Louisville business and non-profit leaders are being asked to help lead a public school initiative that will improve community engagement and enhance career and technical learning in the classroom.
Jefferson County Public Schools announced last spring it would partner with Ford Motor Foundation’s Next Generation Learning program, which seeks to redesign high schools through developing teachers’ skills and improving community partnerships. JCPS officials met with several business and non-profit leaders this week to discuss how they could be involved in the project and to form a council that will help lead this work.
“These businesses could open up their doors for teacher externships, student internships. They could come be speakers, they could be mentors, they could work with teachers in the classroom. And a big part is to be advocates for the work we are doing,” says Dana Shumate, JCPS coordinator for business involvement and the Ford project.
The meeting included up to 15 business leaders, some which are already strong partners with JCPS like Norton Healthcare and GE and other smaller businesses which are new, says Shumate.
JCPS is focusing on improving its 15 career themed schools that are spread out throughout the district. Each school focuses on one of five career-themed areas like business, communication, healthcare, engineering, and human services.
Through the Ford program, businesses and local non-profits are asked to partner with the school district to create sustainability through their involvement, Shumate says.
“Mayors come and go, superintendents come and go, principals, GLI whoever you want to call it, but if the community understands what we’re doing, then they’re going to say, keep our schools, keep what we’re doing, we’re engaged in this, we’re helping lead the work. Don’t change it,” she says.
Superintendent Donna Hargens, Mayor Greg Fischer and Jefferson County Public Education Foundation chairman Jim Allen are spearheading the effort, Shumate says.
The businesses and non-profits will play the role of advocate and help market the schools, but will also offer students and teachers a chance for interdisciplinary learning, she says.
One example of this was when 45 teachers were offered externships at 15 different businesses this summer. Teachers from separate subjects spent a week learning how their disciplines worked together and are now able to take that back to the classroom, Shumate says.
“What we’re doing is deepening instruction and the things that we will offer to our students,” she says.
Louisville is one of 17 school districts nationwide participating in the Ford program. The district must now finish its master plan that will lay out its long-term goals before the district can be officially announced a Ford community. Over the past year, around 70 volunteers–made up of JCPS employees and community members–have been working on the plan.
Shumate says letters went out to over 30 businesses and the district will circle back around to those companies and determine the level of their involvement.