Innovative Schools Network—An Innovation in Itself

Imagine about 300 educators gathered in a room from charter schools, district schools, and supporting organizations all dedicated to “Taking a Stand for Change.” That describes the Innovative Schools Network (ISN) Innovations Conference where I had the honor to keynote last week in Wisconsin Dells.

A group of visionary founders came together a few years ago to begin ISN, to support schools that want to take innovation to the next level. One of their best early decisions was to hire Dr. Heather Terrill Stotts as Executive Director. Under her leadership ISN has been “transforming schools one step at a time” from one partner school to 160 partner schools.

“We are a grassroots collaboration that must be sustained and nurtured in our state,” she toldattendees. “We want to improve the climate for innovation in education. We won’t be bullied by pundits or politics.”

She acknowledged the difficulty (and loneliness) of being an innovator and change agent by quoting Friedrich Nietzsche:

One is fruitful only at the cost of being rich in contradictions.

I’ve attended scores of conferences over the past two years. This one had a different tone, and a different culture. A primary purpose of this conference was to share, collaborate, and learn from one another. A good idea was meant to be shared and improved.

ISN is an organization that is an innovation in itself. In my view, it needs to grow beyond the borders of my neighboring state. I’d love to have this experience for education innovators in Minnesota. And we need more ISNs around the country. This group is already touching schools in New York City and elsewhere.

Congratulations, ISN on a great innovation and great conference! Next up? They want to create more “Innovation Zones” in schools. I love that! We need them everywhere.

How about the next ISN gathering being a national conference on how to create Innovation Zones? That can’t happen too soon.