Several teachers and administrators from across the district spoke about their recent trip to the Eminence, Ky., School District at Monday’s Nevada school board meeting.
This Kentucky school system, led by superintendent Buddy Benson, has turned its fortunes around from being in danger of closing to doubling its enrollment over in a five-year span. Nevada educators saw first-hand some of the innovative practices that are compelling parents to open-enroll their children into the Eminence district from nearby locations.
One of the unique features of the school that Nevada educators saw included flexible classrooms that emphasized small group learning over the more traditional method of a teacher lecturing to rows of students. Throughout the building, comprising elementary all the way through high school, there is a woodworking room, a makers’ space, and even a LEGO room. The central hub is designed to resemble a downtown street, while the cafeteria is designed to resemble a restaurant. According to the Nevada contingent, students are excited to be at the school and teachers sometimes have to work to get some students to leave at the end of the day. The district has even had to cap open enrollment because their classes are all full.
Students are encouraged to pursue ‘passion projects’ and be creative when it comes to learning educational principles. One example was students designing a project that bridged the white and African-American portions of a local cemetery. One math teacher used pizzas and recipes to teach pupils fractions in lieu of a test. The teachers’ attitudes are that as long as students are learning, efforts should be made to keep students engaged. The school’s slogan is “Surprise and Delight.” Benson likes to say that the district gives their students ‘a buffet of options’ on learning.
The results thus far have been overwhelmingly positive. Besides the increased attendance, the school has seen less absences and nurse visits, less behavioral issues, and higher energy in both students and teachers.
Nevada teachers and administrators thanked the school board for letting them visit this school and are excited to see what they can implement in Nevada. Another team is travelling to California later this year to observe a school district there.
“It takes teachers to see the work and implement it,” said Nevada Director of School Improvement and Innovation Justin Gross. “They’ve seen something different and they’re willing to try it.”
“I’m looking forward to seeing how this trip will improve Nevada Schools,” said Board President Marty Chitty.
In other news:
• Chitty will step down from the school board after the May 22 meeting due to his service on the Story County Board of Supervisors. Applications for the school board’s vacant spot will be sent out in late May, with the hope of appointing someone before the first school board meeting in June
• The board approved a sharing agreement with Colo-Nesco for those interested in joining a dance team next school year. Transportation details have yet to be finalized. The board also approved early graduation requests and voted to raise school meal prices $.05 for the 2017-18 school year and approved the school year’s budget.
“I think it’s a good budget and the community is well-served,” said Chitty.