05/11/09 — Chamber education committees need help

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Chamber education committees need help

By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 11, 2009 1:46 PM

It has been slow going pulling together the committees for the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce's Educational Council -- an indication that it may be time for a full-time person to oversee the process, said council Chairman Ed Wilson.

"I think it has been slow because some of these tasks, like trying to put together that educational programs guide, is just massive," Wilson said. "All of these people are volunteers and for them to carve out a couple hours two or three times a month is about all that you can ask them to do. Now the chamber has a staff person and Steve Hicks, our president, is involved with this on an ongoing basis.

"We almost need a full-time person working on this thing. I give as much time as I can. In order for it to be really successful, in my mind, we are going to have to have some people devoted to this on a fairly regular basis more than what my volunteer time and these others can do."

Meanwhile, Wilson said the chamber's original goal of fostering better relations between the Board of Education and county commissioners has produced results.

"I think it is better," Wilson said. "Some commissioners, I think, have their hearts in the right place and are just concerned for every kid that goes through (the school system). I think the Education Advisory Council should be given credit for building a better understanding between the two boards.

"I don't think there is any question the staff relationships are better."

One of the biggest problems schools face is a lack of parental involvement, Wilson said.

"They have got to help these kids and these kids come from places without magazines, newspapers and things like that and if they get their homework done or not it is no big deal," Wilson said. "It is just unfortunate they have to figure out ways to overcome that in the schools. We are going try to do things to get more parents involved."

The county, he said, has to rely a lot on the public schools for data it uses, which adds more for school officials to do.

Wilson said Guilford County has similar a program headed by two full-time people and is funded by local businesses. Officials with the Guilford program will be in the county later this month to talk about how it was formed and its available resources.

"As good as we are, we don't have the funding," Wilson said. "Because of the economy the way it is now we have resisted going back to the business community that supported these activities earlier. If it was normal times we could expect the support."

While the process has been slow, all of the committees organized and all of them have met, Wilson said.

There are still some committee openings and anyone interested in serving should contact Wilson or the chamber office.

The Education Council falls under the Education Advisory Board, a group of local business and industry leaders who were involved with the initial discussions about trying to improve the relationship between the Board of Education and the Board of County Commissioners.

"Basically we report to them," Wilson. "This is a chamber-sponsored activity. Any funding we receive goes though the Wayne Charitable Partnership (another chamber organization.) Our group is coordinating this whole effort trying to be an advocate for our business community on educational matters and things related to legislative issues.

"We meet monthly and kind of serve as a steering committee for the rest of the council."

The committees are:

*Business and Education Programs, chaired by Dr. Thomas Smith. "They are primarily responsible for creating an educational programs guide and also to support the Junior Leadership program which has been in place," Wilson said. "They have their document organized and it was a monumental task trying to figure out how to put it together so number one it will be useful and also be user friendly because we will have it on the Web page of the Chamber, we will have it on the schools' Web page.

"It will serve several purposes. One, if you are moving to this area and want to see what services are provided for your kids or anybody up to the college level we hope to have a guide. Then if you need some help for your child for tutoring, we will have those resources listed as well. As we pull this together we will look to see if has holes, or areas of duplication where coordination is needed."

It will also have a speakers' bureau and a Principal for the Day or Shadow a Principal program.

*Workforce Development Committee, chaired by Dr. Kay Albertson. This committee, Wilson said, has "monumental goals and objectives" and has been meeting for almost two years. It includes the Wayne Occupational Readiness Keys for Success program and the Career Readiness Certificates program, both of which are designed to help develop real-world work skills. It also is looking at best practices to curb dropouts and is working with counselors to create awareness among students and parents.

*Teacher Recruitment and Retention Committee, chaired by Beverly Carroll. "This group really has two primary tasks. One is to support the public schools job fairs. The whole idea behind it was to develop an incentive package and right now, they have five pages (of ideas)." One project includes working in partnership with East Carolina University through Wayne Community College. Another is a lateral entry into teaching program that could start in the fall at Mount Olive College.

"Other (school) systems have nice incentive packages," Wilson said.

The package will be designed to keep existing teachers as well as to recruit new ones.

*Business and Education Partnerships Committee, chaired by Ken Derksen and Julie Beck. Its primary responsibility is to do the spelling bee and implement teacher mini-grants -- both of which have done through the Chamber for years. The spelling bee will be held this fall and Wilson said more business and industry involved would be sought.

*Outcomes and Assessments, chaired by Sudie Davis. The committee will produce a report card for the Education Council showing the educational statistics of the community. The goal to have the report ready by June.

"Basically what we are going to do is talk about this issue of graduation rates what does it mean, how is it defines, who is included, who is not included," Wilson said. "We are trying to get a real number of students who started in the ninth grade and graduate some graduate in summer, some in five years because missed a course.

"Number one it will make our school system look better and then at some point we will do some comparison with other (school) systems. Some 65 percent of our students receive free or reduced lunches that indicate some level of poverty and the background they are coming out of that will make it more difficult for them. We will try to use compassion to like-school systems to see how well we are doing. Seen some preliminary number and we do pretty well comparatively speaking."

*Literary Connection of Wayne County chairperson Donna Phillps. This new group was not in the original plan. Its goal is to provide and promote free literacy services in the county. They are typically referred to as a literacy councils and some funding is available. "The concern of a number of people in the community is people who lack high school diploma or cannot read or write something they need in order to be successful. It has been a part of the Chamber but the Chamber asked for it to join Education Council."

Wilson said he is sill recruiting for Literacy Connection, Teacher Recruitment and Retention, Business and Education Partnerships and Business and Educational programs.