NETWORKS summit teams outline suggestions to meet education, work force goals

Rick Wagner • Dec 3, 2009 at 12:00 AM

BRISTOL, Tenn. — Local school systems should pursue early college and dual enrollment programs and consider year-round school calendars or increase “time on task” for students.

Those were among recommendations released Thursday from four teams formed to address topics that grew from a February education/work force development summit sponsored by the NETWORKS – Sullivan Partnership at Northeast State Community College.

The recommendations and reports were unveiled after the regular NETWORKS meeting, held at Bristol Motor Speedway’s Bruton Smith Building.

“We’re not at the end of the road. We’re at the end of the beginning of the road,” said Kingsport Times-News Publisher Keith Wilson. He helped spearhead the summit, chaired by former Kingsport Mayor Jeanette Blazier.

“Education and economic development move on parallel tracks. You can’t separate the two,” Blazier said.

Just as the Academic Village in downtown Kingsport grew out of a 1999 economic summit, Wilson predicted substantial improvements in work force development and education would grow out of the 2009 summit.

Each of the four teams was led by a “champion” of a topic. Detailed reports will be posted on the NETWORKS Web site, http://networkstn.com.

The reports are to go before the NETWORKS Executive Committee in the next three or four weeks, where Wilson said they would be studied, “analyzed and synthesized,” with like recommendations probably merged.

Lynn Johnson’s team — charged with coming up with a way to meet requirements of the Tennessee Diploma Project and have all students qualify for the Educate and Grow scholarship at Northeast State — made six recommendations:

•Implement as soon as possible the early college program, which may be funded in part by the RAMP-Up program in Tennessee next year. Johnson, a retired Eastman Chemical Co. executive, said Sullivan County, Kingsport and Bristol, Tenn., school systems should compete for grant funding.

•Better utilize volunteer organizations — including the Boys and Girls Club, Girls Inc. and libraries — to do after-school, summer and other tutoring by having local school systems use school buses to transport students to and from those locations.

•Improve professional development programs for staff, teachers and administration in the school systems, a medium-term goal.

•Expand K-12 remedial programs to help students gain skills for high school graduation and to be ready for college and work force development, a medium-term goal.

•Implement either a yearlong school calendar, without a long summer break, or increase “time on task” to eliminate regression in learning from long-term breaks, a long-term goal.

•Provide differential pay to teachers who have special skills or education and incentive pay to teachers who have demonstrated a “superior” ability to teach, a long-term goal.

April Eads’ team — charged with finding ways to increase the number of people with higher education degrees in Sullivan County — came up with 10 recommendations.

For traditional students, Eads of Bristol Tennessee Electric System said the team recommended:

•Increase public awareness of existing programs and help, including the Educate and Grow scholarship program at Northeast State.

•Start an “Adopt-A-School” program where every school would be adopted by a business or industry, which would provide tutoring, maintenance and Career Day help.

•Do more high school/college dual enrollment courses, using virtual classrooms, colleges coming to high school, and possibly providing transportation off high school campuses.

•Start a Career Ready program by working with manufacturers to find out what entry-level jobs require and pay and what advanced opportunities would require.

For the 20,000 adult learners with no high school diploma or GED living Sullivan County, the team recommended:

•Combine and expand the existing consortium of GED programs and add more local money and more test preparation and test sites. Wilson pointed out Kingsport had agreed to pay GED testing fees for city residents.

•Better publicize GED test prep and testing sites and seek partnership with business and industry to have on-site locations.

•Expand the Career Day Services Center to include GED training and testing.

For adult learners with a diploma or GED, the team recommended:

•Emphasize availability of Career Development Service Center career interest and Work Keys programs.

•Expand Education and Grow to include GED recipients.

•Have Tennessee expand the HOPE lottery scholarships to part-time students.

Tasked with how to foster a learning culture in Sullivan County, Terry Cunningham’s team made three recommendations. Cunningham, executive director of the Kingsport Housing and Redevelopment Authority, did not attend so Linda Calvert of Northeast State presented the following recommendations:

•Educate the public through the media, the Internet and community meetings about the need for education, addressing students, parents and families and the community. Calvert cited a “Do You Believe In Me?” program used in other communities.

•Hold community forums to get input from the community on the state of its learning culture, to be held outside of schools.

•Provide mentoring and tutoring assistance to parents, guardians and others, giving them tools and motivation to help.

Nick Grabar’s team addressed how to ensure Sullivan County education measures up to national standards, with three recommendations:

•Develop a Case for Change and Community Call to Action Plan, using a community education scorecard on education.

“Bottom line: No education means no good-paying jobs,” Grabar said.

•Improve recognition of work force readiness, higher education opportunities and scholarships available, using Web sites.

•And establish the capacity to “learn from the best” through independent data analysis and policy evaluation and a plan to increase economic development through increasing education levels.

“Being good is sometimes the enemy of getting better,” Grabar said.

He said increasing education levels will draw new employers, and that drawing new employers will attract people with higher education levels.

Recommended for You

    Kingsport Times News Videos