Here at Hamblen County Schools, community and regional partnerships have been the key to our success. These partnerships have enabled us to do things that we would not be able to accomplish on our own and enhance efforts we already have underway. Even though we have been recognized nationally, most recently in the Washington Post, for the educational opportunities that Hamblen County students enjoy, on our own, we would not be able to provide what the resources of our partnerships can offer.

One of our most significant partnerships has been our work with our neighboring districts in Northeast Tennessee. Hamblen County Schools are part of a consortium of districts that received an I3 grant last year to increase student access to high quality AP instruction and dual enrollment opportunities. The Niswonger Foundation, located in nearby Greene County, was instrumental in securing that grant for the participating 15 districts. Part of our success in securing the grant is the fact that this partnership of school districts began years before the I3 grant was announced.  The Niswonger Foundation has promoted innovative programs and best practices that can be duplicated across our region.  They provide opportunities for the sharing of best practices through meetings with district leadership, a symposium for the region’s classroom teachers and school leaders, and various publications that highlight what’s working in our region.  The partnerships are further enriched by the participation of higher education institutions in the area, including, Walters State Community College with whom my district is partnering.

The first year of the I3 grant has entailed a great deal of planning and needs assessments of the various schools and school systems served by the grant.  We are anticipating the development and distribution of an AP resource catalog that will allow students through video-conferencing and other instructional technologies to participate in AP or dual enrollment classrooms across the region, while never leaving their neighborhood school.

One of the great benefits of the I3 grant is the additional personnel that it provides, including schools counselors to assist in the college enrollment process.  The grant also provides a host of veteran administrators from the school and district level to assist school systems to strengthen their individual AP and dual enrollment program.

As we prepare for the start of school, the I3 grant was able to help many teachers in the consortium become AP certified.  This school year, Hamblen County will have more students taking AP and dual enrollment courses than ever before due to the efforts of the Niswonger Foundation and the I3 grant. I believe that creating these kinds of partnerships is a crucial component to ensuring that schools and districts, especially those located in rural areas, are able to provide their students and teachers with the resources they need to be successful.