A group of people standing against a wall, with one of them holding a glass trophy.

The Hopkins County School District was named the recipient of the (Kentucky Board of Education’s) KBE’s 2023 Kevin C. Brown Strategic Priority Award. Participating in the ceremony were, from left, Robin Fields Kinney, interim commissioner of education; Sharon Porter Robinson, KBE chair; April Devine, Hopkins County director of pupil personnel; Alaina Lancaster, director of secondary instruction; Amy Smith, superintendent of Hopkins County School District; Lee Todd, KBE board member; Andy Belcher, assistant superintendent; Gretchen Wetzel, executive director of the West Kentucky Education Cooperative. Photo by Joe Ragusa, Kentucky Department of Education

The Hopkins County school district was named the winner of the Kentucky Board of Education’s (KBE’s) 2023 Kevin C. Brown Strategic Priority Award at its Feb. 7 regular meeting.

The district was recognized for its collaborative effort to identify characteristics important to all graduates, regardless of their career path. The new strategic plan, known as Hopkins County Future Ready – Characteristics of Successful Graduates, embeds the Future Ready characteristics into student goals. The strategic plan is the district’s version of a portrait of a graduate.

“We are thrilled that Hopkins County Schools has been honored with the Kevin C. Brown Award,” said Hopkins County Superintendent Amy Smith. “Our staff has taken the Future Ready Graduates initiative to heart and remains focused on instilling these valuable characteristics in all of our students. This is a true Team Hopkins effort! The way we have embedded this plan in daily instruction shows our dedication to our students and the community as a whole.”

The award is named for Kevin C. Brown, general counsel for Jefferson County Public Schools, who has held several prominent roles at KDE. Most recently he served as interim commissioner of education from December 2019 to September 2020, including during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During a visit to the district with a former commissioner, Brown said the “seeds were being planted” for this initiative.

“This is not just happening in a silo within the district. This is completely a community effort,” said Brown. “It really is, I think, a perfect example of this type of work.”

“Hopkins County Schools are demonstrating the vision of United We Learn – Kentucky’s vision of the future of education – as they prepare today’s students for their future success by partnering with the community,” said Interim Education Commissioner Robin Fields Kinney. “On behalf of the board and the Kentucky Department of Education, we’re proud of the work being done to move education forward in Hopkins County.”

The 2023 award seeks to recognize a school or district who, through policy and practice, makes it a priority to support the successful adoption and implementation of a Portrait of a Learner.

Criteria for the award includes: significant contributions and/or other efforts to support the successful adoption and implementation of a Portrait of a Learner by co-creating with communities a set of competencies for all learners, development of a performance assessment system, provision of deeper learning opportunities for all students and educators and adoption of local policies to support deeper learning instruction and assessment.

Hopkins County is “intentionally and strategically weaving Future Ready Graduate characteristics into the fabric of learning” in all the schools and in the community to create a seamless transition for students from preschool to college or career, said Smith, who made the nomination on behalf of the school district.

The Future Ready Graduates initiative began with the students and their future in the community in mind, said Smith. Through a series of roundtable discussions, key shareholders like board members, community members, business leaders, staff and students came together to set the foundational characteristics Hopkins County resident expect to be instilled in all students in preschool through 12th grade.

“Opening the district doors to community members and business partners ensures that they breathe life into the plan, using their voice in planning and monitoring the process,” said Smith.

The Future Ready initiative began on the opening day of school for the 2023-2024 school year. Hopkins County teachers and support staff were welcomed by a group of students sharing their future aspirations through a video, “Embrace the Journey.” Students were spotlighted at the event wearing clothing that represented their future careers.

“Hopkins County students are being prepared for the future now more than ever as the deeper learning teacher team leads the district in instructional strategies,” said Smith.

The district deeper learning team, which consists of “the best educational influencers,” assists professional learning community work in the district by building a characteristic idea bank so teachers will have tools and resources at their fingertips, she said. The bank helps teachers create educational resources to teach each characteristic and to model lessons. The district instructional team placed Future Ready instruction and student engagement through deeper learning as a high priority by creating a walkthrough observation tool to provide the feedback teachers need to enhance instruction and highlight student success in their classrooms.

“Hopkins County Schools’ vision for students to be Future Ready is living out what HCS is all about: One Team, One Mission, One Community,” said Smith.

Sharing the new strategic plan and Future Ready characteristics with the community at a chamber of commerce sponsored education event in October allowed everyone to “speak with one voice,” she explained.

“The common language and characteristics allow everyone to unite in celebrating students when they meet and exceed expectations, making this a true Team Hopkins effort,” said Smith. “This allows all partners to answer the question: What is the future of Hopkins County? A Hopkins County Future Ready graduate.”