Partnership Development & Innovative School Design, Part 2

by Dan Hoffman, PhD
School Design Consultant

(Note: This is the second posting in a two part series. Read Part 1 here.)

A third common characteristic of successful school innovation partnerships is their understanding of the power of place. The physical location and facility design features were highly valued by the partners. Initially, Metro planners were seeking space for a school inside the Center of Science and Industry in downtown Columbus, Ohio. When those efforts stalled, planners landed on their feet by gaining access to a great space on west campus of The Ohio State University.

In Reynoldsburg, Ohio and Marysville, Ohio, there were building or renovation efforts that allowed planners to advocate  for the the power of place and design.  Characteristics  such as flexibility, collaboration space, transparency and opportunities to use the school as a teaching tool became important to school planners and their respective architectural teams. A recommended resource for those planning new or renovated space is The Third Teacher,  a book that suggests ideas on how design might enhance teaching and learning.

A fourth common characteristic that developed in each of these partnerships is a term borrowed from Theodore Sizer.  These partnerships developed “an air of unanxious expectations”. In short, without threatening anyone or any partner, a pledge to finish the work became stronger than a handshake.  Once the idea and planning go public, we are “all in” through the finish. For example, in Columbus, Ohio, when The Ohio State University and The Battelle Memorial Institute announced the forming of a partnership for a STEM school of choice  in central Ohio, the doors were going to open. No excuses allowed.

As I mentioned in the opening lines, these partnership ideas were generated in collegial  conversations with other planners and partners.  Beginning to name them all runs serious risk of leaving someone off the list.  However, I must mention the role of Rich Rosen of Indigo Strategies as both a partner and a thought leader in the founding of Metro and later as an advocate for Early College High Schools in Reynoldsburg and Marysville as a Board Member at the Columbus State Community College.  My mention of Rich is also inspired by his current dissertation research on partnerships as a John Hopkins Fellow. We look forward to his findings as we set him forward with our own “unanxious expectations” . Once the idea goes public, we are “all in” through the finish. Finish the study. Defend the work. No excuses allowed. (: Dan