School district seeks community partners

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District is 1 in 10 selected for National Academy Foundation pilot program

By Stephen Lega

Local elected officials, community leaders, and educators gathered Thursday morning to discuss Marion County Public Schools' participation in the National Academy Foundation.

"We are excited to be part of the select few schools that are coming on board with NAF in the fall," said Greg Conley, one of the Project Lead the Way teachers at Marion County High School.

Jennifer Wheeler, the interventionist at Marion County High School, said the district was approached by the state about participating in a pilot program. Marion County is one of 10 school districts in Kentucky that has been invited to take part in NAF in the fall.

The NAF was founded in 1982 by Stanford Weill, chairman emeritus of Citigroup Inc. The foundation's purposes include preparing students for career and college and fostering partnerships between the business and education communities.

Last week's meeting was intended to explain what is needed to implement the NAF in Marion County. This includes the creation of an advisory board composed of community members and local educators.

George Spragens of Farmers National Bank will be the chairman of the advisory board, and Robin Mills of Horizon Engineering has agreed to serve as vice chairwoman.

According to Conley, they are seeking more community partners to serve on the advisory board.

"We would like to have all of our local industry involved and the other smaller businesses that want to be involved," he said.

Marion County Superintendent Chuck Hamilton said internships, work study and site visits to local business and industry will give students "the chance to experience a full spectrum of courses in engineering principles and practice."

Hamilton sees the district's participation in NAF as another opportunity for students with similar interests to spend more time together in classes relevant to their career interests.

"We envision this as similar to our present Hugh C. Spalding Academy, which will be a career-focused program," he said. "The high school is in discussion of developing a Future Teacher Academy to grow our own instructors."

Conley added that the NAF will enhance Project Lead the Way, a pre-engineering program that Marion County has already implemented. Several former Project Lead the Way students are working on engineering degrees.

"They will run together without any problems. NAF is helping us bring the academy component to this setting, thus just adding to and enhancing an already successful program," he said. "NAF will help us show how all classes interrelate."

Conley said the NAF will target 40 to 60 incoming freshman with the understanding that the program will grow as more students work through the program.

He added that the benefits aren't just for the students, but in the long run, for the community as well. By forming partnerships with local businesses, they hope to provide students with networking and professional opportunities to help them succeed.

"In turn the community will be reaping the benefits of our students coming back from college more prepared and ready to join the work force," Conley said. "And they will have already made contacts with professional folks in our town."

Anyone interested in serving on the advisory board or any business interested in providing co-op or work study opportunities should contact Jennifer Wheeler at Marion County High School (692-6066) or Mary Taylor or Greg Conley at Marion County Area Technology Center (692-3155).