State's first “regional career academy” to open in August serving students from five districts; planners, backers hope concept will spread

KSBA eNews Service, Frankfort, Feb. 10, 2015

Students attending iLead Academy will be targeted to northcentral Kentucky’s high-demand career fields
By Brad Hughes

In August, 25 to 30 incoming high school freshmen from five northcentral Kentucky districts will enroll in the state’s first “regional career academy.” While it’s a small beginning, local and state officials hope the concept of this unique career-directed partnership will spread to other areas of the Commonwealth.

The iLead Academy will be located in a renovated business space in downtown Carrollton and will serve students with high math scores from each of the Carroll, Gallatin, Henry, Owen and Trimble County systems. Officials from the districts, state government, higher education and the manufacturing sector announced final plans for the initiative Tuesday at the state Capitol.

“Because of your collaboration, (these students) will now have a direct path to pursue technical education and to compete for the highest-demand, highest-wage jobs in the Commonwealth,” said Lt. Gov. Crit Luallen. “This program will serve freshmen and sophomores before they advance to the Carrollton campus of Jefferson Community College as (high school) juniors and seniors. iLead provides another step for us to produce a world-class workforce.”

The academy will be operated by the Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative in Shelbyville and will be staffed with two teachers. Part of the coursework will follow the curriculum of Project Lead The Way, a nonprofit organization supporting science, technology, engineering and math instruction in more than 6,500 schools nationally.

The 2014 General Assembly allocated $250,000 as seed money, which has financed planning and the initial lease and renovation to get the space ready for classes this fall.

In an interview, Carroll County Schools Superintendent Bill Hogan said middle school staff in the five districts are “going out and recruiting students who are strong in math. That’s going to be our first hedge, looking at their EXPLORE scores in math. It’s going to be five to six kids from each district.

“They’ll come in at 9 a.m each day, get their general education classes first, then they will get their Project Lead The Way classes,” he said. “At about 10:30 each morning, they will go down to the ATC (Carroll County area technology center) to take an hour of classes like blueprint design. We want them to be able to do the hands-on stuff too. After lunch, they will return to the iLead Academy to pick up their general education curriculum.”

Jefferson County Community and Technical College President Dr. Tony Newberry said JCTC’s Carrollton campus already has a strong dual credit partnership with all five districts, and the collaboration in the new academy will further that effort.

“Students from the iLead Academy will have all kinds of opportunities to pursue not jobs but careers,” Newberry said. “All of these pathways will lead to well-paying, high-demand careers with the region’s major employers.”

Rep. Rick Rand (D-Bedford), chairman of the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee, praised the superintendents and their school boards for coming together for a common purpose.

“I think this is not only good for the region, but it’s going to be good for the state. I see this as a model that, when we prove it to be successful, will be able to be recreated across the Commonwealth,” Rand said.

Education Commissioner Terry Holliday echoed Rand’s hope that the iLead Academy won’t be a one-and-done idea.

“What I see with this type of innovative effort is that Kentucky is now wanting to compete not just with other states, but other international jurisdictions,” Holliday said. “We want to take this effort and duplicate it across the state, and make the Kentucky workforce the best in the world.”

Photo above: Lt. Gov. Crit Luallen praises the planned iLead Academy during a Capitol news conference Tuesday. Listening are superintendents (left to right) Rob Stafford, Owen County; Bill Hogan, Carroll County; Travis Huber, Gallatin County; Marcia Dunaway, Trimble County; Tim Abrams, Henry County; and Dr. Leon Mooneyhan, executive director of the Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative.

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