VOICE: Empowering a Positive Climate

Focused Area

Improving School Climate for Youth-At-Risk

Relevance to Focused Area

VOICE is a program developed by The Arts and College Preparatory Academy, a Charter High School located in Central Ohio, to share best practices in building an inclusive culture that keeps students emotionally safe. Initially funded by the United States Department of Education, VOICE provides specific examples and case studies for schools to consider, explore, and workshop in order to create a culture and climate that is safe and inclusive for all students who attend their school. VOICE promotes academic excellence through a positive school culture and climate that encourages students to create their voice, unite their voice, define their voice, and respect their voice.

Primary Strand

Academic Achievement & School Leadership

Relevance to Primary Strand

At ACPA, we have found that one of the most critical elements of our positive and effective climate is our shared leadership model. The shared leadership model at ACPA is collaborative, seamless and organic. Open and honest communication is one of our school’s core cultural values and the administrative team embodies this core value on a daily basis. The focus of this shared leadership model is building an understanding of our core values and community standards to create a shared vision around a safe and inclusive school environment.

The administration collaboratively develops and communicates a shared vision using multiple approaches, while enlisting a diverse group of stakeholders to implement the changes. Staff members, board members, administrators, students and parents are all part of the process of developing and realizing a shared vision. In order to sustain a progressive teaching and learning culture that thrives on safety, acceptance, inclusion, rigorous academics, and a commitment to the arts and college preparedness, all members of the ACPA community are expected to be actively engaged participants.

Brief Program Description

This session will give participants information, tangible advice and tools for encouraging an inclusive environment within a school and student body. If your school is facing challenges with issues of bullying, this presentation will provide some practical solutions and define what is needed from administrators and teachers to succeed.


VOICE is a project funded by a United States Department of Education dissemination grant, by which the presenters examined and defined their best practices for fostering a positive and inclusive school environment that ultimately empowers student academic achievement. This session gives participants information, tangible advice and tools for understanding what is needed from administrators and teachers to encourage an inclusive environment within the student body. The session leaders will lay the groundwork for implementing VOICE into any school and facilitate an environment that encourages students to create their voice, unite their voice, respect their voice, and define their voice.

The session will focus on the importance of the shared leadership model where all stakeholders understand their role in creating a safe and inclusive culture for all, including:

Staff: Implement an inclusive curriculum, emphasize arts integration across all academic disciplines, and act autonomously for in-class discipline with administrative support.

Administrators: Value proactive discipline over punitive discipline, establish leadership committees for staff ownership, and intentionally partner with like-minded organizations.

Parents: Communicate frequently with other parents and are actively involved in school activities

Students: Hold one another accountable and regularly communicate with teachers and administration in a non-academic setting.

At the conclusion of the session, participants will each be provided a VOICE curriculum guide, complete with over one hundred pages of case studies and best practices for creating a school culture that encourages student VOICE.


A charter school in Central Ohio, which serves a large percentage of at risk students (over 50% of students are free and reduced lunch, 38% of students identify as LGBTQ,) adopted the VOICE curriculum in 2012. Since then the school has proven to demonstrate effectiveness through the following data collection:

Enrollment: Enrollment increased from 240 students in 2012 to 400 students in 2016

Attendance: Attendance has stayed above 93% every year since 2012

Academic: The school’s performance index placed higher than both the state and city average

Graduation Rate: The school’s graduation rate has stayed above 87% every year since 2012


Individual Presentation

Biographical Sketch

Anthony Gatto

Anthony Gatto has been at the Arts & College Preparatory Academy (ACPA) since 2002, its opening year, and principal since 2010. Prior to stepping into the administrative role, Mr. Gatto taught Algebra and Geometry at ACPA and various subjects at an arts-focused middle school in Columbus. Born and raised in Columbus, Mr. Gatto is proud to be a school leader, especially at a school that caters to students who have been marginalized, bullied, or somehow do not fit in in a traditional school setting.

Under Mr. Gatto’s leadership, ACPA has a bullying policy that is actually enforced, top state report card ratings year after year, burgeoning visual arts, music, theatre, and dance programs, gender neutral restrooms, and a student body that is encouraged to be exactly who they are, regardless of race, gender, class, and sexuality. This is all due to Mr. Gatto’s autonomous style of leadership, which has created an environment where students and staff have a voice.

Mr. Gatto enjoys having the ability to propel children into success in its many forms, in a positive school climate. “I think schools have a responsibility to teach their students the importance of diversity. We need to be able to understand, respect and learn from each other,” he states, with a smile. “I’m in a position to enact the ideas I have on how to make education better for students, and I take that responsibility and privilege seriously. It’s what I want to do with my life.”

Mr. Gatto has B.A. in Journalism from Miami University and a M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from the University of Cincinnati.

Richard Albeit

If you could use one word to describe Vice Principal Richard Albeit, it would definitely be wonderful; he is truly a delight. Mr. Albeit is an even-tempered guy, resolute yet warm in his interactions, stylish yet humble in quality, with no hesitation of cracking a silly joke and being an all-around funny guy.

Vice Principal Albeit is a dedicated administrator at the Arts And College Preparatory Academy. His efforts are embodied in the integration of various academic and cultural program initiatives such as the ACPA VOICE grant, Volunteer Experience, and the Class Challenge. Additionally, he collaboratively developed the mission and vision of ACPA through a shared Strategic Plan, which including overseeing a two-phase construction expansion. This passion and vision helps cultivate an award-winning school climate.

His approachable demeanor makes him a champion among the children. He has the experience, as well, with six years of teaching, a concentration in social studies and an additional component of social justice service learning. He moved into administration five years ago, and is the perfect and trustworthy accompaniment to the principal, Anthony Gatto, a fearless and compassionate leader of a school full of children who are given permission to express themselves creatively and scholastically in a safe space.

Principal Albeit is a father of three and is a well-travelled political science major, and those experiences have all but expanded is heart for education. “I’m interested in the narrative of the world and the way it works,” he explains. “Life itself is incredible, and having the opportunity to leave the world in a better place by teaching a kid is second to none.”

Ben Shinabery

Since graduating from the Ohio State University in 2008 with a Bachelors of Science in Human Development, Ben Shinabery has been a champion of progressive education. Deciding to take an unconventional route on a path to teaching, leadership, and educational administration he took his post-college years to work with students ranging in age from 18 months to 18 years. Mr. Shinabery honed his skills as an elementary After-School Program Director, Assistant Teacher of a toddler/pre-school classroom, and as the 21st Century High School After-School Coordinator.

Mr. Shinabery is best recognized however for creating and developing “The Dick & Jane Project”. Since it’s inception in 2010 he has served as Executive Director. “The Dick & Jane Project” is a non-profit organization that partners middle school students and professional music producers to write and create songs. As Director Mr. Shinabery has facilitated programming with more than twenty middle schools throughout Central Ohio. In doing so the program to date has brought together over 300 students and 50 musicians and producers to produce over 70 professionally recorded songs, all of which have been played on the Columbus radio waves

Mr. Shinabery joined the ACPA family in 2014 as the After-School Program Coordinator, and in 2015 took his current role as Development Director.

Start Date

10-23-2016 10:00 AM

End Date

10-23-2016 11:00 AM

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Oct 23rd, 10:00 AM Oct 23rd, 11:00 AM

VOICE: Empowering a Positive Climate

This session will give participants information, tangible advice and tools for encouraging an inclusive environment within a school and student body. If your school is facing challenges with issues of bullying, this presentation will provide some practical solutions and define what is needed from administrators and teachers to succeed.