FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE October 11, 2017
Also champions the community schools concept to help address students in need
ATLANTA – “With too many of our public schools still suffering the effects of the imposed austerity cuts from the past 14 years, GAE will again be calling for the full funding of our public schools in next year’s legislative session,” said Dr. Sid Chapman, president of the Georgia Association of Educators (GAE), with thousands of members throughout the state. “I hear often from our members on the lack of resources available. This challenge needs to be addressed from both the legislative and economic development fronts. The affected communities also need assistance in helping to build their commercial base so monies are also available from their end.” Chapman adds that ensuring teachers receive their full raises aids in this effort because they cannot spend locally with what they do not have.
“Many of our rural school districts are especially impacted by funding, which is why the legislature must update the state funding formula,” said Chapman. “We simply must address the impact of high poverty in our schools wherever that may be. We know this has a direct impact on schools’ learning environments and consequently those children’s ability to concentrate and grasp their lessons. However, we must begin associating the funding with the specific and different needs between rural and urban schools.” He cites as an example that rural schools may have more need for transportation and health care access issues than urban schools.
GAE was instrumental in highlighting the link between poverty and low student performance during the recent clash about taking over low-performing schools. “As actual practitioners we knew that simply taking over a school was not going to address the underlying problem that leads to low performance,” Chapman said. “That is why we’ve championed the concept of community schools.”
“We were happy to work with lawmakers during last year’s legislative session to infuse the concept of community schools to address low performance into legislation,” said Chapman. “We will continue to work with lawmakers and school officials to grow and implement this strategy that we know will have an actual impact on our public schools and communities in need.”
The community schools concept attempts to identify the real primary causes of low performance among impacted students and communities and then institutes additional wraparound services to help mitigate those causes. One school that has successfully grasped this concept is Marietta High School in Marietta, GA. You might not think these types of services are needed in Marietta, but you would be wrong.
In response to the many “real-life” needs which too often get in the way of student’s academic success, Marietta City Schools have created the Marietta Student Life Center. The Center, which has served over 1000 students in the last two years, provides everything from a food pantry and a laundry room to job skills assistance, mental health counseling provided by licensed clinicians and tutoring services.
Dr. Rona Roberts, the Center’s director, said “The Center is a testament to what can occur when an entire community rallies around the needs of students as identified by students’, not adult, agendas.” Roberts says students self-report needs that they or their family need support with throughout the course of the school year. Support for family, behavioral, and academic needs are then provided by one of the 10 partner agencies who provide personnel to serve students inside the Center during the school day.
“The magic of the Center is the magic of Marietta City Schools – a true community that rallies around every need of every student in Marietta. Our community partners are willing to meet students where they are (currently the high school and soon the middle school), and when they’re available (the school day) to provide answers to the real-life problems which get in the way of student learning”, said John Floresta, Marietta City’s Director for Strategy and Innovation.
Marietta school officials would be the first to tell you that with dedicated community partnerships, a shared vision, and committed leaders, it can be done. You can find out more about the Marietta Student Life Center at https://www.mariettasuccess.center/.