Innovators of the Month for June 2014

By: Northwest Indiana Society of Innovators Last Updated: June 29, 2014

The June issue of Innovators of the Month features Supt. Barbara Eason-Watkins, Ph.D., as a Member of the "2013 – 2014 Class of Innovators" highlighting the innovation in Michigan City Area Schools. This email newsletter is designed to inform the media about the activities of new Members of The Society of Innovators of NWI. These trailblazers are inducted from Jasper, Lake, LaPorte, Porter, Newton, Pulaski and Starke Counties. The Society is part of the Gerald I. Lamkin Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center of Ivy Tech Community College Northwest. For information, contact O'Merrial Butchee, Director, Lamkin I & E Center at (219) 981-4942, or John Davies, Assistant Director, at (219) 981-1111, Ext. 2292.

Dr. Barbara Eason – Watkins

For June's Innovators of the Month, The Society of Innovators selected Supt. Barbara Eason-Watkins of the Michigan City Area Schools for pursuing a "high quality entrepreneurial approach" aimed at core instruction, choice, and career readiness. She was inducted as a A visit to Krueger Middle School
Society Member in the "2013 – 2014 Class of Innovators."

Experiencing a fivefold increase in high school scores since 2010 in algebra and other areas, the district will launch its latest examples of transformation this fall. "Early College" involves both the Michigan City Pejic Campus of Ivy Tech Northwest and Purdue University North Central. This program will allow students to graduate with a high school diploma and a college associate's degree using dual credit. "Honors College" is aimed at students who want to take courses that prepare them to attend elite colleges. Both four-year programs join an earlier initiative called the "Freshman Academy" to help struggling students succeed.

Other groundbreaking initiatives include Indiana's first STEM magnet elementary school at Lake Hills, and the state's first Energy Academy at the A. K. Smith Career Center sponsored by NIPSCO. Also launched were themes for coursework at middle schools. Krueger Middle School adopted an environmental emphasis, receiving an Indiana Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence in 2013. Barker Middle School emphasizes engineering and technology.

These and other initiatives grew out of a 90-day listening tour Dr. Eason-Watkins launched in 2010 after serving as Chief Education Officer in Chicago. Her journey has not been easy because she has faced challenges of budget shortfalls, not unlike the problems of other urban districts. Commenting on the loss of last year's referendum, Dr. Eason-Watkins said: "It would be wonderful to have an infusion of funds, but we are not letting anything stop us from building alliances and finding resources to make schools 'world-class.'"

She also stressed professional development and building relationships. At her first in-service training program for staff, she shared the results of her 90-day listening tour. The theme was "We Are Family!" Then to music, and launching a new era in Michigan City schools, she led the audience in singing the 1979 pop hit!

Young Innovators Video Challenge

  • The Gerald I. Lamkin I & E Center with The Society of Innovators conducted the "2014 Young Innovators Video Challenge" to encourage the next generation of "thinkers, doers and innovators."
  • Contestants had to produce 90 second videos based upon up to 5 different scenarios.
  • Four Winners were selected: Kaylee Slont, SLCYE, Chesterton; Ka'Lesa Dalton, and Anita Flowers, both from ECIER, Gary; and Whitely Buck, SLYCE & BGCNWI, Hammond.
  • The Winners will receive mentoring experiences with Members, Fellows & Leaders of NWI.
  • A total of 10 Finalists were also honored.

Honoring Michael Griffin of Highland!

Michael Griffin, Clerk/Treasurer of the Town of Highland and a Board Governor with The Society of Innovators of NWI received the Distinguished Leader Award from the Indiana Leadership Association in Indianapolis on June 13, 2014. Earlier, he received the first Crest Award from the South Shore Leadership Center at the annual "Leaders as Heroes" event for his contributions to NWI.

Ivy Tech NW's 2014 Young Innovators Video Challenge: "What's Your Idea?" was launched as part of the 10th Anniversary of The Society of Innovators of NWI!

Jon Groth, Society Member and Porter County Career and Technical Center, Valparaiso is part of a team to repurpose the old Grand Trunk Railway train station for classrooms.

Kevin Kirkham, Society Team Member and NIPSCO's manager of business development has announced incentives for public charging stations for electric cars.

Era Twyman, Society Member and executive director, Gary Literacy Coalition, said for the past 13 years the moms of every newborn at both campuses of Methodist Hospitals receive books as part of Project READ.