KCEOC asks Chamber’s help in determining area needs

Matthew B. Courtney, Executive Director of the Bluegrass Center for Teacher Quality
Matthew B. Courtney, Executive Director of the Bluegrass Center for Teacher Quality

Knox County Chamber of Commerce members walked out of Tuesday’s meeting with a lot to think about.

Matthew B. Courtney, Executive Director of the Bluegrass Center for Teacher Quality, currently headquartered at Union College, spoke to the members about what the program is and what kind of work is involved.

The program covers Knox, Whitley, Laurel, Bell, Clay and Harlan counties and provides free professional learning for teachers.

“Our goal is to meet whatever goal the teacher has,” said Courtney. “We try to help them with the particular struggle they’re having at the moment. It’s all tailored to meet the teacher’s specific needs.”

The program is offered to the teachers free of charge due largely to the partnership with Union College. The Bluegrass Center for Teacher Quality is funded by cooperate sponsorships and a grant from the Fund for Transforming Education in Kentucky.

Courtney, as a teacher in Richmond, saw the need for teachers to have affordable training that met their specific needs. Those needs addressed may have included being able to teach new technology, instructional practices, as well as classroom management.

“One of the sessions we will be offering in the near future is on how to engage your students and become a family, everyone accepting of one another’s differences,” said Courtney. Thanks to Union College, it won’t matter whether five teachers attend the session or 50. Union will make sure we have the space to facilitate the class.”

Courtney said that one of the things that sets this program apart from others is that it is teachers training other teachers, and the Center pays them for their extra work.

“We are rewarding them for their efforts,” he said.

Shawn Bingham, KCEOC
Shawn Bingham, KCEOC

Shawn Bingham of KCEOC then asked the chamber members to fill out a needs assessment questionnaire. The questionnaire was to get chamber members’ opinions on they felt were the most dire needs of the county, be it the incessant drug problem, accessibility of healthy foods, or low-income housing alternatives. The questionnaire was to help KCEOC determine where to set its goals in the upcoming year.

Chamber president Corey Chesnut asked chamber volunteers to assist in the county’s National Career Readiness Certification program. Career Readiness Certification would allow Knox County to demonstrate its workforce quality and help attract jobs into the area.

Chesnut told the chamber that right now Knox County is the closest county in Kentucky to completing its workforce certification, but certain criteria still need to be met, and he asked for the chamber’s help in finding people to take the lead in certain areas, including reporting high school graduation rates, which he felt the Knox County Board of Education could fill. Community commitment could be covered by either the chamber or elected officials. He would look to either Union College, Eastern Kentucky University or the Knox County Area Technology Center to cover the educational attainment criteria. KCEOC could handle the soft skills development, and finally, he suggested Barbourville Utilities take care of the Internet availability.