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What a busy time for tiny, old Eminence. Since the launch of the School on F.I.R.E. model last May, Eminence has been bombarded with requests from the media for interviews in addition to the numerous requests from school districts throughout our state to visit the school. People have a true desire to see school reinvented and to see how courageous leaders are stepping out and taking risks.
I am always shocked when we tell the story of the monumental changes taking place in such a short period of time because the thing people are most intrigued by is the wifi bus. It must be what it feels like to be a musician ready to play your set when the audience wants to hear that one song that you are tired of playing. My fear is that the audience sees the wifi bus as “the next great thing” or something to add to their district checklist. It is new. It is novel. I don’t know of another district in Kentucky with a functioning wifi bus. But it is more than a bus. It is a symbol of the culture and mindset in Eminence schools. I hope people are seeing past the bus and seek to emulate something much more powerful…the mindset behind it.
Why a Wifi Bus?
We had immersed ourselves in the core beliefs of next generation learning outlined by the CCSSO and were “Blue Skying” how to make those things a reality in the reinvented school model. Buddy Berry, the superintendent, and I had just negotiated a partnership with Bellarmine University to send 35 of our students to their campus. With each new layer of the School On F.I.R.E. model we were faced with new, unforeseen issues. I remember being so excited to run the idea of the Bellarmine partnership by staff members in the school. Instead of “Wow, this is a great opportunity for our kids” we were met with “So you mean you are taking 35 of our top kids to a college campus twice a week? They will miss three hours of instruction time a week in travel time!” Point taken. Students would miss class time while on the bus. We had a new problem.
“Yes and…Yes if”
At the origin of reinventing schools is not stopping at the problem level. We are not the first district team to recognize our education system is broken and we are at the crisis stage as a country. How many people stop at the problem? Recognizing the problem is easy. Doing something about it is hard. Eminence seeks to create a “Yes and…Yes if” culture. We took the new problem facing us and gathered our team in a room. We don’t take no for an answer and we have to find the remedies to the barriers in front of us.
Someone mentioned that the students had school issued laptops as a part of our ACES (Apple Computers for Every Student) initiative. Why couldn’t we engage them in “Anytime, Anywhere Learning” on the bus. It would have been easy to stop the discussion with another problem or reason why we couldn’t make that happen. You can’t connect to wifi on a school bus. Instead we said, “Yes and we we will need to find a way to get wifi on a bus.” We called several companies and asked if a wifi bus existed. We were told, “No,’” over and over. The conversation went something like this:
Group: Doesn’t a hotspot connect you to the net?
Company: Yes, it does.
Group: If we were to put a hotspot on the bus and it traveled with the bus, wouldn’t that connect kids while on the bus?
Company: Technically I guess it would.
Group: You sell us a hotspot and we will find a way to mount it.
Beyond the Bus
We are several months into utilizing the wifi bus. It has been great for field trips, sports teams staying connected to content in their classes, and for our students traveling to Bellarmine. It is my hope that you see beyond the bus. Simply adding wifi buses won’t change your school, but developing a “Yes and” attitude will. You have issues and problems facing your organization. Innovative and creative solutions are out there. The wifi bus is one of many manifestations of the “Yes and…Yes if” mindset. Don’t take no for an answer and find the solution.