Superintendent’s Spotlight: Rick Ross, Mason County

Rick Ross
Rick Ross

The Mason County school district made a paradigm shift in 2013 by no longer focusing on the pursuit of test scores but rather providing opportunities for students at all grade levels. Teachers and leadership dedicated themselves to a new vision statement, “Every Child, by Name and Face, to College, Career, and Life Readiness.” An aggressive, innovative strategic plan was created and implemented with a focus on next-generation learning.

As a result, the district now operates thirteen classrooms characterized by high energy, high engagement, movement and song. Mason County is the first district in Kentucky with a K-12 implementation of Project Lead the Way in which students build bridges and robots beginning in early elementary school.

Students historically detached from school participate in Plant the Dream, which is a mentoring program that allows release time from the traditional classroom setting. Students are paired with community business partners who offer opportunities to observe what success looks like in the professional setting.

Taking the focus off of test scores and putting it onto students has resulted in a 62 percent increase in Advance Placement participation, increasing early college by 230 percent and tripling career pathway offerings since 2013. Mason County was rated Proficient for the first time under the new Unbridled Learning accountability system, and ACT scores are above the state average across the board for the first time ever.
The work toward next-generation learning will culminate in the district’s new STEAM academy set to open in August 2015. A factory was converted into a state-of-the-art facility allowing students to experience biomedical, engineering, computer science, aerospace and agriculture. Students will be doing the work of farmers, medical and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professionals or even earning a pilot’s license while gaining the soft skills local, state and national employers require.