Dozens of parents and other community residents gathered at Newton High School Saturday morning to learn how they can help improve the education of Newton’s students.
At the second of three educational summits planned by the Newton County School System, workshops included "Juvenile Issues and Challenges"; "Support and Resources for Students with Disabilities"; "Planning Together for Newton’s Future"; "Workforce Development — Planning for Your Child’s Future"; "Keeping Our Schools Safe"; and other topics.
Craig Lockhart’s, the district’s deputy superintendent, told the audience, "The reason why we are here is to support our children. If you were to look at education as a three-legged stool, with the seat being the child, you have to have three components for that seat to function. You have to have the school, of course; you definitely have to have the home; and you have to have the community. And that’s what you see out here today.’’
Lockhart added that the school system is going to stand for its children and give them the opportunities they need to know that they are supported in their educational careers.
In her address, NCSS Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey explained that it’s not often the school system has an opportunity to share ideas with parents and the community. Those attending Saturday’s summit were asked to provide their email addresses and offer feedback about what they would like to see improved in the school system.
"You can be the voices for the school system. That doesn’t mean you don’t hold us accountable when things aren’t going well. We want to fix them. But we have to establish a dialogue somewhere along the way, and this is the first attempt at doing so," Fuhrey said.
"We want to capitalize on your ideas and your thoughts. It’s not an opportunity for you to tell us how much you hate the school system or how bad we are, but it’s an opportunity for you to say, ‘These are some of the things that will help us become the best,’" she said.
"We’ve got to change the language that we use. We’ve got to start thinking about how do we move this school system to being the best. And it requires the efforts of everybody in this room."
Fuhrey explained why partnering with parents and the community is a big focus for the school system. She also discussed key factors in educating students and how parents, the community and the school system each play a role in student learning and achievement.
"All children can learn — all of them. They all learn at different rates, at different times. Some learn some things faster; some learn things slower. And then those kids who learn some of their skills slower, the very next time they can learn faster. So, you are always having to monitor and look to see how we can best support them," she said.
Fuhrey added that children learn best when they know they matter and said they learn at higher levels when they are active, well-nourished, healthy and safe.
"We love your children — period. They matter to us. They matter to our community. … I treat your children as I will treat my own, because I believe that I am responsible for them," she said.
Fuhrey added that the expectations of parents and the community impact how a student looks at learning. She said that if people criticize the schools in front of students, those students expect not to do well in school.
She also said that children have to take responsibility for their own learning.
"Sometimes, we get in this place of putting the blame somewhere else. But each child must own his or her learning and see that there are connections between their actions and their outcomes, what they achieve," she said. "The kids have to understand that if you don’t do the work, it’s not anybody’s fault but yours. The amount of effort you put in is the amount of success you are going to receive."
The superintendent also said students should be talking about college, the SATs and ACTs well before they reach high school, even in pre-K.
Sandy Bayless, a grandparent of two children in the Newton County School System, attended the summit and said she was looking forward to several of the workshops.
"I thought her address was excellent and really well on target," Bayless said. "It looks like they are going to address some of the issues that have been troubling Newton County for awhile — finally. So, yes, it’s been a really good summit."