Grant would bolster manufacturing opportunity


The four Dubois County school corporations have moved a step closer to securing a grant that could potentially net them up to $1 million to help local teachers better prepare students for the workforce needs of the area.

Recently, a group of local educators close to the Regional Opportunity Initiatives’ Ready Schools Initiative grant-planning process traveled to Bloomington for a final presentation and grant proposal submission.

“I think the goals are to obviously bring about a higher level of collaboration between our four school corporations and our local industry,” Rick Gladish, Dubois County’s Ready Schools coordinator, said in a phone interview this morning “I think there’s lots of different things we want to see happen, but we want to see a much closer working relationship between our schools and local industry. We want to be able to do what’s best for our students, but at the same time we want to also support local industry and the workforce needs that are pretty obvious to Dubois County right now.”

ROI’s mission is to support economic and community growth in Dubois, Brown, Crawford, Daviess, Greene, Lawrence, Martin, Monroe, Orange, Owen and Washington counties. The nonprofit organization formed in 2016.

Netting the dollars would mean more money for existing programs across the county as well as launching new ones. If the schools receive the grant, the funds would potentially go toward bringing both an advanced manufacturing academy and a career and innovation hub to Vincennes University Jasper Campus. Students could earn college credits at the academy, and the grant would be managed at the innovation hub.

The funding would also fund career planning resources, support Project Lead the Way programs and more. Gladish said teaching employability skills, creating new pathways for students to their post-high school careers and engaging the kids in relevant learning are the three areas the funds would target.

Gladish said local industry needs people to fill jobs that require a certain level of training in addition to production line positions.

He feels pretty good about the schools’ chances of securing the grant. But at the same time, he doesn’t want to get constituents’ hopes up too high.

Whether the schools ultimately receive the $1 million — which would be dished out in a three- to five-year span — will depend on how well their grant proposal and implementation plan addressed ROI’s six core principles — that 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. That decision will ultimately be made next month.

A group comprised of him, three other county school corporations’ grant coordinators, all four Dubois County schools superintendents, VUJC Dean Christian Blome and Patoka Valley Career and Technical Cooperative Director Jared Howard led a presentation to ROI members in Bloomington on June 19 to share their implementation plans.

Last spring, Northeast Dubois Superintendent Bill Hochgesang attended an ROI meeting in French Lick and returned home excited about the Ready Schools Initiative. At that point, the schools already had a history of teaming up — they agreed to operate on a universal calendar for the first time during the 2017-18 school year, had agreed to pool money and resources together for a countywide professional development day and had for years allowed students attending school in one corporation to take classes in another through the Patoka Valley Career and Technical Cooperative.

In July, the schools were awarded a planning grant of about $300,000 that allowed coordination teams to engage district, community and industry stakeholders to better align their educational programming with the workforce opportunities in the county.

That planning process began with a phase of interviewing students, teachers, parents and local industry members about ways they wanted to improve the schools through the grant, and the data was then analyzed before priorities were ranked and the grant’s budget was established.

And now, they wait.

“We feel good,” Gladish said. “We feel like the presentation went well. Obviously, they’ve (ROI) invested a lot of time in us, also. But yeah, we feel like we’ve got a good plan and a good, solid proposal. And we hope that things work out.”

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