Gaining Perspective

Posted by Dr. Mike Ewton on 3/4/2023

We spend a lot of time and resources working toward one of our strategic plan goals of strengthening school, family, and community partnerships. An essential part of these partnerships is ensuring we tell our story so our stakeholders are informed. Stephen Covey said that we should seek first to understand before we try to be understood by others. I have taken these words to heart for years when actively listening and communicating with others. This adage has recently taken on new strategic meaning for me and changed how we tell our story as a school system.  

Everyone has perceptions or assumptions about what goes on in public schools today. Some beliefs may be inaccurate depending on how long it has been since we have been students or have had children who were students in school. The national news and social media platforms tend to paint public education with a broad brush, and the picture they paint is often unflattering. Negative headlines always get more attention than positive ones. Our country's education system has flaws, and no school system is perfect. However, we are blessed in our community to have quality schools that always strive to do what is best for our kids. No matter which school I walk through, I am always impressed by the instructional quality, innovation, and student engagement level at all grade levels. Our challenge is to let others see what we see. 

Believe Greater Dalton is one of our community partners. Our organizations have a mutual interest in improving educational outcomes and the perception of the schools in our community. Earlier this year, we partnered with Believe Greater Dalton to help us get community leaders and stakeholders into our schools so that they could have a live view of what it looks like inside classrooms today. After multiple conversations and coordination meetings, Red Carpet Tours became a reality. Interested individuals may sign up for tours of a school guided by students, staff, and administrators. The Believe Greater Dalton staff works with our schools to coordinate the events, accept inquiries from those who want to attend, and help serve as hosts on the tour day. 

The first few events have been successful. Business leaders, realtors, parents, and others have toured Eastside Elementary and Southeast High School. Cohutta Elementary is up next. Red Carpet Tours are a chance for our administrators, teachers, and staff to show the work that goes on every day. 

Along the way, we also found out that there was a lot we didn’t fully understand about our community. Our BGD partners have taught us much about local industry, economic development, and local career opportunities available to our future graduates. 

What better way to teach our educators about Whitfield County’s economic and industrial diversity than to go on a field trip? Led by Carl Campbell from the Joint Development Authority, we have loaded multiple school buses with administrators, counselors, and other staff to embark on tours throughout the county. Virtually every bus tour participant has been surprised by some of the industries in our community. We were all aware of the floor-covering industry based in our community. Still, most of us had no idea of the millions of square feet of manufacturing and distribution space these companies occupy. Even fewer of us knew that things like automobile parts, solar panels, clay targets, disc golf frisbees, and hand warmers are all made right here in Whitfield County. Seeing these impressive facilities and hearing about the careers they offer help educators better understand what career opportunities are available for our students as they strive to become college or career ready.

We set out to be better understood without realizing we needed to better understand our community. We are in the education business, and this time we were the students.