Advance Innovative Education, a Baton Rouge based human capital group, hosted an innovation panel discussion today as part of their alternative principal certification program. I came prepared to dive into adaptive content and the principal candidates wanted to talk about parents. Nearly all of the candidates work in schools as teachers or teacher leaders—they know we’re dealing with intertwined issues of instruction and culture. We need to invent new strategies to fulfill the good school promise–practices that link accountability and community organizing.

The panel was well versed in parent engagement and community building with Reverend Raymond Jetson leading the way. Jetson was a legislator and administrator before returning to the ministry. He leads the Baton Rouge Ministerial Association’s efforts to engage and inform parents—a terrific example of faith congregations working together to build community and support public education.

It was also a treat to catch up with Shirl Gilbert who was a superintendent in a nearby Tacoma when I was in Federal Way. Dr. Gilbert enthusiastically shared success stories of bringing parents into schools and making them partners in success. Gilbert is supporting the aggressive improvement work launched by Pastorek and Vallas in the Recovery School District.

Shree Medlock, BAEO, described her work with parents and advocacy for a private school scholarship program. Caroline Roemer, director of the state charter association, echoed the need to give voice and choice to parents. Representative Steve Carter was there showing support  and encouraged  principals to become political advocates.

AIE has taken successful alternative teacher and principal certification programs and kicked them up a notch. During a four week summer session at LSU, principal candidates spend a week exploring social entrepreneurship with B-school profs.

Kristy Hebert and AIE are also leading the planning effort for two innovative new charter high schools in downtown Baton Rouge.

Despite the steamy weather, it was refreshing to spend the day with mission driven folks making a difference.

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Tom Vander Ark is author of Difference Making at the Heart of Learning, The Power of Place, Better Together, Smart Parents, Smart Cities and Getting Smart. He is co-founder of Getting Smart and serves on the boards of Education Board Partners, 4.0 Schools, Digital Learning Institute, Latinx Education Collaborative, Mastery Transcript Consortium and eduInnovation. Follow Tom on Twitter, @tvanderark.


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