TRAIN Network Supports Lauderdale County Schools

During COVID-19 and Beyond

The Ayers Foundation is Funding Unique Partnerships to Help Schools and Students Succeed Across Rural Tennessee

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Lauderdale County Schools leaders and educators have received valuable support and assistance in advancing student learning thanks to the support of multiple partners throughout the state.

Lauderdale County Schools is one of 15 rural school districts participating in the Tennessee Rural Acceleration and Innovation Network (TRAIN), a partnership with The Ayers Foundation, the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET), the Ayers Institute for Teacher Learning and Innovation, and the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE).

“Supporting rural Tennessee has always been our passion, and this has been a time when we believed philanthropy had an even bigger role to play in ensuring students and teachers in rural Tennessee had what they needed to be successful,” said Janet Ayers, president of The Ayers Foundation. “Rural Tennesseans have faced many of the same challenges as those in larger and better resourced communities, so we wanted to rally in support of local school districts to help them to be successful during this incredibly challenging school year.” 

Local school leaders have been meeting and working with leaders from other rural school districts and TRAIN partners throughout the school year to launch remote learning options, develop continuous learning plans, design and provide professional development to teachers and school leaders, and to problem solve around a variety of challenging issues. 

“A year ago, our main challenge was ensuring the health and safety of our faculty and student body while finding a way to keep academic achievement at the forefront of our work,” says Shawn Kimble, Superintendent of Lauderdale County Schools. “Participating in the TRAIN network has given our district and school leaders the support and resources we need to plan and lead during such a critical time.”

Amidst the pandemic outbreak, the TRAIN network helped Lauderdale County administrators develop and implement their continuous learning plan. Administrators and school leaders used their training to help guide schools through the remote-learning transition and have continued providing support and networking opportunities to leaders throughout a year filled with pandemic-dominated challenges. In year two of their TRAIN partnership, Lauderdale County district leaders look forward to expanding social-emotional and technology-specific training opportunities to classroom teachers.

“To help make sure students were successful, we wanted educators to be ready for a variety of scenarios and to help teachers strengthen instruction – regardless of how many times they were shifting between in-person or virtual teaching,” said Dr. Candice McQueen, CEO of NIET. “It has been a pleasure working with so many outstanding districts and leaders. It is gratifying to see district leaders use the network to share information, resources, and strategies to support so many educators and students. ”

“By working together, these districts were better able to address challenges each were struggling with independently,” said Dr. Sharon Roberts, Chief K-12 Impact Officer at SCORE. “While their challenges initially focused on broadband access and teaching and learning virtually, districts quickly saw how they could use new tools, networks and collaborative opportunities throughout the year.” 

In addition to Lauderdale County Schools, the TRAIN network includes all five districts supported by The Ayers Foundation Scholars Program in Decatur, Henderson, Lawrence, Perry, and Unicoi County Schools – and nine other districts selected to advance The Ayers Foundation and Governor Bill Lee’s efforts to support more students living in rural Tennessee. Those districts include Benton, Chester, Gibson SSD, Hardin, Haywood, Henry, Hickman, Paris SSD, and Wayne County Schools. Of the 15 TRAIN districts, eight are considered by the Appalachian Regional Commission to be located in economically distressed or at-risk counties.

“As we continue to address pandemic-related learning loss and turn to imagining what post-COVID learning might look like, we are excited to continue our partnership with the TRAIN network and to provide our teachers with more training and development opportunities in the coming year,” says Kimble. “We are thankful to The Ayers Foundation and the entire TRAIN network for investing and believing in Lauderdale County students.”

For updates and more information about the many programs of the The Ayers Foundation, please visit TheAyersFoundation.org.