The issues were among the topics brought to the table at the Greater Rome Chamber of Commerce’s Education Workforce Committee. Rome City Schools Superintendent Jeff Bearden and Floyd County Schools Superintendent Jeff McDaniel were guests at the meeting held in chamber’s executive boardroom.
Bearden called the children of today “digital natives,” since they’re growing up in a world where they are surrounded by technology that continues to see frequent advancements. He said his school system is working toward integrating more technology in the classroom and developing a “bring your own technology” initiative for students.
He noted that community leaders must ensure that children are intelligent and responsible consumers of technology.
“We have a responsibility between the home, school and community to make sure our kids understand how technology can be used as a really powerful tool to help them improve academically,” he said.
Bearden also emphasized the importance of teaching students the dangers associated with technology.
“What’s good research, what’s not good research?” he said. “They are not going to figure that out on their own. We have a responsibility to do that.”
“We want to focus more on skills and less on test scores,” he continued. “In my opinion, as a nation, we have become way too fixated on how kids fill out bubbles on multiple choice tests.”
He said that while standardized testing is important and necessary, skills that need to be emphasized to students are critical thinking, creativity, communication skills, punctuality and professionalism, to name a few.
Bearden’s previous term as superintendent was at Fayette County Schools, a system that recently announced it would close four out of 30 schools. Bearden said that while North Heights and Main Elementary schools have low enrollment in comparison to other schools, any Rome City school closings are not on the radar.
“They are smaller schools, so it’s not like we have a lot of empty space in those buildings,” he said. “I wouldn’t dismiss it, but it hasn’t been put on the radar screen yet.”
When McDaniel spoke to the committee, he first referenced Floyd County Schools’ planned Reduction in Force.
“I started with the end in mind when it comes to the budget process,” he explained. “I did not want to lose any programs, I didn’t want to lose any services, and I didn’t want to close any schools. As I kept those three things in mind in the budget process, when we got to those difficult decisions and the RIF plan, we were able to keep our programs and services and we didn’t close any schools.”
McDaniel said a goal for the school system is not only increasing the graduation rate, but also increasing the quality of graduates rather than merely the quantity.
Along those lines, he noted that early learning skills such as reading are imperative to the success of students in the future.
“Our children need to be moving forward and have fewer high school students focused on remediation rather than self-actualization,” he said.