LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (October 7, 2021) – District and school leaders from the four public school districts within Pulaski County, were joined by business and civic leaders to celebrate a major milestone for the joint Academies of Central Arkansas initiative. Today, the Academies officially joined the Ford Next Generation Learning (Ford NGL) Network of communities who have committed to transforming public high schools to better prepare students to be college and career ready while achieving stronger academic success.
“We use a mantra at LRSD called the Power of Us, and I cannot think of a better application of that phrase than the commitment represented through this countywide Academies of Central Arkansas collaboration,” said Mike Poore, superintendent of the Little Rock Public School District. “We are grateful for the partnership with neighboring districts, the Chamber, and business industry. It takes all of us working together to ensure student success.”
The Academies of Central Arkansas is a joint initiative of the four public school districts across Pulaski County. In 2019, the Jacksonville North Pulaski, Little Rock, North Little Rock, and Pulaski County Special School Districts came together with five chambers of commerce and business and civic leaders to begin the planning process for a transformation to create Ford Next Generation Learning high school academies within all public high schools in each district, serving all students.
"The Academies of Central Arkansas is very innovative and cutting-edge because our communities, our school districts, our educators, our parents, and our scholars have come together from across Central Arkansas to partner and collaborate for one main cause - to ensure that all students/scholars in Central Arkansas have an opportunity to excel based upon their abilities and interests,” said Dr. Jeremy Owoh, superintendent of the Jacksonville North Pulaski School District. “We are putting our scholars and their future first! JNPSD is glad to be a part of this student-minded, community-centered and career-focused educational model."
Through the Ford NGL process, districts and their communities become partners and align resources to achieve shared goals. Ford NGL communities have demonstrated success through higher graduation rates, increased academic engagement and achievement and relevant industry certifications earned in high school. Districts in the Ford NGL Network have also shown increased student engagement at the post-secondary level. In addition, mutually-beneficial working relationships between educators and local employers are strengthened, and community prosperity is fostered by developing an enhanced talent-development pipeline for high-demand careers.
“The implementation of the Ford NGL model is a great way to engage our students to be college and career ready,” said North Little Rock superintendent Dr. Greg Pilewski. “We are proud to expose our students to this innovative way of learning, which involves our local business partners. Our students are poised for even greater success.”
Ford Next Generation Learning officials were on hand to celebrate and support the work of the Academies. Cheryl Carrier, Executive Director of Ford Next Generation Learning presented each district with their official designation.
“Ford NGL research has proven that community ownership and accountability is just as important to educating our children as good study habits and hard work,” said Cheryl Carrier, Executive Director, Ford Next Generation Learning. “The Ford NGL partnership gives students and teachers a competitive edge that improves their chances for future success and will benefit the workforce and economic development needs of a region for years to come.”
The event, which was produced by the Little Rock Regional Chamber who has also served as the convening organization for the Academies of Central Arkansas, celebrated hundreds of community stakeholders who were instrumental in the planning and implementation work. Master planning volunteers included elected officials, elected board members, business leaders, parents, teachers, and students among others.
“Today is a moment to celebrate how far we have come as a coalition and to reinforce our relentless pursuit of strong education outcomes for all our students in Pulaski County,” said John Burgess, 2021 chairman of the Little Rock Regional Chamber. “The chamber is please to support the amazing work of our teachers and school leaders under the direction of four courageous superintendents who are working everyday for a better and more prosperous community. We are excited to drive this work forward and bring additional business and community resources to the table.”
The Academies model calls for deep, strategic partnerships between schools and businesses. The first thirteen “cornerstone” business partners were also announced at Thursday’s event and include: Arkansas Children’s, Arvest, AT&T, Baldwin Shell, Baptist Health, Central Arkansas Water, Entergy Arkansas, First National Bank, Haas Factory Outlet, Mainstream Technologies, McLarty Nissan, MHP/Team SI, and UAMS.
“Pulaski County Special School District is excited to join our community stakeholders who have been with the Ford NGL initiative from the start,” said Dr. Charles McNulty, superintendent of the Pulaski County Special School District. “In order to make the Academies of Central Arkansas a success, we need commitment to our community with an ‘in it for the long haul’ vision. Thursday's gathering is just further evidence of that commitment to the students in Pulaski County!”
Implementation of the Academies of Central Arkansas will take several years to fully build out, but once completed, will transform all high schools for all students within all four districts. The Little Rock Regional Chamber is still actively recruiting new business partners and those businesses interested in getting more deeply engaged can reach out to the chamber directly. Anyone interested in learning more about the Academies of Central Arkansas should visit www.academiesofcentralarkansas.org.
About Academies of Central Arkansas
The Academies of Central Arkansas is a joint initiative of the four public school districts across Pulaski County, the five chambers of commerce and community, business, and elected leaders broadly. The model transforms the public high school experience by blending core academics with career and technical education using a system called Ford Next Generation Learning. Students see relevance and engage with their math, science, english, and social studies when it is taught through the lens of an occupation or industry theme that interests them. This model prepares all students to be both college ready and career ready upon graduation. For more info visit www.academiesofcentralarkansas.org
About Ford Motor Company Fund
As the philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Company, Ford Fund’s mission is to strengthen communities and help make people’s lives better. Working with Ford employees, dealers, and nonprofit partners in more than 50 countries, Ford Fund provides access to opportunities and resources that help people reach their full potential. Since 1949, Ford Fund has invested more than $2.1 billion in programs that support education, promote safe driving, enrich community life, and encourage employee volunteering. For more information, visit www.fordfund.org or join us at @FordFund on Facebook and Twitter.