MITCHELL — A collaborative effort between Mitchell, Orleans and Shoals community school systems on the Ready Schools Initiative grant is progressing.

Regional Opportunity Initiatives awarded a Ready Schools grant of $180,000 for the three schools to embark on a year-long project to find out from community and industry leaders how to prepare young people for the workforce.

Apryl Kidd, who serves as district readiness coordinator for the partnership, made a report to the board of trustees of Mitchell Community Schools last Monday.

Kidd is an MCS teacher and is taking a leave from the classroom to work on the project. She is joined in coordinating the program by two part-time coordinators, Larry Sherfick of Shoals and Jill Morgan of Orleans. The work is being completed with the help of a local design team, and a coach from ROI.

“We want to make sure our curriculums are relevant and engaging for our students,” Kidd said. “We want to utilize our strengths and resources to do what is best for our students and our communities.”

Ready Schools operates on six core principles — every student is engaged in a relevant path to success; students graduate high school ready for post-secondary and career success; meaningful and ongoing collaboration occurs among schools, industry and community; teaching and learning are grounded in relevancy; K-12 students are aligned around a common vision of student success; and schools embrace the significant role they play in achieving regional prosperity.

The program is being implemented in five stages — discovery, synthesis, ideation, refinement and implementation. The exploration process began in August. Teams were formed which include 36 members from the community, educators and student populations.

The discovery process included establishing six stake-holder groups — students, parents and family, government, education, systems of care and workforce. A total of 297 interviews were conducted with some 550 participants from these groups.

The discovery stage ended in November.

The synthesis process is taking what was learned from the stakeholders and working through those to get to ideas which can be developed in the ideation part of the process. The synthesis process includes communication, both internal and external, curriculum ideas and area offerings. There has been many site visits to both in-state and out-of-state schools that operate a little out-of-the-box of traditional education models. The visits are ongoing. In fact, she was on a site visit Wednesday.

Synthesis is now wrapping up and ideation is now getting underway. This process will include radical collaboration between all stakeholders to develop a model of what can be used to go forward to implementation. It will consist of many solutions to help meet the needs of the schools and communities.

Those ideas will be refined into a proposal that needs to be completed about the end of May. The partnership can begin submitting is finished proposals to ROI for additional funding beginning in June.

“The window to submit proposals for the next school year implementation is June through August,” she said. “We plan to be ready to submit in June. Grants range from $750,000 to $1 million. We then would have up to five years to get our proposals fully implemented.”

MCS board President Chris Shaw asked Kidd what the group was looking for during these site visits.

“We are looking at how they engage students,” she said. “We want to know about the courses they offer and other ways of reaching students.”

Board member Steve Burton asked about the participation from the stakeholders.

“We’ve had good participation,” she said. “We are planning to have a town hall type of meeting to lay out some of what we are learning. These will be done in each of the communities. We don’t have dates set yet, but they are in the works.”

“The purpose of this initiative is wanting to team up with Orleans and Shoals,” said Assistant Superintendent Phil Storms. “This is a way for a group of small schools to accomplish big things.”

Board member Patrick Redman said, “A lot of eyes are watching us to see what we can accomplish.”

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