In the past year, the number of participants has grown tremendously in Douglas County, said Vicki Harshbarger, who chairs the Douglas County School System Partners in Education program.
“Apparently you guys heard our call to action when we went out and said we need a roundup of partners,” she said. “When we started last year, we had 315 partnerships and today we have 525. I’d call that a very successful roundup.”
School Superintendent Gordon Pritz agreed.
“I am so excited about the growth of our partners,” said Pritz. “As Chief Brody said in [the movie] ‘Jaws,’ ‘I think we’ll need a bigger boat.’”
Those designated as Partners in Education can be any group or individual who offer expertise, time or ideas to a school system or individual school’s students or parents. Examples include donations of gift cards for high-achieving students, financial sponsorship of an event, or providing speakers in classes.
Harshbarger told the audience about the people “who spurred me on.”
She recalled by name several teachers and her Brownie Girl Scout leader who she said “didn’t realize they were my partners in education.”
She encouraged the partners to visualize the people who stood out in their lives and superimpose their own face on them.
“The torch has been passed,” said Harshbarger. “You are so important in our schools and in our students’ lives and vital to our success.”
Pritz said he was excited about the number of churches that had come on board.
Retired educator Margaret Arnold represented her church, Lithia Springs United Methodist, at the breakfast.
“Our church has made this a local mission project,” she explained. “The United Methodist Church supports missions all over the world, as well as locally.”
The church has embraced its neighbor-school, Annette Winn Elementary, as a Partner in Education.
“The children have so many needs and the church has been very supportive,” said Arnold, who is also a mentor for two children. “The church has donated to the school’s backpack and school lunch program. The church has had a heart for helping Annette Winn.”
As a mentor, Arnold has found it very rewarding, she said.
“You can touch lives on an individual basis. You can see the excitement on a child’s face.”
Randall Jones, owner of The Flower Cottage and a Partner in Education, gave the invocation for the event and inspirational comments about “keeping moving.”
He asked the audience to pat the back of the person on either side of them for the contributions they make to schools and students in the community. “Every contribution to students’ lives make a difference.”