Monday, December 22, 2014

Happy Holidays from Owensboro Public Schools

As a an educator this Christmas, I cannot help but think about Malala Yousafzai the winner of this year’s Nobel Prize for Peace.  She is the Pakistani girl who risked her life to attend school.  Her boldness has led to subsequent violence by militants directed at schools and school children in Pakistan. 

Her determination and grit to push the boundaries to attain an education is an inspiration to all of us that work every day to educate the children in our little corner of the world.  Her commitment to education is the same commitment I see in the faces of staff members in our schools.  Many thanks to the staff of the Owensboro Public Schools for pushing the boundaries as we educate  the whole child.

Happy Holidays!

Nick Brake

Beth Benjamin chosen to lead Owensboro Innovation Academy

Beth Benjamin has been selected to lead Owensboro’s New Tech High School called Owensboro Innovation Academy.

“I am excited and grateful for this opportunity to serve both the students and the community in this capacity,” said Beth Benjamin, Head Teacher, Owensboro Innovation Academy.


Benjamin currently serves as the Owensboro Public School’s College and Career Readiness Coordinator.  She has also taught mathematics and served as a Guidance Counselor at Owensboro Middle School.  She holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Kentucky Wesleyan College, a Master’s Degree from Western Kentucky University in School Counseling and Rank I from Indiana Wesleyan University in Curriculum.

“Beth possesses the perfect combination of talents as a teacher, counselor and administrator to take on the challenge of being the inaugural leader of the Innovation Academy as it grows.  She is passionate about the students and the mission of the school,” said Dr. Nick Brake, OPS Superintendent.

The search committee that selected Benjamin consisted of representatives from Owensboro Public Schools, Daviess County Public Schools, the Economic Development Cooperation, and the Owensboro Community and Technical College. 

“In order to properly start a new school and ensure its success for years to come, the committee was looking for a visionary leader and also a detail planner.  Beth Benjamin showed these traits as well as a sincere and infectious passion.  Her belief in empowering students to build a culture of trust, respect, and responsibility will fuel the fire for the Owensboro Innovation Academy.  While we had excellent candidates and the decision was not easy, Beth’s energy and dedication were very impressive,” said Dr. Matthew Constant, OPS Chief Academic Officer.

Benjamin will be the leader of Owensboro Innovation Academy, much like a principal.  There will be four other teachers at this small stand-alone high school located in the basement of the Center For Business and Research.    Over 80 8th graders have signed up to attend Owensboro Innovation Academy.

“We are so pleased with the selection of Beth Benjamin as head teacher at the Owensboro Innovation Academy. Her background in College and Career Readiness will be a great asset to the academy and to the students it serves from across the Owensboro-Daviess County community,” said Owens Saylor, DCPS Superintendent.

Benjamin will start in January.  The other Owensboro Innovation Academy teachers will soon be hired and also start planning for the opening of the new school in fall of 2015.

“I will work to make Owensboro Innovation Academy a place where students empower their own learning to become college and career ready while receiving the skills needed in a high-tech, digital world,” said Benjamin.

Friday, November 21, 2014

American Education Week


Happy American Education Week! 


This week presents us with a wonderful opportunity to celebrate public education and honor each of you for what you do every day to make a difference to ensure that every child receives a quality education.

We are truly blessed in the Owensboro Public Schools to have some of the finest students, most committed educators, supportive staff, involved parents, and engaged board of education and community.

I would like to personally thank all of you for playing such an important role in changing the lives of the students we serve. Our collective work to advance public education in the Owensboro community by educating the whole child does not simply serve the community, it creates the community of the future.

“What greater gift can we offer the republic than to teach and instruct our youth.” -Cicero, Roman philosopher and orator, 106 BC- 43 BC. 

Thank you again for the gift you are to our students and community! 

Business incubator site is proposed location for Innovation Academy

The Owensboro Public Schools are finalizing negotiations with the City of Owensboro to locate the inaugural Owensboro Innovation Academy in the lower level of the Centre for Business and Research.

The Owensboro Innovation Academy will become a reality in Fall 2015 with a freshman class of no more that 100 students.   The enrollment process has begun for Owensboro Public School students as well as for partner districts including Daviess and surrounding counties.


Pending final approval of the lease by the Owensboro Board of Education in December, the Innovation Academy campus will be located in the Centre for Business and Research at 1010 Allen Street.  The Centre for Business and Research is a business incubator and research facility that meets the growing demand for lab, research and office space in Owensboro.  The center nurtures research, business, and technology and cultivates innovation.  The facility is a perfect partnership fit for the new Owensboro Innovation Academy classrooms.

Madison Silvert, president of the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation said the EDC is proud to be a part of this bold endeavor to cultivate the future workforce alongside our growing entrepreneurial community. 

“Having the two together will build relationships, new innovations in education and create a pipeline of opportunity for both students and Owensboro businesses,” said Madison Silvert, EDC President.

The Owensboro Innovation Academy will be a small stand-alone high school that uses hands-on project-based learning, with an emphasis on technical and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) curriculum. Students will be geared toward college readiness. Programs are aligned to degrees at the Owensboro Community & Technical College.  The school is affiliated with the New Tech Network, a nationwide consortium of 134 schools in 23 states.  Students graduate with a Kentucky high school diploma.

In October, guidance counselors in the partnering school districts began presenting information about the new academy to middle school students and parents, and response has been very positive.  Approximately 70 students have registered.  A Head Teacher will soon be selected to lead the academy.

“The small size of the academy promotes a positive culture of trust, respect, and responsibility.  Students have exceptional ownership of their learning experience and environment and the CBR space is a perfect fit for creating this culture and building the workforce of the future.  This hands-on approach is at the heart of the classroom at the Innovation Academy.  Students collaborate on projects that require critical thinking and communication.  By making learning relevant in this way, student engagement is high,” said Dr. Nick Brake, OPS Superintendent.

The smart use of technology supports the innovative approach to instruction and culture.  All classrooms have a 1-to-1 computer/student ratio.  With Web access and the latest in collaborative learning technology, every student becomes a self-directed learner. 

“This project relates directly to our guiding principle of providing a world-class education to students. Any opportunities we can provide for students to experience different ways and exciting ways to learn are beneficial to both districts. From the very genesis of this project, OPS and DCPS have been partners, collaboratively submitting the grant to the Public Life Foundation, which resulted in the initial funding. We’ve continued working closely together to ready both districts for the initiation of this program. We value our partnership and look forward to the innovative career and technical opportunities this program will provide to many students in the Owensboro-Daviess County community,” said Owens Saylor, DCPS Superintendent.

Every Innovation Academy student must choose a postsecondary pathway that engages him/her in a career-oriented technical program or a college-learning pathway.   The following pathways are available to students in the Innovation Academy:

·    Computer Information Technology Pathway
·    Life Sciences, Bio-Medical Pathway
·    Industrial Engineering Pathway
·    Entrepreneurship and Innovation Pathway

The Owensboro Innovation Academy is part of the Owensboro Public School District, but is also part of a consortium that includes Daviess County Public Schools, surrounding districts, colleges and universities, and the business community led by the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Corporation.  Enrollment in the school is open to students from all participating school districts.  The Innovation Academy is possible because of support from the Kentucky Department of Education’s District of Innovation Program and the Public Life Foundation of Owensboro.


New Tech Network (NTN) is a non-profit organization that helps high school students gain the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in life, college, and the careers of tomorrow. It works nationwide with 134 schools in 23 states and Australia to provide services and support that enable schools to implement innovative high schools that promote deeper learning.  The Owensboro Innovation Academy is the first New Tech school in Kentucky. New Tech schools create a rigorous and engaging high school experience that features project-based learning, use of technology, and a positive empowering school culture. Learn more at the NTN website: http://www.newtechnetwork.org

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Board seeks to expand preschool program, seeking input on options

The Owensboro Board of Education is seeking to expand the opportunities for early childhood education in the district.  Over the next few weeks the board is seeking input for exactly how that expansion should take place. 

Among the options include an expansion to the current Hager Preschool facility that would add four classrooms and add capacity to accommodate up to about 70 additional students at a cost of approximately $1.2 million. 

This addition is part of the district facility plan that also includes renovations to three district elementary schools.  The total cost of all high priority projects is about $12 million.  This district currently has about $10 million in bonding capacity.

The other option being considered is to allow expansion of pre-kindergarten classrooms at a limited number of district elementary schools, which would also allow the district to serve additional students both at the school level and at Hager.

Over the past several years preschool enrollment at Hager has grown from 284 in 2008-09 to a high of 396 in 2013-14.  The capacity of the current Hager Preschool is 360. 

Enrollment pressures have spilled over into classroom space at Foust Elementary to accommodate the overflow of Hager students.  This year, for the first time, Estes Elementary hosted a classroom of morning and afternoon preschool students.

The board has demonstrated a strong commitment to the expansion of pre-kindergarten education to increase access to a larger number of un-served four-year-old students.  

There are numerous examples of statewide universal pre-kindergarten programs for four-year-olds in the U.S. as well as Canada and Europe. These four-year-old programs have shown very positive results in a number of studies.

District data indicates that approximately two-thirds of kindergarten students attend preschool, half of which attend Hager.  The remaining third equaled 144 students in 2013-2014 that entered kindergarten without attending preschool.   Serving these 144 students in addition to the bulging enrollment at Hager would require an additional six classrooms in the district.

The overarching goal of the board and district is to expand access while honoring the integrity and quality of the Hager Preschool program.  Hager is an accredited program that has a proven track record of meeting the needs of the students of the district.

The partnership that Hager has with the Audubon Area Head Start is also an important component of the program.  This partnership provides educational programs and resources to serve three-year-old students in the district.    It is not anticipated that the expansion will change the relationship the district has with Head Start in providing services to preschool students.

During this fact gathering stage, the board will thoughtfully and objectively examine all aspects of the program with the goal of determining how best to serve as many students as possible with a high quality early childhood experience.   



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Board of Education considers expansions at Sutton and other elementary schools

The Owensboro Board of Education will consider approval of new elementary athletic and performing arts centers at Thursday’s monthly board meeting at 4:30 at the Board of Education.
The athletic and performing arts centers (APAC) will consist of fine arts facilities, a gym, additional classroom space, a new family resource center, resource room, and additional improvements at three elementary schools, beginning with Sutton Elementary School next year.

“Sutton, Cravens, and Newton Parrish Elementary Schools are in need of additional space and upgraded facilities as our enrollment continues to climb.  We are looking at building similar APAC facilities at each school.  We will begin with Sutton, which is the oldest elementary school in our district.  With board approval, we hope to begin that project after the first of the year,” Dr. Nick Brake, OPS Superintendent.

"These additions will continue to elevate the role that the fine and performing arts play in our district," said Brake.  "The performance space and music rooms will allow for more school-wide performance space and expanded capacity in our arts programs."

The project cost for Sutton is expected to be $3,360,000.  The APAC addition will have two classrooms, but will also free up other existing classrooms so that the school could accommodate an additional 100 students.  The gymnasium will include seating space and a new stage.  The media center will be moved to the pavilions currently being used for physical education.  The Cravens and Newton Parrish remodeling additions will contain similar facilities and are expected to take place the following year.


Sutton was built in 1951 and has a current enrollment of 409 students.  Cravens was built in 1957 and serves 323 students.  Newton Parrish was built in 1958 and has 422 students.  All three schools have undergone renovations throughout the years, and have been well maintained.  These additions will give these schools much needed space. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Enrollment process has begun for the Owensboro Innovation Academy

The Owensboro Innovation Academy will become a reality in Fall 2015 and the enrollment process has begun for Owensboro Public School students as well as for partner districts including Daviess, Hancock and McLean counties.  In October, guidance counselors in the partnering school districts began presenting information about the new academy to middle school students and parents, response has been very positive.  Online registration numbers have already reached 250 students.  

The Owensboro Innovation Academy will be a small stand-alone high school that uses hands-on project-based learning, with an emphasis on technical and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) curriculum. Students will be geared toward college readiness. Programs are aligned to degrees at the Owensboro Community & Technical College. Opening in 2015, the school is affiliated with the New Tech Network, a nationwide consortium of 134 schools in 23 states. Students graduate with a Kentucky high school diploma.

The small size promotes a positive culture of trust, respect, and responsibility.  Students have exceptional ownership of their learning experience and environment.  This “hands-on” approach is at the heart of the classroom at the Innovation Academy. Students collaborate on projects that require critical thinking and communication. By making learning relevant in this way, student engagement is high. The smart use of technology supports the innovative approach to instruction and culture.  All classrooms have a 1-to-1 computer/student ratio.  With Web access and the latest in collaborative learning technology, every student becomes a self-directed learner. 

Every Innovation Academy student must choose a postsecondary pathway that engages him/her in a career-oriented technical program or a college-learning pathway.   The following pathways are available to students in the Innovation Academy:
·    Computer Information Technology Pathway
·    Life Sciences, Bio-Medical Pathway
·    Industrial Technology Pathway
·    Entrepreneurship and Innovation Pathway
·    Early College Pathway

The Owensboro Innovation Academy is part of the Owensboro Public School District, but is also part of a consortium that includes Daviess County Public Schools, Hancock County Public Schools, McLean County Public Schools, colleges and universities, and the business community led by the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Corporation.  Enrollment in the school is open to students from all participating school districts.  The Innovation Academy is possible because of support from the Kentucky Department of Education’s District of Innovation program and the Public Life Foundation of Owensboro.

New Tech Network (NTN) is a non-profit organization that helps high school students gain the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in life, college, and the careers of tomorrow. It works nationwide with 134 schools in 23 states and Australia to provide services and support that enable schools to implement innovative high schools that promote deeper learning.  The Owensboro Innovation Academy is the first New Tech school in Kentucky. New Tech schools create a rigorous and engaging high school experience that features project-based learning, use of technology, and a positive empowering school culture. Learn more at the NTN website: http://www.newtechnetwork.org

Frequently asked questions include:

When do students enter the Innovation Academy?  In 2015-16, the academy will begin accepting 9th grade students who will attend through high school graduation.

What is the cost to the student?  There is no cost except for student fees, which is similar to all local high schools.

Where will the campus be located?  The location of the Innovation Academy is in the planning stages and will be announced as soon as possible.  It is expected be at an independent site not on an existing school campus.

Will the student receive a diploma from his or her home school?  Yes, all Innovation Academy students will be enrolled at their home high schools in conjunction with Innovation Academy enrollment.  Each student will receive a diploma from his/her home high school.

Can Innovation Academy students participate in athletics, band, and other extra-curricular activities? 
Yes, the Innovation Academy will have some student organizations and extra-curricular activities.  Students also have the option to participate in athletics, band, or other activities with their home high schools.

Will students attend any classes at their home high schools?  Students will spend the vast majority of their time at the Innovation Academy; however, students are permitted to attend courses at their home high school that are not offered at the Innovation Academy. 

What calendar and schedule will Innovation Academy follow?  The Innovation Academy will operate on the Owensboro Public Schools’ schedule and calendar, including cancellation due to inclement weather.

Will transportation be provided to the Innovation Academy?  Yes, school districts involved in the partnership will provide transportation to Innovation Academy. The only exception to this would be due to inclement weather when the Innovation Academy has classes and the student’s home district does not. 

            Students and parents may contact Owensboro Public Schools’ College and Career Counselor Beth Benjamin at Beth.Benjamin@owensboro.kyschools.us, (270) 686-1110 or their school counselor for more information.