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A Note from the Executive Director: Where We are Today

“You’re the new Executive Director of Alignment Rockford? What happened to Mike Schablaske?!”
“No, no,” I respond. “You’re thinking of Transform Rockford. I’m with Alignment Rockford. We focus on solution design and connecting the community to Rockford Public Schools in support of their strategic plan.”

This conversation took place too often as I transitioned from volunteer to full-time Alignment Rockford and RPS205 evangelist. Conversations such as these demonstrate how many don’t know what great work AR has done over the last five years. One of my priorities must be public relations, marketing and brand awareness in moving the organization forward.

I am thankful for the opportunity to lead an organization that has had a great leader since its inception in 2009. Laurie Preece, former AR Executive Director, is a visionary in her own right. She saw the success Metro Nashville Public Schools had in reforming their public schools through a collective impact organization called Alignment Nashville, and she brought the model to Rockford. Preece built the organization from the ground up, developing (with team member Diane Peters) a solid, fiscally responsible organization that has successfully partnered with RPS205.

Alignment Rockford doesn’t provide direct services and we don’t run programs. We employ a unique collaborative process to design and pilot tactical solutions in areas of greatest strategic need for Rockford Public Schools. Alignment Rockford envisions all students graduating from high school with marketable employment skills and enrolling in post-secondary education. They are eager to live, work, learn, create, and play in the Rockford region as contributing adults.

We could not design these solutions without Alignment Rockford’s A-teams (formerly called working committees):

Healthy Starts: The purpose of the Healthy Starts team is to equip families of children ages 0-5 with the tools needed to excel in school.
Recent success: Secure Attachment Collaborative “Talk2Me” utilized a train-the-trainer tactic to convene community organizations that provide services to families of children pre-birth to 12 months, train them to model pro-attachment behaviors, and share a simple, culturally diverse pro-attachment message to target families.  Secure childhood attachments form important physical, social and emotional foundations for kindergarten readiness and literacy success.
Current pilot: Healthy Starts is working on a comprehensive and objective understanding of the current early childhood system in Winnebago County through data synthesis and analysis. The development of an early childhood mapping system is a collaboration between Alignment Rockford, United Way, Winnebago County, RPS205 and the City of Rockford.

Career Awareness: This team’s vision is to create a K-12 system to increase student career awareness.
Recent success: The Academy Expo helps students forge a relevant link between student curriculum and future careers. In 2013, 140 Industry Experts provided hands-on career demonstrations to approximately 5,000 students at the BMO Harris Bank Center.
Current pilot: The 2014 Academy Expo is scaling up to include Belvidere School District students.

Pathways: The vision of the Pathways team is to increase student engagement, preparation and placement in post-secondary training and employment or education.
Recent success: The Pathways team was instrumental in the implementation of high school academies and the development of Academy Support Teams (ASTs). AST members serve as industry networkers who connect community organizations with Academy Coaches, high school faculty, and students.
Current pilot: Teacher Site Visits will link high school staff to work environments associated with an academy pathway theme so teachers develop new relationships, increase relevance of curriculum, and increase curriculum rigor to improve college and career readiness for all students.

College Readiness: The vision of the College Readiness team is an engaged school and community culture where all students expect to pursue higher education or professional training beyond high school graduation.
Recent Success: This is a new team formed within the last few months.
Current pilot: Pilot program currently under development.

Our teams are comprised of school district administration and staff, as well as a wide variety of representatives from local businesses, trades, government, non-profit organizations and the faith community. Balance on our teams is critical in solution design. RPS205 wants their students and staff to be successful. Businesses want to develop an employable workforce. Everything we do is mutually beneficial.

Alignment Rockford has one of the most important jobs in the community: working in partnership with RPS205 to ensure it becomes the first choice of education in the region.

To get involved in Alignment Rockford, contact bridgetfrench@alignmentrockford.com or visit www.alignmentrockford.com.

This article was originally published in the August 2014 edition of the Rockford Chamber's publication THE VOICE.

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