Regional Opportunity Initiatives, Inc., (ROI) will fund and assist cohorts of school districts over three years (2017-2018, 2018-2019, 2019-2020) to engage in year-long design thinking processes to better align school district curricular and programmatic offerings with the education and workforce needs of their communities. This initiative has a particular focus on Southwest Central Indiana’s key industry sectors: advanced manufacturing, life sciences, and national security and defense.

Core Principles:

  • Every student is engaged in a relevant path to success.
  • Students graduate high school ready for post-secondary and career success.
  • Meaningful and ongoing collaboration occurs among schools, industry, and community.
  • Teaching and learning are grounded in relevancy.
  • Schools embrace the significant role they play in achieving regional prosperity.

ROI developed the Ready Schools Initiative based largely upon the design thinking framework of the global design company IDEO and the coalition building processes from CivicLab. School districts within the 11-county region of Southwest Central Indiana served by ROI are welcome to apply. If selected, districts will receive funding and coaching through a one-year development process and will be eligible to pursue implementation funding through ROI at the end of the development grant period.

Cohort Selection:

Up to three districts will receive funding in the first cohort of the Ready Schools development grant. Up to four districts will receive funding in the second and third cohorts. The District Readiness Coordinators will frequently work collaboratively across districts as a cohort. Districts that are interested in applying, but may not be ready for cohort selection are encouraged to contact ROI regardless to express interest.

Applying districts will be required to submit readiness assessments to help school districts and communities understand their current K-12 system and its level of alignment to education and workforce needs. Findings will be used to identify priority areas for coaching and support.Todd-Triangle-Graphic


Selected cohort districts will have one school year to proceed through the first four phases of the Ready Schools Design Process to be ready to apply for implementation funding.

Cohort 1: 2017-18

Discovery Synthesis Ideation Refinement Implementation
Two months (Aug-Sept) Three months (Oct-Dec) Two months (Jan-Feb) Three months (Mar-May) Multi-Year (Aug.+)
2017-18 School Year 2018-2021 School Years

Ready Schools Design Process:

The development grant will support participating districts through the first four phases of the Ready Schools design process. This process, developed by ROI and modeled on best practices for systems building and problem solving, includes:


Discovery Phase (2 months): The Discovery Phase engages design teams in a process of collaboration and data gathering. Through purposeful meetings with key constituencies, community members, and industry partners, the team begins to develop a solid foundation for ideas, discovers deeper community needs, and listens to what others hope for their community schools.

Synthesis Phase (3 months): The Synthesis Phase builds on Discovery through learning and exploration. Here, the design team assembles the information gathered from stakeholders and begins to make sense of the needs and hopes of employers, educators, parents, and students. Context is developed by visiting models, researching strategies, and exploring relevant strategies to develop key insights and determine guiding questions.

Ideation Phase (2 months): The Ideation Phase involves generating solutions. During Ideation, the design team develops process norms, organizes what they have learned, and brainstorms possible solutions to the guiding questions. The goal of Ideation is to create a pool of promising solutions to meet the needs of the community and schools.

Refinement Phase (3 months): The Refinement Phase brings out the best solution from Ideation. With feedback and guidance from the original stakeholders, The design team determines what will be done and develops a plan for how they will do it by building timelines, assessing needed resources, and determining roles and responsibilities of stakeholders. The goal of Refinement is to select a course of action and apply for funding to implement within the community and schools.

Implementation Phase (multi-year): With funding from ROI and potentially other sources, districts begin the process of implementing the strategies proposed in their applications. Implementation will be supported through technical assistance and guidance by ROI staff.


School districts will be granted up to $150,000 for the first year of planning.

  • Up to $100,000 for the District Readiness Coordinator and other indirect staff costs, disbursed in quarterly installments.
  • Up to 50,000 for expenses, exploration, materials, consultants, experts, as needed.

At the conclusion of the development phase, awardees are eligible to apply for implementation funding from ROI. Building on the framework assembled during the development grant year, districts will begin the process of implementing the strategies proposed.

Eligible expenses include:

  • District Readiness Coordinator (expected to be equivalent 1.0 FTE)
  • Stipends & release time (school team planning sessions, model visits)
  • Visits to model programs
  • Professional development

Anticipated Outcomes:

Upon completion of this development grant, districts shall have:

  • An implementation plan for alignment with local workforce needs and opportunities
  • A sustainability plan for the outlined strategies
  • A collaborative partnership between education and industry

Frequently Asked Questions for School District Applicants

Updated May 11, 2017

Would it be possible to have a few stakeholders complete the Readiness Assessment ahead of time?

Yes! We would like superintendents and at least one principal and one teacher to complete the Readiness Assessment prior to responding to the Ready Schools RFP. However, we ask that you use your best judgement when selecting stakeholders and community members to fill out the Readiness Assessment as the total number of responses the survey system can handle is limited. Also, please bear in mind that the Readiness Assessment is a self assessment tool and as such it is imperative that the individuals responding have knowledge of the school system and community.

View the Ready Schools Initiative Readiness Assessment.

How specific should the submitted budget be? What format should we use for the budget?

The budget should provide a general idea of where your district intends to use available funding. In the first section, schools should identify the anticipated use of the $100,000 available for one full-time equivalence (FTE). This should include the estimated salary of the District Readiness Coordinator and other encumbered expenses associated with the position.

The second portion of the budget should address the use of the $50,000 for exploration. This budget should include general plans for exploration, facilitation, and professional development. We recognize that this plan may evolve and change throughout the life of the development grant and encourage successful grantees to work with ROI to make modifications if and when necessary.

We have assembled a Ready Schools Sample Budget to help applicants think through how to allocate funds.

Is there a way to get a copy of the informational presentation held on May 8, 2017?Slides from the May 8th webinar.

Ready Schools Information Webinar Recording Password: pTnMwS28

Do you have any other projects that you looked at and inspired this approach?

Yes! ROI has spent extensive time over the last year visiting model schools and investigating new and innovative education approaches. We have also found that there is no one approach to modernizing and aligning education and workforce that will work in every school and/or district. Some of the models/approaches have included components of experiential learning such as project-based learning and inquiry, and pathway specific high school models.

Could you distinguish the difference between question 2 & 3 of the RFP?  #2 focuses on successful strategies and #3 focuses on strengths.

RFP question 2 asks: Describe current K-12 education and workforce success strategies in place within the district and make a case for how the Ready Schools Design Process will add value and relevancy. Please include any information on how local industry is currently engaged within the district to help align education plans with regional workforce goals or needs.

RFP question 3 asks: Describe the district’s strengths and anticipated challenges with respect to addressing K-12 education and workforce alignment. (e.g. engaging stakeholders, teachers, industry)

Question 2 is trying to assess what resources aligning K-12 education and workforce are currently in place in your school system.  Question 3 is more cultural in nature — what do you have that is (or is not) working? Has your district recently passed a referendum? Is there a recent past workforce/education strategy that’s been implemented that didn’t give the results that had been hoped for? Anticipated buy-in at all levels K-12?

Broadly, question 2 is more about what exists structurally while question 3 is an assessment of the community culture between workforce and K-12 education.

Are the three pathways of life sciences, defense and advanced manufacturing priorities or is this an overall program for postsecondary career readiness?

Yes, these three sectors are a priority for this work. ROI’s mission specifically encourages workforce development and growth in the fields of life sciences, defense, and advanced manufacturing as these are the three primary sectors in which our 11-county region excels. The core principles put forth as a guide for this process includes a need for schools to recognize the “significant role they play in achieving regional prosperity.”

Our research has indicated that life sciences, national security and defense, and advanced manufacturing are key to the region achieving and growing prosperity. Many skills and abilities are applicable to all three sectors, such as problem skills, IT skills, employability skills, and many others. While the focus for our region lies within life sciences, defense, and advanced manufacturing ROI will consider funding for other supportive skills and pathways that align with the organization’s goals.

Is it possible for school districts to apply together?

The creation of the Ready Schools process was intended to support a single school district through a design thinking process to develop an innovative community-driven plan. We recognize that not all school systems have reached the same system-building milestones or need the same level of support. Therefore, we will accept multi-district proposals that include a strong rationale for collaboration and support systems in place to ensure that the design process will not suffer by the inclusion of multiple districts. Please know that cross-district collaboration will not result in a prioritization during the proposal scoring process.

What if a school district does not feel ready for the first cohort but is interested in being a part of the 2nd cohort? Should that district or districts apply now?

We are unable to guarantee participation in subsequent cohorts, however we strongly encourage districts to communicate their intent to apply in the future to ROI. ROI will be providing engagement and development opportunities to regional school systems throughout the school year in preparation for rounds two and three of the Ready Schools Initiative.