The McCreary County School District is located in south-central Kentucky between the Big South Fork and the main body of the Cumberland River. Since the establishment of the county in 1912, the federal government has purchased over seventy percent of the land in McCreary County to form part of the Daniel Boone National Forest and the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area because of its unique Appalachian landscape. The remaining parcels of land in McCreary County are home to approximately 2,800 students who are served by the school district yearly. McCreary has five schools: McCreary Central High School (9-12), McCreary County Middle School (7-8), McCreary County Academy (6-12), Pine Knot Elementary School (P-6), and Whitley City Elementary School (P-6).
Over the past three years, McCreary schools have produced three schools of distinction (the high school and two separate elementary schools). In addition, both McCreary North and South preschool programs have earned 5-STAR ratings for their high-quality early childhood education programming. Moreover, the high school boasts a robust Career and Technical Education (CTE) program that is second to none in the state (click on the link to see a glimpse of McCreary's dual credit and CTE programs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j94Ek18mOvs&feature=youtu.be).
McCreary has placed a targeted focus on the implementation of career pathways. These pathways lead to job opportunities in Kentucky's top five industry sectors. The district has committed itself to a seamless weaving of career pathways from middle school to the post-secondary world. In order to achieve this Work Ready initiative, McCreary partnered with Lake Cumberland Area District Development WIOA Support Services, Workforce Development, Kentucky Department of Labor, Kentucky Department of Education, regional businesses, and post-secondary institutions to establish CTE dual credit courses and TRACK apprenticeships. McCreary, in partnership with Workforce Solutions, has expanded those opportunities to adult learners by launching an adult education welding program. Participants leave with industry credentials to fill immediate job openings in our region. In order to establish integrated pathways, students are provided opportunities to participate in career pathway options during middle school, declare a career major at the end of their sophomore year, have opportunities for job shadowing, and achieve industry certification. Externship opportunities are provided to keep CTE teachers current with technology and industry needs. As a result, teachers connect with business leaders, establish advisory council memberships, and explore job shadowing and coop opportunities. The high school's #BeyondTheDiploma initiative partners students with career guidance personnel who ensure graduates are linked to the next stage of adult life.
The continued improvements shown in the McCreary school district are centered on the unified vision of the board members and Superintendent Michael Cash's focus on being a "student-centered school district." One critical piece in the establishment of a student-centered culture has been the implementation of the yearly data retreat. This year marks the third consecutive year the district has participated in this event in which teams of teachers and principals from each school, as well as a district team, meet together for three days to analyze data and develop the improvement plans for each school and the district as a whole. This approach to continuous improvement has allowed the McCreary County School District to focus on its students from early childhood to their transition to the workforce and beyond.
Aaron D. Anderson, EdD
"Effective instruction is not about whether we taught it. It is about whether the students learned it."