NKYEC Winter Meeting focused on enhancing student success and how everyone can contribute

By Mark Hansel
NKyTribune managing editor

The Winter Meeting of the Northern Kentucky Education Council (NKYEC) focused on how the region can enhance student success by increasing work-based learning experiences for students.

The NKYEC is focused on the alignment of education initiatives in Northern Kentucky. The Council serves as a catalyst for collaboration, change and progress to attain regional education goals in Boone, Campbell, Gallatin, Grant, Kenton, Owen and Pendleton Counties.

As a partner of GROW NKY, the Council is working to build business and education partnerships that support internships, externships, co-ops, apprenticeships, and career-based learning opportunities.

The 2020 NKYEC Winter Meeting at the Ignite Institute in Erlanger included a diverse group of community stakeholders, focused on ways to improve learning-based experiences for students in the region (photos by Mark Hansel).

Grow NKY  is the initiative led by the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and workforce partners to drive outcomes for the region’s talent pipeline management.

A group of human resources professionals, business leaders, educators and community members collaborated at the Feb. 19 event at the Ignite Institute in Erlanger.

Dr. Henry Webb, superintendent of Kenton County Schools, said the goal is to start off 2020 strengthening partnerships for business and education in the region.

“We all agree that education is a key to economic development, but we also understand that education of our youth is a team effort and we thank our business partners for everything you do for our kids,” Webb said.

Speakers talked about the pillars of focus that they have identified to help ensure academic success. These included reducing barriers to education, engaging business in college and career prep, advancing the big picture and advocating for education.

Dr. Randy Poe, Boone County Schools superintendent and executive director of the NKYEC talked about laying the foundation for postsecondary success through early learning and resilient and ready by design initiatives.

Dr. Randy Poe, Boone County Schools superintendent and executive director of the NKYEC talked about laying the foundation for postsecondary success.

“We’re supporting that early learning because we know that every one dollar invested in early learning and preschool, getting children prepared to go to kindergarten, we have a seven dollar return on that particular investment,” Poe said.

In the last three years 20,000 of the region’s 70,000 students have been interviewed to gain a better perspective on how to improve services.

“There are some invisible children that we don’t see, and we have learned that over 16 percent (of) students have been victimized and they are that silent, invisible child that we learned about,” Poe said. “It’s amazing, the work that we can do, when we know that children are being ostracized, or being bullied, and how we can attempt to help them, but we need to know that because children aren’t forthcoming with that.”

There has been a seven percent reduction in at-risk students, or 1,800 students, in the last three years.

“In each one of these categories, if we move from at-risk to moderate, we see a 15 to 23 percent increase in GPA, or from satisfactory to optimal,” Poe said. “It works in reverse, so it’s very important if we’re in education, and we’re going to attack the academic achievement gap, this is how we do it.”

Dr. Karen Cheser, superintendent of Fort Thomas Independent Schools, said everyone is working toward the same goal.

“We are all trying to make sure that every student in Northern Kentucky and in the region is college- and career-ready,” Cheser said. “That doesn’t mean that we are just going to get them through high school graduation, but through that next level, so that every single one of our citizens can make a living wage and hopefully do the work that is their passion.”

The perception of a college education can differ greatly, depending on what people want to accomplish.

Some current statistics demonstrate the different paths people take to enter the workplace: 

• 19,000 high school students in Northern Kentucky;

• 68.9 percent could mark off one of the college- or career-ready measures;

• 195 had an internship;

• 15 apprenticeships;

• Below 50 percent graduation in postsecondary.

“College can mean four years, college can mean a two-year degree,” Cheser said. “It can mean a credential, it can be a certification, it can be postsecondary training and we want every single student to be ready for all of those options.”

About 18 months ago a direction-setting committee identified four objectives to help guide students toward college- or career-readiness.

The NKYEC career readiness coalition and GROW NKY have the shared goal of creating an umbrella for all of the work being done, in order to deliver a consistent message.

“Each objective has a team of anywhere from 15 to 30 people and we need you,” Cheser said. “We are all about action, we are going to get this work done.”

The objectives include:

• Awareness of high-need industry paths;

• Work-based learning experiences;

• Strength-finding;

• Access and success.

The group also identified some critical needs, if the objectives are to be achieved. These include funding, industry participation, and problem-solving with schools, on issues such as transportation and scheduling.

Dave Schroeder, director of the Kenton County Public Library, talked about advancing the big picture coalition.

One in a series of short videos provided by the Northern Kentucky Education Council at its Winter 2020 meeting. For more information on the NKYEC, click here.

“We were not one of the action teams, so we started from scratch and that’s a good thing,” Schroeder said. “We had to figure out what our role was going to be. We have been doing a series of articles – so far we have done kindergarten readiness, early childhood literacy and teacher recruitment.”

Dr. Karen Cheser, superintendent of Fort Thomas Independent Schools, addresses those in attendance at the NKYEC Winter Meeting at the Ignite Institute in Erlanger.

The coalition’s next project is to provide information on homelessness and how it impacts education, followed by articles on the 2020 U. S. Census and mental health.

“It doesn’t matter what school district you are in, private, public, parochial, our school districts are all dealing with mental health issues. That has an impact on our ability to educate our children,” Schroeder said.

Each article includes an outline of the issue, local examples and data, so people understand the issues and a national example, and concludes with a call to action.

The Northern Kentucky Tribune provides a platform for information shared by the coalitions and the latest installment can be viewed here.

Schroeder encouraged those in attendance to share the information in their networks.

“The more people who have eyes on the issue, the more people understand the issues we are facing and the challenges and the opportunities that we have in our school districts,” Schroeder said.

Mike Borchers, superintendent of Ludlow Schools, said there are a lot of internal initiatives in place focused on advocating for education.


A snapshot of the 2020 Northern Kentucky Education Council Winter Meeting. If you want the whole picture, reach out to the organization at nkyec.org for more information.

“We, as superintendents, work with the (NKYEC), to share that information,” Borchers said. “We work with the business community to share our view and we also take the view back from the business community, so I think we’ve had a real cohesive relationship for the last year.”

One important message that the region’s education leaders want to send to Frankfort is that there is a need to fund more initiatives, but not at the cost of existing programs.

“We support any program that we can enhance with new funding, but we can’t take away from the things that we currently have,” Borchers said.

At the conclusion of the NKYEC Winter Meeting, those in attendance were encouraged to attend breakout sessions.

Dan Cahill, CEO of HSD Metrics and Chair of the NKY Chamber of Commerce, spoke about the labor shortage in the region.

“Some of the folks argue that there is a gap in education, adult education and the economic pieces,” Cahill said. “The simple fact is, whoever you listen to, they’re probably correct.”

The consensus is that there is not one solution to the labor shortage. Cahill said the NKY Chamber’s “One Voice” strategy can help present a unified front that takes many of the factors into account.

“We need an all-hands-on-deck strategy to make sure that we continue to increase the labor pool in our community,” Cahill said. “When we bring these collaborative forces together, that the political force that we bring to Frankfort, as Northern Kentucky, as the voice of 480,000 residents, we do better together.”

At the conclusion of the meeting, those in attendance were encouraged to attend breakout sessions on the pillars for success and identify an area where there skills could help advance those initiatives.

Contact Mark Hansel at mark.hansel@nkytrib.com

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