Friday’s program, which also included discussions regarding dual enrollment and business involvement in education, took place at the Floyd County College and Career Academy.
“You have to know why you want to do this,” said Floyd County Schools Superintendent Lynn Plunkett to an overflow crowd of educators from all across the state.
She said the primary objective of Floyd County’s charter program was to best meet the needs of both its students and the local community. It was only when school leaders started working closely with the Greater Rome Chamber of Commerce in the developing the academy that Plunkett realized the real-life ramifications.
“We needed to address the needs of kids that were not staying with us,” Plunkett said about dropouts. “We certainly could not afford to put every program we have here in every high school. This is a partnership with the community. For us, having a separate charter works much, much better. They do some things out here that we don’t do in the regular school system.”
Mark Whitlock, a member of the State Charter Advisory Committee, echoed Plunkett’s sentiment.
He said that having a college and career academy allows a system to maximize its financial resources.
“We can’t afford to duplicate these programs,” Whitlock said.
He also pointed out that nonprofit status allows the school to take advantage of three funding systems — the normal public school funding, a cooperating technical school, and the local business and industry community.
King Askew, an attorney for the school system, said another huge advantage of the college and career academy is that it helps grow the self esteem of children who may not be getting it in the regular classroom.
“They’re not asked, are you smart? They’re asked, what are you smart in?” Askew said.
Sheila Caldwell, a representative of the Technical College System of Georgia, told summit participants that one of the latest goals in education is to graduate all high school students with at least six hours of college credit through dual enrollment programs.
Lisa DiPrima, a Georgia Northwestern Technical College career transition specialist, said that 530 students are dually enrolled with GNTC across the nine-county region served by GNTC.
“Every year, (GNTC President Craig McDaniel) wants to double those numbers,” DiPrima said.
“If you can get us 12 to 15 students, we’ll go in there and teach a class,” said Carol Dugger, GNTC high school initiatives coordinator, who noted that her office starts talking with students about dual enrollment when they are in middle school. “We try to talk with them about career pathways of interest.”
Caldwell said that dual enrollment programs have been particularly effective with lower income and middle class students. Dugger indicated that dual enrollment really helps families get a leg up financially when it comes to paying for college.