Three school districts in Crawford, Daviess, & Washington counties join fourth Ready Schools cohort

Ready Schools helps align school districts to the education and workforce needs of Indiana Uplands employers and prepares students for high-opportunity jobs and careers.

Barr-Reeve Community Schools, Crawford County Community School Corporation, and East Washington School Corporation joined the fourth cohort of ROI’s Ready Schools initiative. The Ready Schools initiative provides school corporations to involve their community in an immersive design thinking process throughout the 2023-24 school year.

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. Eighteen regional school districts have participated in Ready Schools since 2017, impacting 35,000 K-12 students in 85 Uplands schools.

“Throughout the Ready Schools process, school districts have embraced the important role they must play in regional economic prosperity,” said ROI President and CEO Tina Peterson.

“This engagement will help schools carefully develop strategies to equip students from pre-K through graduation with the skills necessary to thrive in regionally relevant careers and 21st-century jobs.”

A District Readiness Coordinator will guide locally developed advisory and design teams through the 10-month design thinking process in each of the three school districts joining the Ready Schools network. An ROI coach will work alongside the District Readiness Coordinator through the Discovery, Synthesis, Ideation, and Refinement phases.

The Ready Schools initiative enables school districts to engage business leaders, educators, community stakeholders, parents, and students in defining what school success means for their community and to develop a strategic plan to obtain that success. The result is a collaborative approach and a comprehensive planning process designed to support students in achieving academic and career goals aligned with the region’s key industry sectors: advanced manufacturing, life sciences, and national security and defense.

ROI’s frequent Occupational Needs Assessments (ONA) emphasize the importance of relevant student pathways to meet our region’s workforce needs, support growth in key sectors, and attract talent. Intentional design to start earlier in a student’s K-12 journey and create a tangible bridge to a meaningful career ladder is essential.

Employers within the region’s three key sectors of life sciences, defense, and advanced manufacturing foresee accelerated growth but report that workforce quality and availability are limiting factors. The numbers below highlight the significant opportunity we have as a region to grow and retain talent.

  • The Biomedical or Life Sciences sector regional cluster grew by 27.7% from 2012 to 2020, and employment concentration is 678% greater or roughly seven times that of the average U.S. region.
  • The National Security and Defense sector combined federal and private growth is 68% greater than the national average, and employment change was 13.5% from 2012 to 2020, compared to 2.1% in the U.S.
  • The trajectory of job growth in the Uplands advanced manufacturing sector cluster is increasing at a steep rate. Automotive manufacturing jobs increased by 93.5% here compared to 14% nationally; food-based manufacturing increased by 21.3%. And the employment concentration of furniture is 1,733% greater than the average U.S. community.

The six core principles that guide cohort work through the Ready Schools process 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.

School districts that complete the first four Ready Schools phases will begin implementing comprehensive strategic plans beginning fall 2024.

Previous Ready Schools districts have developed strategic plans that include action items that align with the workforce needs of employers in the Indiana Uplands. For example, White River Valley launched Wolverine Enterprises, a student-run business comprised of six divisions: Ag Enterprises, Precision Manufacturing, Precision Machining, Fine Arts and Design, Frozen Feasts, and Print Services, all managed by a student business and logistics team.

Richland-Bean Blossom Community School Corporation leveraged a portion of their Ready Schools implementation grant along with bond dollars to transform a wing of Edgewood High School into the Innovative Learning Center, a collaboration suite that includes a flexible presentation and classroom space, a media production studio, a digital design lab, and a digital fabrication lab. This space completed the alignment of digital fabrication and video production spaces being available to students at all levels in the corporation.

The three school districts of The Collaboration of Shoals, Mitchell, and Orleans Schools (COSMOS) redesigned high school pathways to align with regional industry sectors and establish a system of shared courses. These pathways and courses expand learning opportunities for students in all three districts as they provide course options beyond a student’s home district.

Other examples of funded implementation strategies include career awareness programming, work-based learning, project-based learning, and STEM materials and curricula.

For a complete description of activities at each Ready Schools phase, go to:

“With the addition of these three school districts, the number of K-12 students impacted by ROI’s signature education and workforce initiative will exceed 35,000,” added Peterson. “We are proud of the dedicated work done by each Ready Schools district and the tremendous impact this work will have on preparing Indiana Uplands students for success in school and in life.”

Ready Schools Cohort I (2017)
Brown County Schools
Dubois County Collaboration: Greater Jasper Consolidated Schools Northeast Dubois County School Corporation Southwest Dubois County School Corporation Southeast Dubois County School Corporation
Loogootee Community Schools
Ready Schools Cohort II (2018)
Bloomfield School District
Monroe County Community School Corporation
Spencer-Owen Community Schools
Collaboration of Shoals, Mitchell, & Orleans Schools (COSMOS): Mitchell Community Schools Orleans Community Schools Shoals Community School Corporation
Ready Schools Cohort III (2019)
Richland-Bean Blossom Community School Corporation
Linton-Stockton School Corporation
White River Valley School District
Ready Schools Cohort IV (2023)
Barr-Reeve Community Schools
Crawford County Community School Corporation
East Washington School Corporation

About Regional Opportunity Initiatives:

Regional Opportunity Initiatives (ROI) is a nonprofit organization with a mission to advance 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 growing potential and possibility through a focus on advanced industry sectors, regionalism, transformative school and workforce redesign, and placemaking strategies.

More information can be found at