Grand Island Public Schools
123 South Webb Road
Grand Island, NE 68802
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Four GIPS schools receive TrueSchool Innovation Fellowship


Educators at four Grand Island Public Schools elementary schools will learn how to lead the way in improving equity, academic achievement, social-emotional supports and 21st century learning for their students, thanks to the $60,000 TrueSchool Innovation Fellowship.

Fifteen Nebraska schools were chosen for the Fellowship. Newell, Knickrehm, Gates and Engleman elementary schools were selected from GIPS and will each receive $15,000 toward targeted professional development. The project, fully funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, is an intensive, collaborative effort aimed at improving literacy among students, pre-kindergarten to third grade.

“The TrueSchool grant is another opportunity to align our actions to our strategic plan,” said GIPS Superintendent Dr. Tawana Grover. “We are empowering instructional leaders and building capacity to transform educational experience for students.”

TrueSchool, based in New Orleans, is a professional learning organization focused on developing educators as designers and leaders of transformational 21st century schools. Over the last five years, they have worked with more than 100 school teams across the country, providing programmatic and coaching support to reimagine the learning experience and navigate a school design and change process.

“We are excited with the way TrueSchool will push our leaders to move innovative ideas into innovative action,” said GIPS Chief Transformation Officer Dr. Josh McDowell. “We have great things happening at all GIPS schools. This grant will help grow our principals and their teams to be better at implementing new ideas and initiatives for better student success.”

Selected schools for the Fellowship will each create teams made up of three to six members, including the principal and at least two teacher leaders. These teams, with the assistance of TrueSchool’s specialized program and experienced coaches, will “lead a school-wide innovation effort with a focus on equity, academic achievement, social-emotional support and 21st century learning,” said TrueSchool CEO Amy Vreeland. “Educators working on the ground know their school, student and community needs best. We provide the time, process and support to enable their leadership potential to flourish and their bold ideas to come to life.”

The $15,000 per school covers the full cost of year-long programming and coaching support. The Fellowship will also encourage collaboration and networking with educators across the state.

Knickrehm Elementary principal Kelly Klanecky said she’s excited about collaborating and gaining ideas and strategies from other educators in Nebraska through the Fellowship.

“The TrueSchool Fellowship will help us develop leadership skills as we look for ways to innovate at Knickrehm,” Klanecky said.

Engleman Principal Jennifer Lohrberg said the Fellowship allows more opportunities to further develop teacher leadership and innovation around student-centered learning and success.

“This will benefit Engleman by providing a framework and resources for our teacher leaders to engage in a design process that takes the assets of GIPS even further for student success,” Lohrberg said. “Any opportunity for our educators to collaborate and contribute to the local, state and even national education community is exciting.”

The chosen participants in Nebraska represent a mixture of suburban, urban and rural school districts from across the state. Of the 5,318 students attending these academic institutions, 1,666 are minority students, while 4,036 are white. A majority of students of the chosen schools receive free or reduced lunch.

Newell Elementary Principal Nate Balcom said the TrueSchool fellowship will help the school meet several of the goals in the district’s strategic plan.

“The TrueSchool Fellowship excites me because of its focus on empowering teachers to make powerful changes in their teaching,” Balcom said. “It will bring a partnership and a wealth of resources and strategies, coupled with empathy for students that will increase student achievement at Newell.”

Gates Elementary Principal Julie Martin said it’s an honor that Gates was selected for the Fellowship.

“This is a great opportunity to build leadership and capacity in our own school. I love how this is concentrated on our own individual school and community needs,” Martin said.

“The professional learning component focuses on our next steps based on school, parent and community input,” Martin said. “What an amazing opportunity for Gates and the other GIPS schools.”

The complete list of selected schools, all elementary schools, include: Betz, Twin Ridge, and Twin Springs in Bellevue School District; A.B. Newell, Engleman, Gates, and Knickrehm in Grand Island Public School District; Humboldt Table Rock Steinauer Elementary in Humboldt Table Rock Steinauer Unified School District; Ezra Millard, Rockwell, Wheeler, and Willowdale in Millard Public Schools; Mullen Elementary in Mullen Public Schools; Norris Elementary in Norris School District; and Chapman Elementary in Northwest Public Schools.

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