A podcast on ideas shaping the future of K-12 education.
About This Podcast
Are you a school policymaker, teacher, or parent who cares about making schools a better place for students? In this education podcast series, host Ben Thompson, an architect with McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture (MPS) talks to experienced and insightful education leaders about issues like funding, safety and security, mental health, career and technology programs, and more. Education matters because it’s something we all share in common. Subscribe now!
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Successful K-12 School Funding: Creating Better Outcomes by Managing Change
Driving positive change in education is never easy. Whether you’re a school superintendent, district leader, or simply passionate about education, the transformative journey of Richland School District 2 offers valuable knowledge and inspiration for any district looking to make improvements through K-12 school funding that will serve students and teachers for years to come.
In our latest episode, we welcome Will Anderson, the Chief Operations Officer for Richland School District 2, who guides us through the complexities and strategy behind the school’s groundbreaking $468,406,000 improvement program—which included the passing of the largest property tax initiative in the state at the time. Anyone with an unwavering commitment to better educational outcomes will appreciate Richland 2’s successful K-12 school funding and improvements story. Thanks for listening.
Improving Mental Health Across School Communities
Explore the future of education with a focus on improving mental health and well-being in schools. Join us in this episode as we delve into the vital topic of student well-being with Sonny Thadani, CEO of Robin – a leading advocate for mental health in educational settings.
Sonny Thadani, a dedicated father of three and a volunteer with Sandy Hook Promise, founded Robin to empower students, educators, and parents. This innovative ed-tech startup, recently featured in Forbes, is revolutionizing school communities.
Discover Robin’s groundbreaking approach, combining cutting-edge technology and real-world coaching to redefine how we teach well-being and personal growth in schools. Their mission? To create more connected, supportive, and compassionate school environments.
Listen in to learn about Robin’s early successes and how they’re reshaping the future of education. Join us as we explore the crucial intersection of mental health and education, and let this conversation inspire and uplift you!
What’s Your Plan & Why? Creating Data-Driven Facility Plans That Work!
In this episode, we explore the importance of data-driven facility plans for K-12 schools and how it impacts long-term success. Our guest, Minta Ferguson, Director of Planning at McMillan Pazdan Smith Advisors, discusses the multifaceted aspects of planning, from demographic analysis to market-specific data and even the subjective side involving community feedback.
Facility plans, according to Minta, is a critical strategy that involves justifying capital needs, understanding market trends, considering industry regulations, and aligning with organizational goals.
The conversation explores how planners validate and explain funding decisions to stakeholders, including taxpayers, insurance providers, government entities, and philanthropies. Minta highlights the importance of making decisions that serve the best interests of the community, emphasizing equity and the humanitarian side of decision-making.
Looking ahead, Minta believes collaboration is key, especially in the context of population health. The future calls for more community-focused approaches involving partnerships between healthcare, education, and government sectors to create holistic solutions.
Join us as we continue to explore the evolving education landscape and the learning journey of students.
Have a specific question for Minta’s Advisors? Contact Us and we’ll connect you with the team.
Transforming District Leadership and the Ed Tech Landscape
K-12 education has not always been thought of as an innovative space, but that is changing. Sparked by the disruptions of the last few years, we are seeing a need for a different skill set than previous generations. Technology and collaboration skills are at the forefront of those demands. The education system has faced immense challenges recently, but those challenges have created an opportunity to innovate and make an even greater impact on students today.
Our guest, Doug Roberts, has worked with leading ed-tech entrepreneurs and district administrators for almost 20 years, developing partnerships that improve outcomes for students.
As Founder and CEO of the Institute for Education Innovation, Doug and his partners help bridge the gap between those who run school districts and those who start companies to help school districts. A Princeton graduate, he is a former public high school social studies teacher and ed-tech business development executive who earned his Ed.M. in Teaching and Curriculum from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. Doug has his finger on the pulse of schools across the nation and we enjoyed hearing his perspective, join us for this wide-ranging, open and honest conversation.
In this final part of our three-part series on how the Continuum in Lake City, South Carolina is redefining education, we are joined by Harry Lesesne, Executive Director of the Darla Moore Foundation, and around 24:00 by Jeanette Altman, Executive Director of the Continuum.
Listeners will learn more about the mission and vision of the Darla Moore Foundation–both with the Continuum and across the region. The reasoning behind the “Continuum” name is also defined, with both guests explaining what business partnerships and philanthropy were necessary to pull off this impressive and innovative facility.
If you haven’t heard parts 1 and 2 of the Continuum series, please check those out.
Welcome to Part 2 of our 3-Part series, a dive into The Continuum, a career, training and education (CTE) center in Lake City, South Carolina. In this episode, host Ben Thompson explores the unique college and university partnerships that set The Continuum apart.
First, Ben talks with Ed Bethea, formerly of Florence-Darlington Technical College and now the Special Assistant to the President. Mr. Bethea, with Florence Darlington Technical College since 1989, played a pivotal role in planning the Continuum.
Next, Ben interviews Dr. Fred Carter, President of Francis Marion University, known for its remarkable growth in programs and facilities. Dr. Carter helped extend the Continuum’s educational opportunities to Lake City.
Discover how The Continuum’s dual credit, early college, and workforce development model could serve as an educational beacon for underserved regions, benefiting both students and communities.
This is Part 1 of a 3-part series on creating innovative CTE environments. This series explores the Continuum, a career training and education center (CTE) that provides college and career paths to students while driving economic success. Located in Lake City, SC, the Continuum is a collaboration between The Darla Moore Foundation, Florence Darlington Technical College, and Francis Marion University.
In Part 1, host Michelle Smyth talks with two superintendents who partnered with the Continuum. Dr. Laura Hickson of Florence County School District 3, and Dr. Neal Vincent of Florence County School District 2. Dr. Vincent was also part of the original planning effort. “Having the partnerships that we have at the Continuum allows us to offer more,” said Vincent.
The programming model is revolutionary and demonstrates what can be accomplished with partnerships and a strong commitment for impacting students. Dr. Hickson explains, “We hear students say, ‘This has changed my life.’ It’s worth it to get up every day and continue to change lives.”
We hope you get inspired by the way The Continuum is redefining what education looks like. Thanks for listening!
The Anderson Institute of Technology is a high school career and technical education program specifically designed to develop and promote student ownership. It does this in two ways: first, providing relevant programs that are both college and career ready, and secondly, allowing students to take responsibility for their own development; to own their results. It’s through that ownership that graduates from this institution learn skills, confidence, and leadership; and make meaningful impacts as adults.
In this episode, Ben is joined by Dr. Bob Couch, Director of the Anderson Institute of Technology. Dr. Couch has worked in both private business and public education during his career and was an integral member of the team to develop this innovative approach to education. Thanks for listening!
Mayor Joe Riley served an incredible 10 terms as Mayor of Charleston, South Carolina and is longest serving U.S. Mayors in modern history. For our 10th podcast episode, we are honored to be joined by the former Mayor Riley. He discusses how education functions within the larger community context, what he believes makes great communities, how to achieve excellence in design and city planning, and what has always inspired him as a leader. You don’t want to miss this candid conversation. Towards the end, Mayor Riley even shares what he’s been working on since leaving office — giving an update on a waterfront project with national implications.
Becoming Beckham: Creating a 21st Century High School
Lucy G. Beckham High School opened in a new school building, with new staff, and new students during a pandemic. No easy feat! In this episode, Michelle went to the school her team designed to speak with Anna Dassing, Principal of Lucy G. Beckham High School in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. They share some helpful insights into the planning process, stakeholder involvement, community buy-in, and lots more.
Join us for this interesting and timely episode as Beckham sets to open for year two.
We all know that schools can’t do it all when it comes to providing family-centered opportunities. Identifying the right nonprofits to complement educational programming is another way that educators and community leaders can partner together to address student’s needs and ultimately build stronger communities around the school.
In this episode, Michelle speaks with Rev. Bill Stanfield, a Greensboro, NC native who holds a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He and his wife met at Princeton Theological Seminary from which they both obtained Master of Divinity Degrees. Stanfield was a speaker at TEDx Charleston in 2013 and is also a graduate of the SC Governor’s School for Economic Development, the SC Department of Commerce Economic Developer’s School and the SC Community Development Institute of Clemson University, among others. Stanfield is a co-founder of the Metanoia Community Development Corporation of North Charleston where he currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer.
Metanoia, founded in 2002, is a non-profit organization which works to support the local community through educational and youth leadership programs. Their work in the Lowcountry of South Carolina serves as a model for how nonprofit organizations can complement what students get outside of their traditional K-12 education.
Early childhood education programs can help foster community support while proper capital improvement planning can turn visions into reality. In this episode, Michelle Smyth talks with Dr. Rechel Anderson, Superintendent of Jasper County Schools in South Carolina, about early childhood education in Jasper County. She dives into how early education programs can support community needs and how their integration can be supported by the community. When it works, it’s a mutually beneficial system that can achieve both a school’s mission and a community’s needs. Join us for this illuminating conversation.
What do you think when you hear the words equity, equality of outcome, diversity, access, and mobility? These words are used in politics, social settings, and in the workplace, but what does ‘equity’ mean in an educational context? What are the current roadblocks to equity in education? What are some of the misconceptions about how it’s achieved? Is it possible for every student to receive the resources needed to ensure successful educational outcomes? In this episode, we welcome back Dr. Russell Booker, our episode one guest, for a fresh discussion about equity. These are just a few of the topics we break down and address. We hope you find this conversation enlightening and helpful.
How does a school superintendent stay prepared and resilient in an environment of almost constant change? In this episode, Ben talks to Superintendent Joe Pye, a visionary leader with 48 years of public education service (22 as Superintendent of Dorchester School District 2).
The schools in Pye’s district have a reputation for innovation and successful student career outcomes. How does he plan what to budget for? What is his communication style in the face of constant change? What attributes have led to his district’s stability and success? “We’re at a crossroads, we can make it, or we can break it. I want fresh ideas,” Pye says, “We want a fresh approach. Everything has changed.”
School funding for K-12 public education can be complex and confusing. Every year Americans provide around 700 billion dollars in tax revenue to fund 56 million students in 84,000 public K-12 schools across this nation. Schools have multiple revenue sources from federal and state sources. Are we utilizing those dollars to their highest potential in education? In this episode, Ben talks with Mellanie Jinnette, CFO of the school district in Chester County. Mrs. Jinnette also served in the SC Department of Education for more than 24 years. We seek to understand how schools are funded and the policy decisions that affect students and their families. Listen as she helps us all make sense of complicated school funding formulas and talks about her hopes for the future of revenue allocation in schools.
Student mental health is in crisis. The need for school mental health resources is more urgent than ever and not just from counselors, it takes a whole-school approach to effectively address student mental health.
“Schools have the largest opportunity to help children be successful,” Guest Jennifer Parker, Ph.D, LPC.
K-12 students are experiencing higher levels of anxiety, depression, and trauma than ever before. As the Director of Child, Youth and Family Initiatives for the Spartanburg Academic Movement (SAM), Parker talks from first-hand experience about the types of mental health risks students today are dealing with and how schools can create learning environments where social and emotional skills are at the center of academic achievement.
WARNING: This episode contains a description of sexual violence / assault involving a minor. Please be advised.
There is a clear relationship between a positive school culture and a potentially higher level of school safety. A well-designed school makes the environment safe without making it look like a fortification. In this episode, Dr. Joanne Avery brings her wealth of experience as a former Superintendent to the issue of school safety. Dr. Avery led her district through the aftermath of a fatal school shooting and discusses what she learned about space design, physical protection, and communication best-practices for maintaining a safer school.
WARNING: This episode contains talk of a school shooting that may be disturbing or upsetting to some listeners.
The COVID-19 pandemic has not only created a health crisis but an education crisis as well. For schools to be fully prepared to “return to learn” strategic plans must be in place. Ben Thompson welcomes Dr. Russell Booker, former Superintendent for Spartanburg School District Seven, to share his insights and tips to help educators form a successful academic plan for the upcoming school year and beyond.