Concord Community Schools Corporation
Concord Community Schools: An Empowering Vision for Scholastic Success
Business View interviews representatives of Columbia County School District, for our focus on innovative and successful school districts in North America.
Results-Oriented, Data Driven Approach Tells a Triumph of Progress at Concord Community Schools
For a school district, nurturing student growth while also profoundly influencing the broader community is an extraordinary mission.
Success requires a blend of dedication, innovation, and community engagement. This means fostering an environment where every student thrives and becomes future-ready.
The goal is to make each school a dynamic ecosystem where educators and administrators work synergistically to create an atmosphere conducive to learning and growth. The pursuit of knowledge intertwines seamlessly with employability skills, such as perseverance and collaboration, that extend beyond graduation.
One district in particular, located at the heart of Concord township, is working hard to accomplish all of the above and more. It recognizes that investing in education means investing in future leaders, citizens, and the workforce.
Through strategic partnerships and collaborative initiatives, Concord Community Schools are creating a ripple effect that is causing positive change in the classroom and beyond..
By nurturing an environment that encourages staff to students challenge students to test their limits and play an active role in the world they are destined to influence.
The Principles of Concord Teaching and Learning
Founded in 1926, Concord Community Schoolsencompasses portions of Elkhart County, including unincorporated Dunlap. Despite the absence of an independent city identity, the school district has evolved to play a central role in connecting and serving the local community.
With that comes a responsibility to ensure students become active and productive members of their community, a duty that is staunchly reflected in the relationship between teachers and students.
Concord High School Principal Dr. Seth Molnar explains this, saying, “We have well-defined instructional non-negotiables that we need our teachers to be doing each day. We’re very systematic about introducing those to staff, and we’re teaching them through professional development to make sure that we see that in their classrooms”
Each of the non-negotiables is designed to align classroom instruction with the belief that all students are capable of learning at high levels, and that time and effort are the variables to their success.
Among these non-negotiables, a primary principle is that teachers should be building positive relationships with their students. This expectation sets the foundation and synergizes well with the following principles, including the gradual release learning model.
This three-step learning model initially presents the teacher as the demonstrator of anything that needs to be learned. Next, the teacher works collaboratively with students to help them better understand the concept. Finally, the teacher allows the students time on their own to grapple with what they’ve just been taught.
“We’re guiding students along on what we want them to do in the classroom expectation-wise; I do – we do – you do,” Molnar says. These instructional principles were clearly designed to be complementary because once students tackle concepts on their own, teachers must follow through on the next principle, which is to always conduct a check of understanding.
This ensures a high level of teaching and learning where students are engaged and comprehending their lessons, and if they aren’t, teachers are encouraged to see that as an opportunity to intervene and re-teach.
When combined, all of the above sets the stage for the next two principles of the dynamic lecture classroom and the teacher as the facilitator. These two non-negotiables coupled together ensure that lessons are taught in a more interactive style that is designed to keep students engaged in their learning..
As a result, lectures are more of a discussion where students are asked deep questions that require critical thinking, as opposed to shallow recall and memorization.
When stacked together, these principles all feed into the outcome that all teachers are directed to guide students toward, which is student ownership.
“We want them to feel that the biggest determiner in their success is themselves… that they believe in themselves and that the teachers believe in them as well,” Molnar explains.
A Curriculum for Future-Ready Graduates
Concord’s emphasis on autonomy and proactive learning can also be found within its course offerings. .
There is an unspoken understanding that a one-size-fits-all approach is not what students need to thrive in the outside world. Students at Concord are presented with opportunities to explore careers, take Advanced Placement and college preparatory classes, and even complete Associate’s Degrees while still in high school.
On the more traditional academic path, students can gain a head start and begin earning up to 30 college credits before they ever set foot on a college campus.
Of course, college isn’t meant for everyone. So, students also have the option of pursuing paths that get them into suitable work placements for the types of trades or occupations they envision themselves in. An almost 50-year partnership with the Elkhart County Career Center presents its students with a variety of paths they can pursue, ranging from health services to robotics.
We understand that our responsibility is to not just get somebody to graduate, but to become an effective member of this community, whether that’s through college credentialing or high school credentialing with some viable certificate so they can enter into this workforce,” Molnar explains.
In addition to the traditional education pathway, there are paths in STEM, advanced manufacturing, business management, marketing, human and social services, BioMed, digital design, engineering, and construction.
Many of these paths are work-based and result in students getting hands-on experience inside hospitals, digital design firms, construction offices, and the like. What’s even more incredible is that many of these pathways often end up meeting the needs of the local economy.
“We see a lot of need just in terms of responding to our local community,” explains Superintendent Dan Funston, “ [it] needs a lot of carpenters and people that know how to frame walls, and we’ve just seen growth in our construction pathway.”
According to Funston, to help support the local economy, Concord even recently invested $4.5 million into a brand new construction and engineering building to prepare the next generation of craftsmen and builders.
A Series of Savvy School Investments
The new construction building is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to where Concord has been investing its resources. Over the years, the district has made a series of investments to expand opportunities for students and help resolve the shortage of teachers that has recently become more prevalent across the country.
In terms of infrastructure, the district has already invested in improving air quality, updating classroom furnishings, refreshing technology, and making needed repairs to ensure schools and classrooms are conducive to learning.
The most notable investment, however, absolutely revolves around school safety. “When we consider our needs, the first thing we consider is student safety. So, in 2019, Concord was one of the first [districts] to establish our own police department,” Funston explains.
The district has its own Police Chief and officers who operate within the district grounds and departments. This way, in the event of any emergency, students will have a dedicated police force at their schools all the time.
Beyond these investments, the district also has initiatives in place to help ensure that its community doesn’t lack dedicated teaching staff in the near future.
“We’ve started to grow our own teacher preparation program through an apprenticeship program we have a partnership with called Horizon Education Alliance,” Funston says. HEAis an Elkhart County nonprofit that, alongside Concord, has established itself as a national leader in the apprenticeship model.
Concord, in partnership with HEA, is working to strengthen its educational workforce in three ways.
First, there is a program where students can actually serve in a paid apprenticeship role as a paraprofessional or instructional assistant. This both addresses the instructional assistant shortage and gives students a glimpse into what it’s like to be a teacher.
The last method involves improving current teacher retention, which Concord does in a number of ways. One of them involves utilizing instructional coaches to support teachers in the classrooms, as a strong foundation of support is one of the pillars of employee retention.
In addition to these three key strategies, the district also ensures that teachers are well compensated in comparison to others in the county. “We have one of the highest starting salaries in the county as well as one of the highest top salaries in the county,” Funston says.
Concord is a results-oriented, data-centered organization. Leadership emphasizes short- and long-term goal setting and is dedicated to monitoring progress along the way. This deep dive into data is evident in teacher collaboration meetings where staff review and discuss student achievement data, and district-level surveys measure employee engagement tied to employee retention.
Overall, it’s safe to say that the Concord Community School Corporation has multiple bases covered. The nuances of a school district’s philosophy have positively shaped the experiences of everyone on campus.
The result is an all-around safe environment where not only students feel valued but teachers as well.
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AT A GLANCE
Concord Community Schools Corporation
What: A visionary academic institution dedicated to fostering student success, community engagement, and career readiness.
Where: Concord Township, Elkhart County, Indiana