"Our goal is to build strong relationships with our parents and other Dalton residents to develop support and trust," said Hawkins.
Elected officials know the importance of listening to their constituents, and the Dalton Board of Education provided a unique opportunity to get input and answer questions on five hot topics from recent public comment at its regular meetings. The board held a "Community Discussion with Your School Board" at City Hall, and about 100 citizens took advantage of the opportunity.
"We had a very engaged, passionate audience," said Dr. Rick Fromm, chairman of the Dalton Board of Education. "This event provided us an opportunity to have a dialogue with parents and others who came to learn more and ask questions. This was an opportunity to strengthen our relationships with our constituents, and I hope they felt it was a worthwhile experience."
Five presentations were made simultaneously, and audience members could pick their choice of two of the stations. Presenters also stayed after the meeting and continued to meet with groups and individuals for about an hour after the conclusion of the program.
Much of the meeting was streamed live on Facebook as were several of the sessions and has been viewed more than 1,000 times. The archived video stream can be viewed at the district's Facebook page.
Fromm and Superintendent Jim Hawkins welcomed the group and gave an overview of the evening. Michael Akin, CEO of Link Strategies, who has served as the consultant to the district on the visioning and community engagement of the strategic secondary facilities discussion, provided a brief update on the downtown secondary facility concept and the ongoing partnership discussions with Dalton State College, the city of Dalton and the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce, among others.
Board members assisted with presentations of information and answered questions from participants.
Board Member Tulley Johnson worked with Akin and Nick Sun, director of instructional technology with the district, to present the session on "Secondary Facilities." Johnson said groups had good questions and lots of interest in how a new facility downtown might alleviate overcrowding at the high school. "This concept is innovative and provided new academic opportunities for our students," said Sun. "It's exciting to have the potential to offer state-of-the art medical labs for students in a healthcare pathway or engage students in discussions with entrepreneurs working in a business incubator. The opportunities are endless and providing our students with real STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) opportunities in real world environments would help provide that Dalton Difference."
Fromm, Director of School Support Jennifer Phinney, Assistant to the Superintendent Don Amonett and Dalton High Athletic Director Jeff McKinney discussed the GHSA (Georgia High School Association) classification and the Flex/Split Shift schedule option that was proposed to the school board as an option to reduce overcrowding at Dalton High and get the school back into a local athletic classification. "I very much appreciated the passion and the support that everyone who attended had for these issues," Fromm said. "And I hope they know that the board shares the urgency parents feel to resolve these issues. We heard a lot of good comments and overall felt this event was successful."
Board Member Steve Laird, Chief Financial Officer Theresa Perry and Chief Learning Officer Laura Orr presented the FY2018 Budget information. Laird said he found the event well done and appreciated everyone that attended. Perry added, "The groups had great questions and it was beneficial to provide specific insight into the district annual budget."
District Literacy Coordinator Alice Ensley and District Math Coordinator Meleia Bridenstine presented the session on Literacy and Numeracy. They shared information on the district's Literacy Collaborative framework, as well as the new math frameworks that have been added over the last two years. "I always appreciate the opportunity to share the wonderful work of our teachers and students," said Ensley. "Thank you to those community members who came to learn more about our literacy initiative and the steps we are taking to ensure that our students are continuing to grow as readers and writers. Community support and partnerships are needed for all of our students to be successful."
The final session was led by Chief Administrative Officer Craig Harper, Director of School Support Caroline Woodason and Director of the Northwest Georgia Healthcare Partnership Greg Dent on Student Assistance and Drug Testing. Harper shared information about the district's work-in-progress on developing a proposal to provide substance abuse prevention education to Dalton students and the community, random drug screening for 6-12 students involved in extracurricular activities and a student assistance program for social-emotional, substance abuse or other issues. "These initiatives are in the development stage, and we're still designing the program so it was very helpful to get valuable feedback from the community to add to our team's information," Harper said.
Superintendent Hawkins said this community conversation was beneficial to both the board members and the attendees. "Our goal is to build strong relationships with our parents and other Dalton residents to develop support and trust. We recognize that our district is responsible for educating the community's most valuable resource, and we must work in unison with the community to realize a promising future for Dalton."