Ithaca Schools Superintendent Provides K-12 Insights to IC Strategic Planning Process

By Dan Verderosa, December 7, 2018
Ithaca College trustee Luvelle Brown presented on how trends in K-12 education will affect IC in the future.

To inform the Imagining Ithaca strategic planning process, Ithaca City School District Superintendent Luvelle Brown, a member of the Ithaca College Board of Trustees and of the strategic planning steering committee, gave a presentation on Tuesday, Dec. 4, sharing his insights on the current state of K-12 education and its implications for the college.

“I am deeply passionate about the K-12 connection to higher [education], and that pathway needs to be seamless,” President Shirley M. Collado said while introducing Brown. “We should all — nationally and globally — be thinking about that connection and… activating ways for us to do deep work together that are really transformative.”

Brown’s presentation centered on the work that he and others have done in the Ithaca City School District. Referencing the district’s vision and mission statements, Brown said they seek to engage, educate and empower students in order to help them develop into thinkers.

In Ithaca’s elementary schools, Brown said that children learn by taking on projects that address real-world problems relevant to their communities. At Caroline Elementary School, for example, students try to figure out why a nearby wilderness trail is prone to flooding. “They are solving that issue,” Brown said. “That is what they do all day, and they are doing it well.”

“This is not a one-and-done conversation. This is the first conversation, and I’m going to challenge us to keep talking, because we can be better and the best is yet to come.”

La Jerne Terry Cornish, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs

Brown also stressed the importance of computer science and computational thinking, which is built in to the curricula in Ithaca schools. He said that some elementary school students even lead clubs where they teach others to code.

“These young people are coming to a space near you, with a deep understanding of algorithms, patterns, collaboration, debugging,” Brown said.

Brown also said that today’s K-12 students are often empowered to seek social change on issues related to race, gender and socioeconomic status, something that the Ithaca City School District embraces even when it creates conflict. He said that efforts to make classrooms more inclusive and culturally responsive must move beyond academic discussions to real, practical changes.

“On that continuum of creating thinkers, we want thinkers who are social activists,” he said. “We want this. We encourage this.”

To that end, Brown drew a line between the district’s “do” goals — such as improving graduation rates — and its “be” goals — building inclusive classrooms and developing young students to be good people.

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs La Jerne Terry Cornish, co-chair of the strategic planning steering committee, gave closing remarks. She said that the strategic planning process offers the Ithaca College community an opportunity to think about what needs to be done to make Ithaca a more inclusive space for students of all backgrounds and to ask who we want to be as a college.

“This is not a one-and-done conversation,” said Cornish. “This is the first conversation, and I’m going to challenge us to keep talking, because we can be better and the best is yet to come.”

Watch Superintendent Luvelle Brown's presentation