ROI Awards a $590,576 Ready Schools Implementation Grant to Mitchell, Orleans, Shoals Schools

(UNDATED) – Regional Opportunity Initiatives, Inc. announces that a collaborative of three school districts – Mitchell Community Schools, Orleans Community Schools, and Shoals Community School Corporation – has been awarded a Ready Schools Implementation Grant totaling $590,576.

The Collaboration of Shoals, Mitchell, & Orleans Schools (known locally as COSMOS), represents three rural school districts in three separate Indiana Uplands counties that are working together to create new learning and career exploration opportunities for students that would not be possible for each district to support individually.

“Innovation and collaboration are part of the DNA of Shoals, Mitchell, and Orleans schools,” said ROI President and CEO Tina Peterson. “Not only are they working alongside and across districts in a unique way, they were also early adopters of the Ready Schools concept. They came together quickly and reached out to ROI immediately. We are inspired by their commitment to pursuing opportunities for students in every imaginable way.”

“We are extremely excited about this unique opportunity to bring three different school systems together,” said Dr. Candace Roush, superintendent Shoals Community School Corporation. “Staff from all three schools have worked so well together over the past year coming up with a great plan for pooling our resources and our course offerings so that students will have a larger variety of opportunities. We are excited to see what the future holds for us, and we believe we are forging a new path for other schools in the future.”

“Our students will now have opportunities that target their interests and provide them with ways to be connected with greater success,” added Mitchell Community Schools Superintendent Mike Wilcox. “The awarding of the ROI grant to COSMOS is not only rewarding for the entire committee from our three corporations but a tremendous victory for our students.”

The ROI Ready Schools implementation grant will fund components of a collaborative strategic plan covering all three districts with new initiatives focusing on K-Career alignment in the Indiana Uplands.

A core component of the plan includes an academy model, with curricula, activities, and courses geared towards exploration and preparation in regionally relevant career pathways. Specific academy themes and pathways will be identified this year. COSMOS Academies are expected to
officially launch in the 2020-21 school year with continual refinement thereafter.

The three school districts will collaborate in the development and execution of the academies through combined educator training, virtual learning, transportation between high schools, and the establishment of a central location or hub for learning.

“The COSMOS Academies will provide our students with more opportunities to explore relevant careers and prepare them for the future,” said COSMOS Readiness Coordinator. “The strategies funded through the Ready Schools implementation grant will support all students, K-12, in developing the skills necessary for post-secondary success whether they attend college or enter the workforce,” added Kidd. “Students will be given opportunities to participate in authentic problem solving through project-based learning and develop a strong set of employability skills through intentional instruction at all levels.”

Grant funding will also allow the three school districts to work together to expand project-based learning opportunities; develop career exploration activities at all grade levels; explore virtual learning environments; improve Wi-Fi accessibility in schools and possibly on buses; establish collaborative teaching teams, and create shared maker spaces and STEM labs. In addition to grant-funded initiatives, the three school districts will also be working collaboratively to increase family engagement opportunities, and improve connections and partnerships with community resources and local employers.

This ROI implementation grant award to COSMOS follows a 10-month development grant for the Ready Schools design-thinking process. The Ready Schools Initiative is a framework to support school districts in aligning K-12 curricular and programmatic offerings to educational
and workforce needs within the Indiana Uplands, an 11-county region that encompasses Brown, Crawford, Daviess, Dubois, Greene, Lawrence, Martin, Monroe, Orange, Owen and Washington counties.

The goal of the Ready Schools Initiative is to enable school districts to engage business leaders, community stakeholders, parents, and students in meaningful dialogue about what school success means and to develop a plan to obtain that success. The result is a collaborative approach and a comprehensive plan designed to support students in achieving academic and career goals aligned with workforce, with a particular focus on the region’s key industry sectors: advanced manufacturing, life sciences, and national security and defense.

In 2017, ROI released its Occupational Needs Assessment to highlight the education and workforce needs of the advanced manufacturing, life sciences, and national security and defense sectors in the counties of Indiana Uplands.

The Assessment emphasizes that employers struggle to find talent for all levels of jobs, ranging from entry-level positions requiring only a high- school diploma to highly technical jobs requiring advanced degrees and training.

All of the employers interviewed noted the significant role that the region’s P-12 districts play in addressing these workforce challenges.

The six core principles that guide cohort work through the Ready Schools process to build upon the results of the Occupational Needs Assessment and include:

  • 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 schools are aligned around a common vision of student success; and
  • Schools embrace the significant role they play in achieving regional prosperity

Schools that have completed a Ready Schools development grant are eligible to apply for implementation funding.

Since 2017, ROI has awarded Ready Schools development grants to 14 school systems in the region. Including the Collaboration of Mitchell Community Schools, Orleans Community Schools, and Shoals Community Schools, ROI has awarded implementation funding to ten Indiana Uplands school districts.