Why Jewell for the headquarters of this collaborative that began in 1998 with 15 schools working together and has now grown to a membership of 110 schools from all over Iowa? A lot of it has to do with the availability of the building, says Sue Beers, MISIC director and a Jewell resident since 1978.
"And it was nice to be able to take a building and do something useful with it," she notes of the structure which was rehabilitated by a new owner who saw past the gaping holes in the roof of the vacant building that even needed new floor joists to make it suitable.
The result is an inviting, professional space that's used for offices and meeting space even though there are people who think it must be retail space when they stop by. "They look at us funny and ask what we sell here," jokes Beers, who lives in Jewell.
"It's great here because this space is very adequate for about five people to meet," said Beers. "And we also have available to us the library here in town and the country club for meetings if we need more space."
What is the organization about? "We're trying to make the tools available so individual teachers and school districts can use the data to make a difference in instruction," answers Beers, who retired from a long career in education in 2006. Her final position was curriculum director at Roland-Story schools.
A strong partnership with area education associations helps make that possible, according to Beers.
"AEA people train districts to use our tools," she explains. "We couldn't do what we do what we do without the AEAs. They're a huge part of this to help districts use what we do and implement it. We get great support from them."
The consortium focuses on many aspects of the school improvement process, according to Beers, including workshops, networking and sharing ideas for improving student learning, and collaborative work on consortium projects.
Sherri Olive-Webb, administrative assistant, and (right) director Sue Beers in their new Jewell office.