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JMCSS getting noticed statewide for innovation education

Jackson-Madison County Schools Superintendent Marlon King apologized for bringing the Madison County Commission more good news during their November meeting last week.

But he began his report by mentioning how the district as a whole has improved its average ACT score by nearly a full point from 16.3 to 17.

“It’s one thing to improve your score, but to do it by that much shows how much our faculty and staff care about the students and how hard they’re working with them on making sure they have the tools to succeed in life after high school,” King said.

Speaking of giving students what they need to succeed in life after school, King turned his time over to Teresa McSweeney, the chief innovative officer for JMCSS.

She talked for about 10 minutes to the Commission about how JMCSS was one of 21 districts across the state to be awarded grant funding when the state department of education challenged the districts to come up with ways to transform learning that took into account time, space, mode of learning and partnerships.

Of the 21 awarded the funds, McSweeney said JMCSS is one of eight who are identified as an exemplary district on the state’s website discussing the grant.

It’s because of that the district has been approved for $10 million more in funding over the next four years to continue that innovation work.

“They’re awarded $1 million to high schools and $500,000 to middle schools, and through that, we were awarded a total of $10 million that we’re using in various ways,” McSweeney said.

McSweeney said they established innovative impact institutes throughout the district’s seven high schools, and there are a total of 14 institutes – some that are present at multiple schools but each high school has at least one unique institute.

“Three that are in multiple schools are agriculture, automotive and welding,” McSweeney said.

A key component to this initiative is the Malesus Innovation STEM Center, that is designed to house innovation education technology that will have five focuses – cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, robotics, bioSTEM and a student maker space.

Because the district is able to bus students to Malesus from South Side and nearby middle schools, a portion of the $10 million will be allocated to carry out the designs for the center in the old Malesus Elementary building on Highway 18.

Commissioner Tony Black asked McSweeney about possible partnerships with various industrial and manufacturing businesses similar to the LOOP program that’s already in place, and she said more negotiations are in the works to provide more opportunities for students.

Brandon Shields, brandon@jacksonpost.news

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