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NCSS selected for Georgia DOE economic development partnership pilot program
Economic Development Program Pilot
Pictured, from left, Dave Bernd, vice president of economic development for Covington/Newton County Economic Development, Serra Hall, director of commercial development for Covington/Newton County Economic Development and Dr. Tim Schmitt, NCSS director of CTAE and workforce innovation. - photo by Staff Report

COVINGTON, Ga. - Newton County School System is one of only five districts in the state of Georgia selected to participate in the Georgia Department of Education’s Economic Development Partnership (EDP) pilot program. Whitfield County, Marietta City, Muscogee County and Wayne County school systems will also participate in the new pilot system.
“I am thrilled that we have been selected as one of the pilot school systems for this endeavor,” Samantha Fuhrey, superintendent of NCSS, said. “I believe that we will be an example to others of what can be accomplished when we work together. I am proud of our strong partnership with the Newton County Chamber of Commerce and the economic development team. We have collaborated to align our efforts to ensure our students are prepared to meet the needs of our current and future business and industry. I am confident that our collective work will enhance our efforts to ensure our students are well-equipped for life beyond high school.”

“Being chosen as one of the five school systems to pilot the Economic Development Partnership program is an honor,” Dr. Tim Schmitt, NCSS director of CTAE and Workforce Innovation, said. “Our inclusion in the program shows that GaDOE recognizes the strong relationship we already have with our local business and industry partners and the great work we are doing in our Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education (CTAE) programs. The pilot will allow us to highlight these successes to our community, but also to others around the state. Additionally, the EDP pilot will help improve our efforts related to economic and workforce development by providing us with a “best practices” metric to compare and base improvement efforts on. It’s exciting that we’ll be able to connect the dots between all of our schools – elementary, middle, and high – with the incredible opportunities that await our students as they work towards being college and career ready.”
According to Meghan Frick, director of communications for the GaDOE, the EDP program seeks to promote improved relationships between local school districts and business and industry. The program, which is loosely modeled on GaDOE’s STEM and STEAM certification for schools, aims to meet the workforce development needs of Georgia’s current and future employers and expand opportunities for students. The designation is endorsed by the Georgia Economic Developers Association (GEDA). 
“We have been pleased to partner with the Georgia Department of Education in the development and rollout of the Economic Development Partnership,”  GEDA President Kevin Shea said. “We are excited about the potential for an improved partnership with school districts and GEDA member economic development organizations throughout the state of Georgia, to enhance communication and opportunities for business and quality of life and place.”
The goals of the EDP are to encourage and incentivize school districts to adopt best practices and behaviors that support economic development, strengthen their programs and better connect education with key regional industries. In addition, the program will elevate the capability of participating school systems to fill their role in the community business recruitment and business retention/expansion efforts and as a catalyst for talent in the community.
The EDP model seeks to better align and connect the economic development, education, and business communities, increase applied learning opportunities for students, increase community collaboration, and recognize districts who excel in leveraging relationships to benefit the local community.
Schmitt said participation in the pilot program will provide numerous benefits to students.
“Students will see a relevance to their education,” Schmitt said. “There will be increased opportunities for students through business engagement and the program will incentivize increased work-based learning and internship opportunities as well.”
Schmitt noted that the new program will also pay dividends for business and the local community as participation in the EDP will position students to be successful employees. It will also allow employers to influence their talent pipeline. In addition, the new EDP will ensure school programs remain relevant to local workforce needs. 
“Overall, at the local level, the program will bring awareness and opportunity of the benefits that occur when we marry education and industry, while providing real-world experiences for students and NCSS educators,” Schmitt said. “Schools and students will benefit by having increased applied-learning opportunities with a more rigorous and relevant curriculum. Teachers and staff will benefit from having non-traditional professional development and continuing education opportunities. Our local businesses and the community will benefit by having a closer tie to the future workforce—our students—while also developing clear communication channels and common language between schools and industry. Additionally, the program will help foster community spirit and pride while putting scaffolding in place to improve socioeconomic conditions across the county.”
Schmitt noted that the exact model of the state-sponsored pilot has not been finalized. 
“Our work, along with that of the four other communities involved with the pilot, will help GaDOE shape the final EDP process,” he said. “While we don’t know the exact details of the final program, we do expect among other things, the following to be included in our work: economic development focused training courses for district and school leaders; Increased business and community partnerships; continued development of career activities and career pathways focusing on high-demand and/or high-growth careers within our area (locally and regionally); educator (teacher, counselor, administrator) participation in summer externships at local companies; additional Work-Based Learning opportunities for students; and leadership and soft-skill programs for students.”
“What an incredible privilege, and honor to be selected for the ‘EDP pilot,’” Dave Bernd, vice president of economic development for Covington/Newton County Economic Development, said. “This state-wide recognition highlights the incredible strides NCSS has made in preparing Newton County students for the next generation workforce. For Newton County’s Office of Economic Development, and the State of Georgia, to meet our stated goals of recruiting high value, high paying jobs, we need the majority of our K-12 students graduating with a comprehensive STEM background. NCSS over the last year established 2020/2025 goals of having greater than 75 percent of its graduating seniors (system-wide) to have that comprehensive STEM background; STEM education now starts in kindergarten throughout the district. NCSS has now laid the cornerstones to achieve, and to be recognized, as one of the top tier public schools not only in Georgia, but in the nation over the next decade. Critical NCSS cornerstones include establishing a Career Academy, STEM Certification, participation and support in the LEAP program, being second in the state to develop and execute the German Apprenticeship Program, and soaring test scores and graduation rates. All NCSS administrators, teachers and students truly deserve this recognition. They are driving our economic development goal while allowing us the tools to recruit high value, high paying jobs!”