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Network To Improve Rural Education Launched

Rural communities face unique challenges in educating students, and a new Rural Education Network has been launched to help identify and share best practices.

The force behind the network is the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, a Tennessee-based nonprofit dedicated to preparing students for college and the workforce. But the network is made from leaders across the country who see it as a way to drive success in rural schools.

The formation of the network was announced today, but it grew out of the Southeast Regional Rural Education Summit, a conference held last summer in Nashville, Tenn., that attracted more than 500 educators, policymakers, and community leaders. Recommendations from the summit were compiled into a report, Transforming the Rural South, and one of the new network's priorities will be sharing work that is aligned with those findings.

"Rural communities often have fewer opportunities to share what's working and collaborate to solve problems," said Jason Vance, Superintendent of Loudon County Schools, in Loudon, Tenn., and a network member, in a statement. "The members of this network are doing innovative work to improve student achievement despite the challenges they face, and we will be using this opportunity to learn from one another."

The founding network members include:
• Autumn Tooms Cypres, Director, Center for Educational Leadership, University of Tennessee-Knoxville
• Bobbi Lussier, Assistant Commissioner for Special Education and Special Populations, Tennessee Department of Education
• David Cook, Director of Innovation and Partner Engagement, Kentucky Department of Education
• Candice McQueen, Dean, College of Education, Lipscomb University, in Nashville, Tenn.
• Gina Kunz, National Center for Research on Rural Education
• Lionel "Bo" Beaulieu, Director, Southern Rural Development Center
• Pat Ashley, Executive Director, District and School Transformation, North Carolina Department of Public Instruction
• Dreama Gentry, Director, Externally Sponsored Programs, Berea College in Berea, Ky.
• Jan McKeel, Executive Director, South Central Tennessee Workforce Alliance
• Jason Vance, Director of Schools, Loudon County Schools in Loudon, Tenn.
• Joshua Mason, Principal, Jo Byrns High School in Cedar Hill, Tenn.
• Linda Irwin, Director of School Partnerships, Niswonger Foundation
• Lisa Hankins, REDI Director, Southwest Tennessee Development District
• Malissa Johnson, Principal, Charlotte Elementary in Charlotte, Tenn.
• Mark Willoughby, Director of Schools, DeKalb County Schools in Smithville, Tenn.
• Robert Mahaffey, Director of Communications and Marketing, Rural School and Community Trust

We'll keep you posted on what this group has to say.

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