By: Mandi Isaacs, Instructional Specialist, East Central Educational Service Center

Connersville, IN — Sept. 1, 2021 

Educational leaders are collaborating in East Central Indiana to transform the learning recovery ahead. As schools are working to address the impact of COVID-19, they are exploring innovative ways to meet students’ needs. 

“We have the opportunity to lead in Indiana,” state Secretary of Education Katie Jenner said in a panel discussion at the East Central Educational Service Center in Connersville Wednesday evening. As she noted that “kids are more than just a data point, and we know that as educators,” the room filled with educational leaders from school districts across eastern Indiana erupted in applause.

“How might we get out of our own way and break down these barriers?” she asked.“The only way is for K-12 and higher education to sit at the table together.”

ECESC created the platform for that conversation at its event Wednesday evening by bringing Jenner together with Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of the Lumina Foundation, Sue Ellspermann, former Lt. Governor and president of Ivy Tech Community College, Jason Callahan, Assistant Secretary of Student Pathways and Opportunities at the IDOE, leaders from 27 Eastern Indiana school districts, and several community partners.

“The only way this work gets done is if we all partner together,” Ellspermann said.  “We can’t partner enough, and that is the way we are all going to win.”

Listed grant partners include IU East, Ball State, Ivy Tech, Bowen Center, and EDG of Fayette County. New community partners continue to join and the ECESC seeks to add more as it helps 29 of its member schools tackle those barriers as part of the $3.5 million Student Learning Recovery Grant funded through House Bill 1008.

“The real value of this grant is the system for collaboration and robust networking,” Katie Lash, Executive Director of the ECESC, said. “We will be in your districts alongside you making sure that we are bringing tools and resources that align with the priorities specific to our region and build capacity in our East Central Indiana schools.”

One of the greatest needs in education is human work to support student learning, which is what each of the primary grant partners is providing in some form. Merisotis addressed the need for “thinking critically, reasoning ethically, interacting interpersonally, and serving others with empathy” in our schools as he shared his vision from his most recent book, Human Work in the Age of Smart Machines.

“These rural communities are the core of what we should be focusing on for long term transition opportunities,” Merisotis said. “We have to do a better job collaborating regionally and statewide to learn from others.” 

The evening focused on the grant’s shared vision of supporting K-12 schools in their most important work. Districts will have the opportunity to create goals that are specific to their students and local communities, as collaboration will continue to grow and evolve to meet the needs of students most impacted by the pandemic.