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Education initiative details early success, future plans

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A grassroots partnership of civic groups, local businesses and school district staff is looking to change the way children are educated -- from cradle to career.

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The Red Wing School Board heard more about the initiative, called Every Hand Joined, at a work-study session Monday night, including plans to begin advertising its benefits to the community at large.

"This isn't a project that has a beginning and an end to it," said Scott Jones, president of the Jones Family Foundation and supporter of Every Hand Joined. "This is a movement."

The initiative has five main goals, the first to make sure all children are ready to start school.

Around 50 percent of kindergarten students in Minnesota are not prepared, Jones said. "That's a scary thing because once they start behind, it's harder for them to catch up."

The remaining goals are to ensure every child is supported in and out of school, succeeds academically, enters some form of post-secondary education or training and ultimately completes that education and enters into a career.

"What's interesting about the five goals is that within each goal there will be, and already are in many cases, several initiatives going on," Jones said.

One example is increased cooperation and communication between various after-school programs around Red Wing, said Joseph Jezierski, district director of teaching and learning and Every Hand Joined co-chair.

"The YMCA runs an after-school program, the school district runs one and the (Jones Family) Foundation runs one -- all doing great things, but never really talking to one another about what they're doing," Jezierski said. "This is starting to bring some of those pieces together."

School Board agreed to support Every Hand Joined at a meeting last summer, and the initiative has since taken root in the community, Jones said.

Some of the area organization partners are Red Wing Shoe Co., Mayo Clinic Health System, Red Wing Family YMCA, Xcel Energy, United Way and the city of the Red Wing.

Board members largely voiced interest in the movement while providing some constructive feedback.

School Board Director Mark Ryan said the initiative asks the important question of not just what students are doing to prepare for a changing economy, but also what the community is doing to help them as well.

"It's not their problem, it's our problem," Ryan said. "And we probably have to make more changes than the kids."

"I like to tell staff that (Every Hand Joined) isn't doing it to us, it isn't doing it for us, it's doing it with us -- and that's a huge distinction," Jezierski said. "No one's coming in saying the school should change ... they're asking what can we do together."

Every Hand Joined representatives will be present at the district inservice Aug. 29, and said they expect to have a website and newsletter operating soon.

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Michael Brun
Michael Brun is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program. He has worked for the Republican Eagle since March 2013, covering county government, health and local events. 
(651) 301-7875
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