VWSD teaming up with Ford Next Generation Learning

Published 9:59 am Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Vicksburg Warren School District and the Ford Motor Co. began its partnership Monday when Ford Next Generation Learning launched the first phase of a five-phase, approximately three-year program, the aim of which is to transform existing secondary education here into an educational program that prepares students for life, college and other careers.

The results of the program, Ford facilitators said, would be students better prepared for college and careers and the community’s labor force would be strengthened for the future.

Teachers and administrators from the district joined a number from the community — about 100 in all — including their colleagues from Hinds Community College and Alcorn State University Vicksburg and members of the Vicksburg-Warren County business community to help identify needs and goals and begin mapping out a pathway to make those things a reality.

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The Vicksburg school district chose to partner with the Ford Motor Co. program after several school district leaders visited Nashville and attended a program on what Ford Next Generation Learning is accomplishing in that city’s school district, said Lucy DeRossette, career and technical education administrator for the VWSD.

“What we saw in Nashville, we knew we could do here as a school district, but what we don’t know is how to engage the community,” she said. “When people hear Ford Motor Co., they tend to listen. We need them to get business and industry involved. That’s been the breakdown in Vicksburg for years.”

DeRossette said Ford Motor Co. began the initiative in cities in which it had manufacturing facilities in an effort to boost the number and quality of workers available to it. Ford Next Generation Learning came about because of that effort.

Like the Franklin Covey Leader in Me program, which the school district has contracted with for several years in several of its elementary schools, Ford Next Generation will charge fees for its services, DeRossette said.

“We’re not exactly sure what it is going to cost, but they have told us it could be anywhere from $80,000 to $180,000 for the three-year program,” she said. Basically, the fees cover the cost of the program’s facilitators.

The Vicksburg Warren Chamber of Commerce has agreed to act as the “fiduciary agent” between the school district and Ford Next Generation, DeRossette said.

Carl Leiterman, a Ford Next Generation coach, said the next step would be to sign contracts for the program.

The $20,000 cost to date for the program, which included the two-day program that started Monday, is being paid for as a gift from the Mississippi Department of Education.

“They (MDE) has decided they want the Vicksburg Warren School District to be the shining star in the state,” in terms of career and technical education, DeRossette said. The remainder of the funds will come from donations from the business community and from school district funds, she said.

Leiterman said the first phase will last between one and three months and is aimed at getting teachers and community members to understand the benefits and features of transforming secondary education with Ford’s community-driven approach.

“We’re here because Vicksburg has the right leadership in place on the district, business and community levels” to embrace the program, Leiterman said.

He said Ford Motor Co. has long had an interest in improving education.

“Henry Ford established over 50 technical schools,” Leiterman said. “On a national level, there are about 50 of us, all die-hard change agents who mostly come from an education background.”

Paula Chaoh, who is a Ford Next Generation coach and designer, said community-driven transformation means transforming how teachers teach and students learn, transforming the secondary education experience and transforming business and civic engagement with students and the school district.

“We are all in this together. We all have a mutual responsibility” for education, she said.

Participants went through a number of breakout activities during the day, including identifying what the district does well now, and where it has room for improvement.

On Tuesday, only teachers and school administrators return for the second-day of the program’s launch.