Tifton Gazette

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March 22, 2014

Tift schools help with ‘Spark!’ project

TIFTON — The Georgia Vision Project has recently announced a new public school campaign, “Spark! Igniting Education in Georgia.”

According to a press release about the campaign, “Spark!” will highlight academic success stories through public service announcements, billboards and media coverage. It aims to stir students’ devotion for learning, to inspire enthusiasm in teachers and to elicit a commitment from parents, business leaders and community members who may not know the best ways to stay active in a child’s education. “Spark!” facilitates these partnerships with the goal of showcasing the strengths of Georgia public school systems.

The Georgia Vision Project will generate enthusiasm and educate Georgia communities about the public school system’s academic achievements. The idea is to change the perception that private or parochial schools are the only places to get a quality education in the state. The overarching message is that public education in Georgia can provide all children with a competitive education that prepares them for the future.

Tift County was an early adopter of the Vision Process prior to the campaign. Superintendent Patrick Atwater and Stacey Beckham, Tift County Schools’ director of communications, said the Tift County Board of Education formerly adopted the Vision Process in March 2011. They adopted the resolution, which is on the Tift County Schools website, to support its principles. Atwater noted that it’s a voluntary process, not a state mandate.

“This is an initiative that was a grassroots effort from school superintendents and school board members that grew, and this is the culminating product,” he said, holding a booklet about the vision, “A Vision for Public Education: Equity and Excellence.”

He added that Tift County was a key player in the Vision Project. When it was completed, the “Spark!” campaign invited Tift County to be a part of it, which involved Beckham and board member Marian Richbourg. He said the organization knew that they were heavily engaged in the vision and that’s how they were able to be at the table in Athens to help create Spark!

As part of the Vision Project, the local board presented the Strategic Planning Process to the community, which Atwater says they incorporated many multitudes of the vision thoughts in their strategic planning.

Richbourg explained that this community-wide session was held to determine what the people of Tift County wanted from their education system.

“We moved into creating a strategic plan for Tift County by having a smaller group of community members, teachers, administrators and students involved in the process,” she said. “Finally, the plan was presented and approved by the board of education. I was asked to serve on the state-wide visioning committee and participated in a full review of the original visioning process to affirm the content and direction was still accurate and relevant in today’s educational environment.”

She added, “The Tift County Board of Education has already fully adopted our strategic plan with the vision to prepare our students for tomorrow by building on our tradition of excellence. We have five areas of emphasis: student achievement, school culture, stakeholder involvement, high quality workforce and operations and infrastructure. Every decision we made as a board is focused on one or more of those goals.”

Atwater said due to turnover, some school systems forgot about the Vision Process, and “Spark!” is a way to try to bring awareness back to it. He said it ties into their strategic planning report. He said the Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA), which recognizes equality, distinguished and exemplary boards, asked that each board now helps draw attention to it, adopt the vision or at least adopt components of the vision.

Beckham said communication is key also. They’ve recently started redesigning their website, which will be new for this summer, and are heavy in social media. She said it’s all about new ways to communicate what they’re doing internally. She also noted that there are some new things coming up that tie into community support. They’re currently revamping their Partners in Education program.

According to “A Vision for Public Education,” in 2009, GSBA and the Georgia School Superintendents Association formed a joint venture to create a comprehensive and coherent vision for public education in the state of Georgia. The associations believed there was an urgent need to examine critically the components of the educational system for the purpose of establishing principles and offering recommendations which will transform the current system into one that is relevant for today’s children and youth. Foremost, the system must ensure that the graduates of the public schools in the state of Georgia are prepared for life, post-secondary education and the careers of their choice.

The design of the Vision Project was originally drafted by the project’s design team, which was composed of five superintendents and five local board of education members who also served as members of the planning team, along with the executive directors of the two sponsoring associations.

The Vision Project Planning Team adopted seven education system components: early learning and student success; teaching and learning; teaching and learning resources; human and organizational capital; governance, leadership and accountability; culture, climate and organizational efficacy; and financial resources. The team determined that these components needed to be addressed to create a new vision for public education in the state of Georgia.

Local boards of education and local school superintendents, through this joint venture of the associations representing them, determined that it was an appropriate time to engage in the important work of creating a vision for public education in Georgia that will focus on the intellectual development of all students; that will prepare them to be contributing members of a democratic society; that will embrace world-class standards; and that will be enthusiastically supported by the citizens of Georgia.

Since the Georgia Vision Project’s inception, more than 20 private, professional and corporate organizations all over Georgia have joined as partners in this effort.

To contact reporter Latasha Ford, call 382-4321.

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