By John Higgins
Beacon Journal staff writer
Akron's National Inventors Hall of Fame middle school isn't supposed to be an isolated island of excellence.
The school, which specializes in teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) using hands-on teaching methods, always was intended to be a launching pad for other schools.
That plan took flight Monday when the school board created a year-round job to oversee the STEM expansion.
The district already is planning a STEM high school. The program also is coming soon to Akron's other middle schools, beginning this week with Hyre Middle School and the Akron Opportunity Center, an alternative middle school for students with behavior problems.
The STEM program director will start at about $76,000 a year and be responsible for planning, implementing and evaluating the integration of STEM curriculum and teaching methods into classrooms throughout the district.
''It will definitely be more than a full-time job,'' Assistant Superintendent Ellen Mc-Williams said. ''Development of the high school will take the bulk of the time right now, but we also have the expectation that this person will be able to monitor and push and encourage the STEM methodologies across the entire district and see that through.''
The new director will replace Maryann Wolowiec, who oversaw development of the National Inventors Hall of Fame middle school, Akron's first STEM school, which opened in fall 2009.
Wolowiec left the district last fall to become vice president of educational content and program development for Invent Now, formerly known as the National Inventors Hall of Fame Foundation.
The district is working with the University of Akron, Kent State University and Hiram College on a $519,000 grant from the Ohio Board or Regents to study ways to replicate the STEM curriculum, staff development and teaching methods practiced at the National Inventors Hall of
Teachers at Hyre Middle School and the Akron Opportunity Center begin the STEM expansion this Thursday.
''They'll receive training through the rest of this year and this summer,'' McWilliams said.
She said this summer the district will begin training teachers at two more middle schools, which have not yet been named.
Akron also is using some of its federal ''Race to the Top'' money to sustain the expansion of STEM ideas to all of the district's middle schools and eventually elementary schools.
Akron will receive $9.2 million over four years from the competitive federal grant for school reform.