Thursday, November 27, 2014

Horizon details broader goals

Posted on Sept. 17, 2012 at 1:00 a.m.

ELKHART — Details of how the Horizon Education Alliance plans to enhance education in Elkhart County are coming together.

The Alliance’s board met Friday morning largely to discuss strategies for meeting its six board goals.

The board wants to have every child in Elkhart Country “kindergarten ready” by age 5 by 2022, and every child to be socially, physically and academically ready for high school by the end of the student’s eighth-grade year by 2025. Within 15 years, the board would like to see all students graduate from high school and attain a post-secondary degree or certificate. Within 20 years, the board wants to establish a culture of lifelong learning, for each child to have a parent or caregiver engaged in that child’s learning and to have a creative, educated and highly-skilled workforce in Elkhart County. The board’s overarching objective is to achieve those goals by bringing together all sectors of the community — businesses, not-for-profits, and others.

On Friday morning, the board — composed of local school superintendents and business leaders — affirmed several strategies and more detailed benchmark goals to meet the broader six goals.

Those strategies include educating parents of newborns about proper baby care and engagement, building up academically challenging high school programs and developing a coaching program to help students understand the connection between “success in school and success in life.”

The board’s goals provide the bones of a 31-page document outlining how the board will work to meet its goals, who is responsible for each piece of the project and tentative dates for completion.

Several of the suggested plans include more broadly integrating several programs already used in some Elkhart County schools, including Tools of the Mind, which promotes self-regulated classroom behaviors, Olweus Bullying Prevention and the childhood music and movement program Music Together, while also creating some brand new programs.

Committees of Alliance board members and some community members will each examine an individual area of education. Those committees and Horizon’s future staff members will continue to change and shape the operational plans as they examine different programs and further study Elkhart County. Aliah Carolan-Silva, who has worked as a research fellow at Goshen College’s Center for Intercultural Teaching and Learning, is slated to lead research and assessment. Her work will help define where Elkhart County is in terms of the goals and what good benchmark goals would be.

People need to realize that this is a “multi-year, multi-decade effort,” said Brian Wiebe, who becomes Horizon’s executive director on Oct. 1. “Some of these things will take many years.”

Wiebe hopes to have at least some programs started in early 2013. What piece Horizon focuses on first will be determined by what funding is available, he said.

As Horizon begins programs, school corporations will be able to chose what Horizon initiatives to take on.

Goshen, Middlebury, Elkhart, Concord and Baugo school corporations are all participating in the alliance, which formed in January. The alliance came together to carry out the recommendations from the Horizon 2.0 education committee, which presented its findings after several years of researching the need for further educational support in Elkhart County.

The group has gained support from local schools and the Elkhart County prosecutor, among others, while also facing some opposition, including from a local tea party group.

The board talked Friday morning about how some community members don’t understand what Horizon is or its vision.

Board members pointed out that what it is will become more clear as its tactics and programming plans are established. Alliance leaders will also be making presentations to local schools, non-profits and other community groups.

At the same time, Horizon is also preparing for its first two staff members, Wiebe and Carolan-Silva, to officially begin work Oct. 1. Those two and other future staff members will work out of a formal office space, which the alliance is currently deciding where to establish, Wiebe said.