PLATTSBURGH — A cohesive focus on education from birth throughout career is one way to help a community thrive.
The THRIVE public/private partnership was the main topic of a recent education forum hosted by the Partnership for Community Development at Clinton Community College.
Clinton Community College President John Jablonski said THRIVE evolved from the Clinton County Workforce Development Roundtable and its cradle-through-career approach to education, a desire to link stages in the education process rather than leaving gaps between levels.
It is not just educators advocating for education, but also business leaders, health and human-services providers and economic-development officials.
GOOD FOR ALL
Professor Colin Read, chair of the SUNY Plattsburgh Department of Economics and Finance, said they all recognize that education of the region’s children is good for everyone’s quality of life.
“Public education is for us all,” he said.
North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas said education and the prosperity it provides are vital to continued economic development and are going to become more so in the future. He said the pieces are there now; they just need to become more cohesive.
Perry Kurtz, THRIVE data manager, said the leadership council has come up with six goals: that every child is prepared to enter school, every student is supported inside and outside of school, each succeeds academically, every student enrolls in some form of post-secondary education, each one graduates and enters a career and that the community is actively engaged in lifelong learning.
Victoria Zinser Duley, associate dean for institutional research at Clinton Community College, said they devised 42 indicators that will be used to measure the success of the initiative. The data has been collected, and a baseline report is expected to be released later this month, she said.
Jablonski said they plan to report on progress on a yearly basis.
The leadership council wants to form four action/implementation teams to work toward those goals: An Environment for Learning Team would tackle the first two, an Achievement Team would take on the third, a Human Capital Team would work on the fourth and fifth, and an Adaptive and Resilient Community Team would cover the sixth.
They welcome community participation in any of those teams.
A healthy start to life is a key to educational success, Duley said. Clinton County has lower levels of breastfeeding and higher levels of pediatric obesity than New York state averages, she said, which can decrease a student’s success.
Douglas said one of the dirty little secrets in the North Country is the high degree of substance abuse and domestic violence and its detrimental effect on a student’s ability to learn.
On the other hand, Duley said, they found that children in the North Country have good access to health care and mothers have good access to prenatal care.
Another baseline indicator looked at English Language Arts and Literacy Common Core standards for third-grade and eighth-grade students.
Beekmantown Central School Superintendent Scott Amo said his school is constantly looking at how they are doing in regard to state standards and making adjustments when necessary. One effort is to identify students with difficulties before they are tested, he said.
Jablonski said one of the main problems for colleges and universities is that students who enroll don’t have the skills to succeed, problems that go further back in their education history.
“That’s why Clinton Community College is proud to be part of this team,” he said.
An indicator for the Human Capital Team measured the level of education obtained. It found that 83.8 percent of Clinton County students have graduated from high school, compared with 84.6 percent of those in the state and 85.3 percent in the United States.
It also showed 21.5 percent of students earned a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with 32.3 percent in the state and 28 percent in the United States.
DESIRE TO LEARN
Douglas sees a need to increase the appetite for education. One example is the vocational programs offered at CV-TEC, where students often blossom when they find a field of study they enjoy.
Jablonski said Clinton Community officials have found that students who come from that program often do better in their classes than other students.
Read said communities need to find a way to provide incentives for its workforce to become more adaptive and resilient.
The health-care industry provides an example, he said, as the shift from reactionary to preventive health care moves forward.
Kurtz said the rise of the computer age is an example of the need to adapt. Those skills are now necessary in many jobs.
“Most of us of a certain age didn’t learn computer skills in school,” he said.
Sometimes the decision to adapt is forced upon you, he said, adding that he used to work at the Pfizer facility in Chazy with 300 other people who all lost their jobs. Luckily, they had resources such as Clinton Community and SUNY Plattsburgh to help them learn new skills.
“There were a number of people who really needed to reinvent themselves,” he said.
United Way of the Adirondack Region Executive Director John Bernardi said the THRIVE initiative is an example of what an adaptive and resilient community does.
“It’s somewhat unique to the North Country that we do work really well together,” he said.
Email Dan Heath