Superintendent Randy Poe

Superintendent Randy Poe

FLORENCE – Service learning sounded like a superb world class education strategy to Superintendent Randy Poe until sixth-graders at Camp Ernest Middle

School proposed a beehive pollination project.

When Poe endorsed the project, they told him “we have to build them and place them on the roof,” he recalled.

“I’m sitting there thinking … OK, this is really great. What am I getting myself into now?”

What he was getting himself into was one of the most successful initiatives in Boone County Schools’ five-year strategic plan to make every student college, career and life ready by 2020. Poe provided an overview of the plan and progress update at the Florence Rotary Club meeting on June 12.

The instructional core of the strategic plan calls for resource optimization, student empowerment and world class education. Requiring students to participate in a service learning project or what educators call “passion-based learning” is one of ways Boone County is developing 10 skills the business community identified as essential to career success.

“Just a knowledge base will not get you there,” Poe said. Service learning projects not only involve students in the learning, but also empower them by teaching them how to put knowledge into effective action.

Service learning is “not just doing projects,” Poe added. “They have to be tied back to the classroom and learning.”

The curriculum, teachers and students comprise the instructional core of the strategic plan, according to Poe. “Resource optimization” puts a premium on hiring the best teachers and providing professional develop for bus drivers, cafeteria workers and all other staff.

Providing a world class education also puts responsibility on parents. Poe encourages parents to ask “what can I do and what can we partner together to do” to get a student who fails to meet achievement benchmarks back on track.

As a result, about 4,000 students are attending extended school this summer, Poe said.

In addition, every student in Boone County must participate in service learning on a once-a-year basis. Each of the 21,000 students in the school system, in which 62 languages are represented, must learn a foreign language.

That’s cause for another “what am I getting myself into” moment for Poe, too. “When I go into the restroom, students start speaking Spanish so I won’t know what they’re saying,” he said, smiling.

He’s certain what Boone County is getting itself into is a step closer to a world class education system. The bee hive project taught students the importance of time, temperature and sunlight to pollination and important uses of bee pollen.

“It turned out to be a fantastic project” Poe said. “… If you go to San Francisco now, every hotel you see will have bee hives on top.”

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