Friday, January 25, 2013

Recapping GBPI's Conference on Education and Workforce Solutions for Georgia

Earlier today, the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute (GBPI) held its annual policy conference at the Loudermilk Center in downtown Atlanta. The conference, titled The Future of Georgia: Education and Workforce Solutions that Move Georgia Forward, featured speakers and panel discussions focusing on strategies to ensure a pipeline of young talent for Georgia’s businesses. The event included speeches from Alan Essig, the Executive Director of GBPI and Tom Cunningham, Vice President and Senior Economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, in addition to a keynote address from Dianne Fodell, Program Director of IBM’s University Programs. Also featured at the conference were two panel discussions, moderated by Market Street CEO J. Mac Holladay and Craig Lesser of Pendelton Consulting, respectively. The following is a “play-by-play” of these panel discussions, as told by three Market Street staffers: Senior Research Associate Ranada Robinson and Project Associates Jonathan Miller and Evan Robertson. 

Making Investments from Cradle to Career 
• Drew Scheberle, Senior Vice-President, Education and Talent, Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce 
• Dr. Cameron Joan Martindale, Senior Vice President for Community Development, Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce 
• Brandy Lawrence, Ounce of Prevention, Educare Early Learning Effort 
Moderator: J. Mac Holladay, CCE, PCED, LM, HLM | Market Street 

Market Street CEO J. Mac Holladay

9:42 Montgomery: Alabama’s state budget has been in decline since 2009. There is a partnership between the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce and Montgomery Public Schools designed to keep kids from dropping out of high school and to grow the labor force. Imagine a Greater Montgomery. – Evan 

9:44: Montgomery: “Champion Public Education and Build a Competitive Workforce:” 80 percent children of color, 75 percent on free/reduced lunch. Fantastic magnet schools, but traditional schools were in disrepair. Most fluent families sent their kids to private school. Business community was demanding improvements in public education. – Evan 

9:46: Montgomery: Building trust between the schools and leadership was difficult. Turning point came whens schools said “if you really want to help we have 16 schools that need to be cleaned up in three weeks.” Chamber started a school facilities cleanup program, we now go to 54 campuses across the school district doing the three P’s: Planting, pruning, painting. Business leaders are digging holes and planting flowers. Proved business community cares about schools and students. – Evan 

9:46: When the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce began its quest to partner with Montgomery Public Schools, the business community had major credibility issues to overcome before the schools would welcome them in. They proved that they care about the schools and the students by starting the School Facilities Clean Up. Over one hundred business leaders and volunteers showed up to the schools to plant, prune, and paint to get the schools prepared for a new school year. They have now done this four years in a row, and over 1,000 community volunteers participate. – Ranada 

9:50: Dr. Cameron Joan Martindale, Senior Vice President for Community Development at the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce just said that their business targets informed the creation of career academies. Students from the business/finance academy began their own credit union! A quote from the Mayor of Montgomery: “So goes education, so goes Montgomery.” – Jonathan 

9:55: 93% graduated from high school or matriculated into the next grade. – Evan 

9:57: “So goes education, so goes Montgomery,” is Mayor Todd Strange’s mantra. – Ranada 

10:07: Drew Scheberle is talking about the education initiatives ongoing in Austin: FAFSA Saturdays (not awareness about aid, helping families fill out the forms), increasing post-secondary matriculation, and holding school districts accountable with progress reports. – Jonathan 

10:13: Drew Scheberle says that technology is changing the classroom and that curriculums need to reflect skills like programming that will be in demand. Also, increasing education performance is all based on data. If it doesn’t exist, find ways to count it! – Jonathan 

10:20: Educare: Started on a very small scale. Take what we were learning about brain science, and build a best practice. – Evan 

10:22: First Educare building opened in 2000. Narrow achievement gap in a specific part of the city, in a specific part of the population (at risk). – Evan 

10:24: Educare is based on partnership, program, place, and platform for policy change. Continual improvement and innovation, continue to learn and grow based on education. 

10:27: Educare is a program to provide an early childhood model that focuses on ensuring school readiness in children most at risk for academic failure. Dosage and duration (focus on service intensity and duration) matter! Effective educational practices and well qualified staff, embedded professional development, family engagement, and leadership. – Evan 

10:35: Educare: disparities in vocabulary are clearly evident in children by 18 months and can be detected as early as 9 months! – Jonathan 

10:36: Educare: Important study findings. School Readiness: Early entry matters, one year olds enrolled in the program can reach the national mean for school readiness by the time they enter Kindergarten. – Evan 

10:43: One of the questions to the panel was “How do we cut across so many jurisdictions to create comprehensive education solutions?” Mac Holladay responded that there has to be business demand that cuts across the jurisdictions and a greater desire to affect change than protect turf. – Ranada 

10:50: Mac Holladay quote: “If it’s not measured, it doesn’t matter.” – Ranada 

Making the Case for Education Investments to Meet Georgia’s Business Needs Panelists: 
• John Barge, Georgia State School Superintendent 
• Al Hodge, CEO, Rome Chamber of Commerce 
• Mike Wiggins, Executive Vice President Human Resources, Southwire 
Moderator: Craig Lesser, Managing Partner, Pendleton Consulting

(Left to right): Georgia State School Superintendent John Barge, South Executive Vice President of Human Resources Mike Wiggins, and Greater Rome Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Al Hodge

11:13: “What is Southwire doing?” If there is anyone here who doesn’t know the country is in a jam, they are under a rock. Thirty years ago we said that we (Southwire) wouldn’t hire anyone without a high school diploma. We created a program called 12 for life. Created a real manufacturing plant staffed by at risk kids. 429 students graduated. Still a tough sale outside of Carroll County, GA. – Evan 

11:16: Education has changed because of technology. Over a million students drop out without a diploma. Overwhelming majority quit high school because it is boring and irrelevant to what they do. How do we make education relevant? Every high school student enters with career pathway. Why do I need to know this? When will I ever use this? Career pathways can help answer that. – Evan 

11:18: Partners like Georgia Power help us to make education relevant. – Evan 

11:21: Each school system have their own DNA, communities have their own DNA and challenges. Concept can be replicated and doable. Need to open up more apprenticeship model. Student can see a defined career pathway that leads to work; they are much more likely to stay in school. – Evan 

11:24: How do we make sure we are consistent? Key to our success is a real partnership between business and education that we put together in Carroll County. Real skin in the game, 50-50 Southwire -Boards of Education. Meet every three weeks, partnership goes to State Superintendent’s office. – Evan 

11:27: Georgia State Superintendent John Barge is recalling a school he visited in Mitchell County (southwest Georgia). The high school is predominantly high poverty and minority students. Teachers have taken it on themselves to not let those attributes define success. Graduation at the school is above the state average. Why? School days in Georgia have to be 360 minutes, teachers in Mitchell County teach for 440 minutes, without extra pay! Teachers also hold community meetings in the community, hand deliver report cards, and open the school on Saturdays as needed. That’s dedication! – Jonathan


For more information about GBPI, visit