Columbia Gas of Kentucky Helps Kentucky School Leaders Transform Schools

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by Amanda Nelson

photo of Columbia Gas Check Presentation
Columbia Gas of Kentucky presented a check for $27,000 to the UK College of Education to support local school districts’ participation in the Next Generation Leadership Academy. Pictured (L-R) are Fayette County Schools Assistant Superintendent Jack Hayes, Clark County Schools Superintendent Elaine Farris, Columbia Gas of Kentucky President Herb Miller, UK College of Education Dean Mary John O’Hair, and Kentucky P20 Innovation Lab Co-Directors Linda France and Eve Proffitt.

A $27,000 grant from Columbia Gas of Kentucky is helping Kentucky superintendents and principals enhance school systems to meet the needs of today’s learners through a unique collaboration with the University of Kentucky College of Education. The collaboration, known as the Next Generation Leadership Academy, is an output of the College’s Kentucky P20 Innovation Lab.

For the past three years, a concerted effort has been underway – via the College’s Kentucky P20 Innovation Lab – to take schools originally designed for an Industrial Era and transform them into places that prepare students for a diverse, global economy. Kentucky superintendents and principals taking part in the Next Generation Leadership Academy discover ways to improve education for students growing up with knowledge, technology and economies much different than previous generations.

“Kentucky’s students are our workforce of the future and we want to see graduates who not only excel in subjects like science, technology, engineering and math, but who also can work collaboratively, solve real-world problems, communicate effectively and think creatively,” said Herb Miller, president, Columbia Gas of Kentucky. “Support for programs that help schools improve how students learn these skills is vitally important to move Kentucky’s economy forward.”

Columbia Gas of Kentucky presented a $27,000 check to the UK College of Education during a celebration held Friday, Aug. 31. The funding will be matched by a James Graham Brown Foundation grant that helped establish the Next Generation Leadership Academy. The grant from Columbia Gas will support participation in the Next Generation Leadership Academy by schools in Fayette, Mason, Boyd, Clark, Johnson and Franklin Counties.

“Columbia Gas is helping Kentucky lead the charge of addressing a nationwide need to enhance school systems to meet the needs of today’s learners,” said UK College of Education Dean Mary John O’Hair. “This is an assemblage of the best minds, organizations and agencies whose business it is to worry about education in Kentucky. We believe our state is a leader in this regard and that innovations developed locally will become a model for the nation. We couldn’t be more pleased to have Columbia Gas join us in improving education for students in Kentucky and beyond. ”

About the Kentucky P20 Innovation Lab:

P20 takes the world-class research and expertise of the UK College of Education’s faculty, students and staff and uses it to improve education across Kentucky.
P20 builds a bridge between school districts and the UK College of Education to enable an easy exchange of information between schools and higher education.
P20 faculty and staff design and offer the Next Generation Leadership Academy for school leaders to build capacity to design new systems for learning.
As a follow-up to the Next Generation Leadership Academy, P20 helps schools create Innovation Zones (iZones). iZones allow college faculty and school personnel a place within a school to work together with students to redesign and rethink current policies, practices and programs to support 21st Century learners.

Why is P20 needed?

This is our challenge: schooling and instruction are mass-produced, expecting students of various abilities, support systems and interests to progress through the same educational program at the same pace without sufficient regard to their individual learning needs.
Information, once collected in reference books and distilled by teachers, is now everywhere, which changes the roles of teachers and schools. Even the most specialized topics and guidance are only a few keystrokes away.
In Kentucky, only 83.91% of students complete high school and only 32% of Kentuckians ages 25-34 have a college degree.
Routine jobs are increasingly disappearing to low wage countries or automated systems.
To succeed in the global economy today’s students must be prepared to problem solve, work collaboratively, and to be creative and self-motivated. They will be required to produce evidence of competencies for required work.

How do we do school differently?

P20 roots out what doesn’t work and replaces it with ways of learning that will prepare all students for college and careers.
P20 gives students a voice in designing the future of their education. Interestingly, when high school students were recently interviewed about how to do school differently, they were so stuck inside the model in which they grew up, they were slow to respond at first. We are finding ways to get from students what they really want from school – not just a version of what they think school is supposed to be. Students have great ideas once given the freedom to dream and problem solve.
P20 builds upon existing and emerging infrastructures in Kentucky that will make this work sustainable over time.

Early Success Stories

Given their innovative spirit, it was no surprise that Eminence Independent Schools Superintendent Buddy Berry and Instructional Supervisor Thom Coffee were among the first participants of the P20 Next Generation Leadership Academy. As one of the first P20 iZone schools, here are some of the ideas Eminence is implementing in its schools:

  • Partnership with Bellarmine College to offer college-level courses to qualified students with no cost to students;
  • Redesigned Master Schedule (Core classes three days per week. Benchmark ready students take classes two days a week on Bellarmine’s campus);
  • Wi-Fi on school bus transporting students to Bellarmine College in Louisville so that learning never has to stop;
  • One-to-one technology devices (Mac Book Pro) for all high school students;
  • Students trained to give feedback on educational experiences using Twitter;
  • Student and Teacher Voice Teams for input in district decisions;
  • Standards-Based Report Cards; and
  • Using technology to work with sister school in England on using results from student aspirations surveys to better engage students in learning.