to lead the launch of an independent school at the site of Resurrection Catholic school in Price Hill. At the urging of a colleague, I applied to be principal and have worked since the moment I was hired to connect with the community and build a strong school. With the generous support of AGS, we launched the school in August 2020.
3. What values do you hope to teach students at Romero Academy?
At Romero Academy, we describe character development in terms of virtues. We work to nurture in students the classical virtues–courage, justice, wisdom, and self-control. We start each school day by giving students the opportunity to discuss a specific virtue.
For example, we define courage as doing what is right even in the face of fear. Students are asked who in their life has demonstrated courage–parents, friends, or classmates. To make it forward looking, we ask students to identify how they can show that virtue during that day. What does courage look like in the classroom? During recess?
At Romero Academy, we want to empower our students by 8th grade with the academic skills and character strengths needed to succeed at top high schools across Cincinnati. We are hoping to plant seeds that grow over a lifetime.
4. Do you have a sense of how families rate their education experience at Romero Academy? How do you know?
From the very beginning, our priority was to get to know our families and build a partnership based on trust.
We constantly ask parents for feedback on the education we are providing their child. students. In our first year, ninety-nine percent of our families answered yes to the question: “Would you recommend the school to other parents?” We see these survey results as an indicator that we are providing an education that parents value.
With 100 percent of our current teachers returning to Romero Academy next school year, we are confident we can build on this momentum.
5. What learning gains have you seen from students during the pandemic?
We are pleased with the progress our scholars made during this challenging time. This past year, Romero Academy students surpassed the national growth norm by 12 percentage points in math and 6 percentage points in reading.
When thinking about how students have grown, I think about a fifth-grade student. While she struggled the previous year, she met her academic growth goals in both math and reading. Her academic growth is only half the story. She also made great strides in her character and maturity. She became comfortable speaking openly about her emotions and her own accountability. This growth reflects how we support students to recognize character in themselves and others.
6. What are your plans for summer learning opportunities for Romero students?
We are running a six-week summer academy with full-day programming for five days a week. We have opened the summer academy to the entire Cincinnati community, with a prioritization for students who have significant academic and social-emotional needs because of lost learning time during Covid-19.
During the first half of the day, students will receive targeted instruction in math and reading. The afternoon programming provides students a chance to have fun. Students did not have a lot of opportunities for outdoor activities and electives this past school year. We are going to have a theater program and daily recess. Kids will get to be kids.
7. What are the learnings for this past year of launching Romero Academy?
As difficult as this school year was, it reaffirmed my belief that the success of any school starts with teachers caring for students, families, and one another. Before we can get to the work of teaching and learning, parents and students have to know that we care about them.
We also benefited from the support of community partners such as BLOC Ministries and Price Hill Will. Our first year would not have been as successful without their guidance and encouragement.