Better together: Some districts collaborate on Work Ready standards
Kentucky School Advocate
By Madelynn Coldiron
The Work Ready Communities program not only can unify a single county, but bring together multiple counties and school districts, as some education leaders are finding out.
Officially, Work Ready currently is set up for individual counties and not regions, but some neighboring counties have been informally working together. The program says as long as each contiguous county involved meets Work Ready criteria and is certified, together they can promote themselves as a Work Ready Region.
Boyd and Greenup counties share the economic development agency called Ashland Alliance, noted Steve Gilmore, superintendent of Ashland Independent Schools and a former Ashland mayor. Both Greenup and Boyd counties recently received the Work Ready Community designation at the same time, incorporating the efforts of both county school districts, along with Ashland, Russell, Fairview and Raceland-Worthington independents.
Gilmore said the districts worked well together on the project, since the superintendents have been meeting together regularly for several years. Tim Gibbs, president/CEO of Ashland Alliance, said that was apparent the first time he met with them about Work Ready.
“The dynamic between the independent school districts and the county school districts could not have been stronger,” he said. “They were in. You can certainly see the rapport and the relationship they have.”
In western Kentucky, there has been talk among several counties of having a common work ethics seal or certification demonstrating soft skills, said Gretchen Wetzel, curriculum, instruction and assessment specialist for Caldwell County Schools. It makes sense, she said, because, “Students move in and out of districts in this area some. If they moved into a high school in a surrounding district, they might already be on track to get the seal.”
“We felt like it was important for our students to be on a level playing field as far as making sure the standards we agree upon are going to be consistent throughout,” said Lyon County Schools Superintendent Russ Tilford. “We’ve even had discussion at a couple of our West Kentucky Educational Coop-erative meetings where we’ve discussed that idea, although some are ahead of us and have already finalized their plans.”
Like Boyd and Greenup, Caldwell and Lyon counties share an economic development agency and Work Ready is among the projects the agency is working on, Tilford said.
“We felt it would be better for economic development if there was some consistency where prospective employers would know this is the caliber of student that you’re looking at when they see (the work ethics certification) on a resume or an application,” he said, adding he hopes to work with Caldwell County Schools to “refine” their current certification to that end.
Because the area is not heavily populated, an employer moving into one county or expanding would likely draw a workforce from surrounding counties as well, which, Tilford said, “would impact multiple counties and multiple school districts.”
Gilmore echoed that, saying, no matter which county gets new jobs, “we’re close enough that all of our students can benefit from it.”