The Way Forward – Next Steps for eastern Kentucky

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This message is intended to catch everyone up on where we’ve been, where we are and where we’re going related to the leverage plan we developed for the Way Forward report.

We began this work with from a perspective of abundance vs. scarcity and the belief that there is a diversity of ideas, economies, people, and traditions across the region aimed at achieving economic growth and community vitality. These diverse ideas are rooted in a deep respect for community and traditions – and in hope for the future. These efforts draw on the strengths of our communities: neighbors who look out for each other, educators who know their students, and leaders of all ages and walks of life who are determined to build a stronger, more resilient future for all.

Where we’ve been…

Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative (KVEC) member Superintendents and KVEC staff worked together to develop “A Region‘s Way Forward – Achieving Learner Equity and School-Centered Reinvention in an Economically Distressed Rural Region”.

The report includes research and considerations for discussion on economic revitalization strongly advocating that K-12 schools can and must be a greater catalyst for economic growth and community vitality.  

The report maintains that grassroots, inclusive planning is essential in each county/community and should then be coordinated with other neighboring counties in regional approaches. Greater collaboration by institutions and organizations serving the region is critical due to issues of scale and isolation.   

“A Way Forward” calls to establish the first “Rural Edu-conomy Zone” in the nation, where school districts and community partners (public and private) work together to establish a vision for the future and subsequent strategic planning focused on increasing economic and community vitality.

KVEC Superintendents presented the Way Forward report to state leaders on February 12th in the Capitol Rotunda during the 2019 Legislative Session urging them to support a set of research-based solutions and policy recommendations to better serve disadvantaged rural students and improve the regional economy.

Citing dramatic worsening trends in a range of demographics in Appalachian Kentucky, the school leaders declared the need for innovative, grassroots, citizen-engaged strategies to leverage public education to revitalize their local economies in ways that can be replicated and serve as a national model for communities throughout rural America.

The release of the report began an effort to circulate the report to as many audiences (local, state and national) as possible in an effort to expand the conversation and gain traction for the considerations offered in the report.

In March of 2019, a regional meeting was convened that included leaders from diverse sectors in an effort to expand knowledge regarding the report’s findings and considerations.

Where we are…

An ongoing campaign working with multiple media formats (print, radio, television) continues.

We are exploring opportunities to help launch the Kentucky Rural Education Association to support the dissemination of the Way Forward report and advance an agenda focused on equity, accessibility, and opportunity.

Efforts are underway to collaborate with the National Rural Education Association in advancing the Way Forward report during their upcoming national rural education conference in October of this year in Louisville.

We continue to engage with state and regional legislative leaders as we move closer to the 2020 full Legislative Session so that the data and considerations contained in the report will be a viable discussion/action item.

We are currently working to develop a “template” agenda that school districts and education leaders can use individually or in collaboration with neighboring districts as a potential next step. KVEC staff will be available to assist in these localized meetings if that is deemed helpful.

Draft “Local” Agenda

The draft agenda below includes items that many districts/schools can launch an immediate collaboration with local government, civic organizations, businesses/employers or higher education.

Again, KVEC staff will be available to assist in these localized meetings and provide additional information/details if that is deemed helpful.

Draft Agenda

  1. Exploration and building understanding of the nation’s first Rural Edu-conomy Zone and its potential impact on a community
  2. Strategic effort aimed at capturing an accurate 2020 Census Count
    • Every person will need to be counted – this year more than ever.
    • A great deal depends on an accurate Census Count (future funding, legislative representation, etc.) and students/schools can be leaders in a local “on the ground” effort to educate, inform and support.
  3. Portrait of a Graduate – Locally developed, but globally positioned, the Portrait of a Graduate serves as a North Star for system transformation. Providing strategic direction for the redesign of the overall educational experience for students, this collective vision reinvigorates and re-engages students, teachers, and community stakeholders.

The Portrait of a Graduate design process involves a sustained community conversation leading to a shared agreement about a unique community-owned picture of what graduates need for success. Every community and its school system is different, so every approach will be tailored to the local context.

  • Involve Business, Local Government, Civic Organizations, community members
    • Plan
    • Activate
    • Create
    • Adopt

i. Internships ii. Mentorships

4. Reframe the Community Story

  • Develop a community Asset Map detailing resources including:

  i. Human Capital  ii. Physical Resources  iii. Natural Resources

  • Develop and maintain a Social Media Campaign focused on abundance vs. scarcity

5. Community Challenge Grants – Grants available through KVEC requiring a partnership between students and at least one viable community partner that is designed to overcome a local community challenge and serve as proof of concept to create viable solutions affecting economic growth and/or community vitality.

6. Local Working Committee (Collective Impact Working Group)

  • How to build membership
  • How to plan and run an effective meeting
  • How to build collaboration
  • How to put Systems Thinking in place
  • How to engage with Community Members
  • How to be data-driven and learn along the way

7. Kentucky Work Ready Communities – The Kentucky Work Ready Community program has the ability to transform a community. It encourages counties to take a credible inventory of the current and future workforce, identify the gaps and carry out strategies to achieve a more knowledgeable, trained workforce.

8. Connections to local/student Entrepreneurial efforts

  • Tech
  • Tourism

 i. Heritage tourism ii. Environmental iii. Historical

  • Maker
  • Service

We would appreciate your input and any thoughts or suggestions you may have. Please contact us at your convenience if you have any questions, we would like additional information or would like to share ideas on how to advance communities in our region.

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