Innovation Competition casts wide net for new schools - News, Weather & Sports

JCPS Innovation Competition casts wide net for ideas to create new schools

Harlina Churn-Diallo Harlina Churn-Diallo
Susan French Susan French
Jonathan Lowe Jonathan Lowe
David Cooke David Cooke
Elle Carpenter Elle Carpenter

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – No dance professional would dispute that Harlina Churn-Diallo brings "career credibility to her classes at Lincoln Performing Arts Elementary School. But she's a certified, credentialed teacher first and foremost.

"Six-year-olds are very strong critics," said Churn-Diallo. "They know if you know what you're talking about, and if you know what you're talking about they trust you."

Lincoln is in its fourth year as a magnet school for 487 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. More than 200 children are on its waiting list.

"We could not be a successful school if it were not for our community partners," said Susan French, the principal of Lincoln.

Lincoln might be considered a model for the new system-wide Innovation Competition in the Jefferson County Public Schools, except that JCPS is casting its net wider in the search for community partners.

"We hope that anybody who has ever thought to themselves 'I know what JCPS could do better' will bring an idea to the table," Superintendent Donna Hargens told a news conference Tuesday.

"We don't need another magnet school to divert attention from that critical goal," explained Jonathan Lowe, JCPS student assignment director.

Applicants will be expected to provide concrete research or results indicating how their proposed innovations will improve student achievement. A major challenge will be striking the balance between career professionals-in-residence and certified educators.

"You have a larger playground in which to play," said David Cooke, innovation coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Education. "And you have a much bigger box to get out of."

The winning entry will have to serve a not-yet-specified percentage of so-called "at risk students." More than seventy percent of Lincoln's student body is eligible for free or reduced-price meals.

Innovators also will be expected to offer strategies for involving parents. Tuesday, Lincoln School scheduled informance sessions so mothers and fathers could see firsthand how their children incorporate drama, dance and music in performance and in their core subjects.

"Attendance isn't mandatory, but it's strongly encouraged," said French. "And parents have sought us out. The motivation is there."

One need look no further than to fifth grader Elle Carpenter, a transferee from Saint Matthews.

"I've gone from making more B's than A's, to more A's than B's," said Elle. "I want to be an actress, but acting helps me channel my energy too. It teaches me how to focus and stay in control of all of my energy, in the way that I behave."

Churn-Diallo believes teaching makes her own performances better too.

"I've had the opportunity to be on both sides," she said. "The takeaway for me is that no one person learns the same way so I must be creative. Because every child, every audience, responds differently."

To participate in the Innovation Competition, applicants must submit a letter of intent by December 10.

The timetable is as follows:

  • Applications due January 31, 2014
  • Presentation to Review Panel February 5, 2014
  • Finalists Announced February 14, 2014
  • Presentation to School Board late February
  • Technical Assistance to Finalists February-June 2014
  • Winner announced June 2014

To apply or get more information, click here.

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