For Hamilton Southeastern Schools Supt. Allen Bourff, the school district direction took shape before his arrival.
Before he became superintendent in January 2015, Bourff said stakeholders got to together in 2011 to discuss how the schools would work with the disruption of technology.
“Together, they sat down and crafted what turned out to be a mission of the school corporation,” Bourff said during a State of the Schools presentation at the OneZone Chamber luncheon Sept. 13. “In that model, we recognize that the student should be the center of our operations. Students come from different points when they come through the door. You can’t just approach the needs of all of them with a standard operation, so we attempt to personalize. We did this in the presence of state and international standards. Our curriculum is rigorous. We also look at the bottom line, which is how students transfer their learning to real-world problems. How do they take what they’ve done in the classroom and bring it to some kind of conclusion outside the classroom? We are very much an inquiry-driven system.”
Bourff said classroom conditions have changed dramatically with the construction of the College and Career Academy.
“We strive to create an environment where struggle is not viewed as incompatible with success,” Bourff said. “Sometimes it takes hard work to get to where you want to be. We want students to recognize that joy doesn’t just come from just having fun, it comes from the satisfaction of accomplishing what you set out to do. We want them to see that failure is viewed not so much as an assessment, but as a lesson.”
Bourff said it takes special instructors to do that kind of thing.
“That’s what we hope the students are seeing in their classrooms,” he said. “The big picture for us is to create to inquisitive learners who think deeply and creatively about the content we present, collaborators who not only work with people locally but people globally, competent internet users who know how to access technology information and know the difference between fact and fiction on the internet, adept users of digital technology who can create presentations, present new learnings that their audience has never seen and who are responsible users of technology, safely using technology and producing products that are safe for others to use.”
Bourff said it’s important schools prepare the students for beyond the classroom.
“The Launch Fishers concept has enabled us to connect so many of our students with the entrepreneurs and innovators, especially in the technology area, and it’s changed the trajectory of so many of our students’ plan,” Bourff said. “This has been possible only with the vision of our mayor and our city council. We are forever grateful for that partnership because it’s not found in every school/city relationship.”