State school chief talks about priorities

Date: 6/15/2017 through 6/15/2017

June 15, 2017

New state school chief Jennifer McCormick said Thursday she's trying to stay focused on "the big picture."

For McCormick, a former Yorktown school superintendent, it means she's tracking financial resources flowing to from federal and state levels.

McCormick spoke at Hobart High School during a Ready NWI summer institute for area educators. Ready NWI is seven-county grass roots effort to better align employers, educators, colleges and workforce development officials.

"I've been in this position 156 days," said McCormick, a Republican who defeated Democrat Glenda Ritz last year. "I know how much work we have to get done and how time goes so quickly."

Following the money, McCormick said she has identified four academic areas to focus on: STEM or science, technology, engineering and math, CTE or career technical education programs, reading, and college course opportunities.

"We see where the resources are going and it's important to capture as many as we can," she said.

McCormick joined a panel including Mike Barnes, of the state's Workforce Development department, and Josh Garrison, an official with the Commission on Higher Education.

Barnes said Workforce Development is establishing 10-year data projections to fill about 1 million jobs. About one-third is replacements, while one-third represents new growth.

His department found employers felt educators weren't always listening to their needs.

The three panelists said the state agencies are finally breaking down the barriers that isolated them.

"If we have conversations in silos, we're in danger of developing one-dimensional students," said McCormick.

"We've been sent mixed message – send everyone to a four-year college. Now, we're told they don't need four-year degrees."

Garrison said given the territorial nature of government, it's been difficult to break some barriers. He said improvements have happened in the past year.

"Those walls have been broken down in last year," he said. "We're trying to make the connection with workforce is something we work on every day."

Linda Woloshansky, president and CEO of the Center of Workforce Innovations, said Ready NWI got its start six years ago when six area superintendents began meeting with six large employers. "Our agenda was compatible. We were all interested in student success and workforce development."

She said group leaders grew to understand the importance of assessment and the significance of data.

Article by Carole Carlson, a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.

© Copyright 2017, Post-Tribune 

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