A part of Wise County history will soon play a part in preparing Decatur students for the future.
The Decatur Independent School District has received a grant from the Miles Foundation to fund three Future Ready personnel: a Future Ready coach, a Future Ready science specialist and a Future Ready math specialist. The personnel will be utilized by the district’s middle and high schools.
The Future Ready Project is part of the district’s strategic plan, approved last year, aimed at preparing students to be competitive in the global workforce. It reflects the district’s mission to provide a “quality education where students will learn digitally, think creatively and compete globally.”
The focus areas include instruction, professional development, parent involvement, involvement and training of DISD leadership, digital tools and a way to monitor the progress of the district’s vision.
According to the grant application, the Future Ready coach will:
- act as a coordinator for all secondary Future Ready trained teachers to develop those teachers into innovators and leaders;
- work with those teachers to incorporate state standards, district curriculum and best practices in all planning and delivery of instruction;
- oversee implementation of instructional strategies;
- act as a resource to all secondary teachers in a non-evaluating position;
- research and coordinate professional development and professional learning communities;
- monitor and evaluate the secondary Future Ready program; and
- collaborate with secondary administrators and teachers to build strong, trusting relationships that encourage open communication.
The science and math specialists will have similar responsibilities aimed at those specific academic areas. They will provide training and resources that are “needed to facilitate instruction that is challenge-based, collaborative, problem-based, differential or flipped.”
They will also be responsible for coming up with a “variety of meaningful assessments to evaluate student progress with the ultimate goal of college or career readiness” and also develop student interest in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) careers.
In addition to the $185,000 that will be used to fund the three positions for next school year, the grant also includes $20,000 for professional development “focused on research-based innovative teaching and learning,” according to the grant application.
The grant is for two years. If the district meets the evaluation criteria at the end of the first year, it will be renewed for a second year at the same funding level.
At Thursday’s school board meeting, Jay McCall, senior program officer for the Miles Foundation, explained that the foundation was formed by Ellison Miles, a “wildcatter” who discovered untapped oilfields around the state in the late 1940s and who was one of the pioneers in gas drilling in the Boonsville Field in Wise County in the 1950s and 60s. He died in 2004, turning over his assets to the foundation.
“We’re charged with furthering education, which was his passion, promoting specifically STEM education, the geosciences,” McCall explained. “(Miles) was a geologist by education.”
McCall said the foundation was impressed with what they saw in the Decatur school district.
“As part of my job, I’ve been to the best charter school in New York, the best public school in New Jersey, METSA Academy in Carrollton, Uplift Peak Academy in Dallas, Oakridge Private School – and I am more impressed with the culture and what Decatur ISD is doing than any of those,” McCall said. “You guys are doing a wonderful job. We are excited to be a part of it. It’s a partnership we hope will continue throughout the years.”