As the seven Mercury districts continue to pilot programs they may use in their school redesign, Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) staff members have been busy answering questions from those interested in learning about the next phase of the Kansans Can School Redesign Project.
The application process for Gemini II: The Space Walk Begins is underway. The deadline is April 2.
February kicked off with KSDE redesign specialists Jay Scott and Tammy Mitchell making their regularly scheduled visits to the seven Mercury districts. Deputy Commissioner Brad Neuenswander accompanied Scott and Mitchell during their visits to McPherson Unified School District 418 and Twin Valley USD 240.
“Our redesign teams in those schools really appreciated Brad taking some time to come and meet with them and to encourage them through the peaks and valleys that they are experiencing this year,” Scott said.
Scott and Mitchell started something new in February, too.
“We began a new Zoom meeting series of the Mercury building leaders groups,” Scott said. “Tammy and I both felt like it was very, very important for our trailblazer buildings to have the opportunity to connect on a monthly basis.”
Scott, the secondary redesign specialist, had his first Zoom meeting with secondary building leaders on Friday, Feb. 9. Mitchell, the elementary redesign specialist, had her first Zoom meeting with elementary school building leaders Monday, Feb. 12.
“Both meetings went very well with high marks from the building leaders,” Scott said.
The two said the monthly Zoom meetings would have been beneficial in the beginning of the redesign project. However, “it’s never too late to start a good thing,” Scott said.
The redesign specialists and other KSDE staff members had a second day of Summit Learning training on Tuesday, Feb. 20, in Topeka for Mercury and Gemini districts. The first informational meeting took place Jan. 25 in Topeka. Some Mercury and Gemini districts have expressed an interest in piloting Summit Learning in their redesign. To watch a video and listen to audio from the meeting visit https://youtu.be/KLwCZSnQE_k.
KSDE’s redesign specialists also spent time traveling with Mercury districts to study project-based learning and personalized learning.
Scott traveled to Salt Lake City, Utah, from Feb. 21-22 and met with some secondary redesign team members to learn about and tour Innovations Early College High School, which is a student-centered, personalized education school that focuses on learning through digital technology, the school’s website states. It is one of five high schools in the Salt Lake City School District. It is located in the south-central part of the city and is attached to Salt Lake Community College’s South City campus.
Mitchell traveled to Rancho Mirage, California, from Feb. 20-24 to attend project-based learning training at the Buck Institute for Education.
“I met the McPherson redesign leaders there, and we had three amazing days learning about how to support project-based learning from an instructional coaching perspective,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell met a consultant with the Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction who has a position similar to Mitchell. She also met several district-level instructional coaches from across the country. The connections will be important for future collaboration, Mitchell said.
Meanwhile in Topeka, Neuenswander and Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson hosted a webinar Monday, Feb. 26, for schools and districts that may be considering joining Gemini II. It can be viewed by visiting https://youtu.be/e1s35KVXPqE.
Mitchell, Scott and Watson also met Monday, Feb. 16, at the Kansas National Education Association in Topeka with the Redesign Crew to give updates and receive feedback. The Redesign Crew is a group comprised of educators, KSDE staff members and representatives from high education institutions, educational organizations and the Kansas State Board of Education. The Crew meets monthly and serves as a think tank for school redesign.
Mercury schools continue to collect data on methods and approaches that they may use during the redesign launch, Mitchell said.
“The lessons they are learning have been really powerful because as they try to pilot new ideas in the old system, the struggles they face are informing them on what they will need to change about the system to launch and sustain these innovative ideas and approaches,” she said.
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