ROI awards Ready Schools grants to eleven school districts

Initiative aims to align school districts to the education and workforce needs of employers and industry in the Indiana Uplands

Regional Opportunity Initiatives (ROI) is pleased to announce that eleven school districts in the Indiana Uplands have received Ready Schools grants totaling $2,325,091.

“Between six school districts receiving development grants, and five receiving implementation grants, we are thrilled to share that ROI’s signature education and workforce initiative will impact more than half of the region’s 52,000 K-12 students,” said CEO Tina Peterson.

The Ready Schools Initiative is a design-thinking framework to support school districts in re-aligning their P-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.

Bloomfield School District, Monroe County Community School Corporation, Spencer-Owen Community Schools, and a collaboration of Mitchell, Orleans, and Shoals Community Schools have been selected for participation in the second cohort of the Ready Schools Initiative. Each will receive a development grant to support an in-depth design process over the next ten months.

Six school districts from the first cohort have also recently completed the 10-month Ready Schools development process. Loogootee Community Schools, and a collaboration of the four school districts in Dubois County: Greater Jasper Consolidated Schools, Northeast Dubois County School Corporation, Southwest Dubois County School Corporation and Southeast Dubois County School Corporation were awarded implementation grants to begin executing alignment strategies. Brown County Schools is in the process of completing its Ready Schools implementation grant proposal.

Ready Schools Cohort 1
Implementation Grants
Ready Schools Cohort 2
Development Grants
  • Loogootee Community Schools
  • Dubois County Collaboration:
    • Greater Jasper Consolidated Schools
    • Northeast Dubois County School Corporation
    • Southwest Dubois County School Corporation
    • Southeast Dubois County School Corporation
  • Brown County Schools (pending)
  • Bloomfield School District
  • Monroe County Community School Corporation
  • Spencer-Owen Community Schools
  • Mitchell/Orleans/Shoals Collaboration:
    • Mitchell Community Schools
    • Orleans Community Schools
    • Shoals Community School Corporation


“Our region is home to amazing cultural and economic assets; however, we continue to see a need for qualified employees in our key industry sectors,” added Peterson. “The Ready Schools initiative is a concerted effort to begin addressing this issue by helping schools, industry, and communities work collaboratively to develop both short- and long-term strategies that prepare young people for career opportunities right here in our region as we develop the pipeline of talent necessary to ensure employers and communities thrive.”

Ready Schools Implementation Grants for Cohort 1

Cohort 1 implementation grants will fund programming that contribute to a systemic alignment between schools, community and workforce. Grants will support approaches including career awareness and work-based learning, project-based learning, employability and soft skills development, professional development for teachers, STEM materials and curricula, and pathways aligned to careers in the Indiana Uplands. The four school districts in Dubois County collectively were awarded $1 million in grant funds for implementation. Loogootee Community Schools was awarded $495,091 in grant funding.

ready-schools_infographic“The implementation proposals we received from the Dubois and Loogootee Ready School teams were well crafted and reflect a strong commitment to long-term collaborations between schools and industry,” said ROI Director of Education and Workforce Todd Hurst. “Each of the Ready School teams took the time to work together with schools, community leaders and stakeholders, and local industry to identify and design locally driven solutions. The teams developed strategies that offer students a variety of post-secondary options, including certifications, 2-year degrees, 4-year degrees, and beyond.”

In Dubois County, a county-level career and innovation hub will be developed on the campus of Vincennes University Jasper Campus (VUJC) to serve as a central location for the collaboration and alignment of industry and the four school districts. Vincennes University is supplying in-kind space to house this hub. Called Hub 19 (Dubois County was the 19th incorporated county in Indiana.), this facility will also coordinate teacher training and become the county’s location to explore innovative teaching models and curricula.

“This has been an incredible experience,” said Bill Hochgesang, superintendent of Northeast Dubois County School Corporation. “Ready Schools has enabled our four school districts and local industry to work together for the first time on a significant initiative. This work will create many more opportunities for students for years to come, and we hope that our collaborative approach will serve as a model for other communities. We invite other schools and workforce partners to visit Dubois County and see how we put our Ready Schools work into practice during the implementation phase.”

Also in partnership with Vincennes University, an Advanced Manufacturing Academy will also be housed at VUJC to create opportunities for students from all four school districts and the Patoka Valley Career CTE Co-op. Here students will be able to take coursework and earn credentials to prepare them for employment in manufacturing across the Indiana Uplands region.

“We at Vincennes University are especially excited by the work being done by all four school corporations in Dubois County in concert with the Patoka Valley Career Cooperative and VU Jasper,” said ROI Board Member and President of Vincennes University Chuck Johnson. “The new Advanced Manufacturing Academy will be a groundbreaking partnership that aligns with Dubois County’s greatest workforce needs.”

“This is important work,” added Johnson. “It will have a generational impact, and it requires all of us to think of our communities and schools as part of a larger system. As an ROI board member, I have been pleased and impressed by the impact the Ready Schools process has already been having. I am eager to see it spread to other communities in our region.”

With its implementation grant, Loogootee Community Schools will establish a focused, district-wide approach to STEM education and project-based learning at all grade levels. The school district will develop curricula and training plans to achieve STEM certification by the Indiana Department of Education. Loogootee also strives to be one of the first rural districts of its size to be a Project Lead The Way (PTLW) distinguished school district. To receive the designation, a school district must have 20 percent or more of the K-12 students in each grade participate in a PLTW program during the previous school year.

“With the changing landscape of careers in our region, it is important for our students to develop STEM and project-based learning skills to prepare them for 21st-century jobs,” said Superintendent Chip Mehaffey. “We think this commitment to district-wide STEM certification and PLTW will put our students on a path to success and allow Loogootee to stand out among rural communities as a leading and innovative school district.”

In partnership with local industry, Loogootee Community Schools will also establish a student-run business to apply hands-on, real-world learning opportunities for high school students in their applied engineering pathway.

“Among the Loogootee Education and Workforce Advisory Team, there is a lot of excitement about the creation of a student-run business,” said Pam Loughmiller of Loughmiller Machine and Tool. “This is such a great opportunity to allow students to apply real-world experiences to their learning. From business planning, budgeting, product development, and customer service, this will be an incredible opportunity to prepare students for real-world careers. We are thrilled to be partnering with the Loogootee School Corporation.”

Ready Schools Development Grants for Cohort 2

A total of $830,000 in development grants has been awarded to schools selected for the second cohort of Ready Schools. Bloomfield School District, Monroe County Community School Corporation, Spencer-Owen Community Schools, and a collaboration of Mitchell Community Schools, Orleans Community Schools, and Shoals Community School Corporation will begin the first phase of the Ready Schools process in August. A District Readiness Coordinator will guide locally developed advisory and design teams through the year-long design thinking process. A coach from ROI will work side by side with the District Readiness Coordinator through the year-long process.

“The ROI Ready Schools Initiative Grant will enable Mitchell, Orleans, and Shoals to meaningfully collaborate with industry and community stakeholders while creating sustainable career-oriented initiatives,” said Shoals Superintendent Dr. Candace Roush. “By pooling our resources and coming together to examine new career pathways, create programming, and tweak existing models, we can provide more opportunities for student and community success.”

“The Monroe County Community School Corporation is honored to be selected as a 2018 ROI Ready Schools grant recipient,” said Superintendent Dr. Judith DeMuth. “We will focus on P-12 preparation for careers to ensure students have the skills, knowledge, flexibility, and confidence to pursue their educational and workforce goals. With many career possibilities in our area, we are excited to begin this collaborative process that will impact student success and the continued growth of our prosperous and vibrant region.”

The Ready Schools Design Process

Click image to view a description of activities at each Ready Schools phase.

The goal of the Ready Schools development process 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 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 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

About Regional Opportunity Initiatives, Inc.:

The mission of Regional Opportunity Initiatives, Inc. (ROI) is to support economic and community prosperity in the 11 counties of the Indiana Uplands (Brown, Crawford, Daviess, Dubois, Greene, Lawrence, Martin, Monroe, Orange, Owen and Washington counties). ROI is implementing education and workforce initiatives and regional engagement initiatives for quality of place development.

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