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Charting the Course event discusses community strength

9/26/2013 - South Side Leader
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By Julia Kazar

GREEN — Green Local Schools Superintendent Jeffrey Miller was the guest speaker at Mayor Dick Norton’s Charting the Course on Economic Development program Sept. 18 at Green’s Central Administration Building.

“Strong schools make strong communities,” said Miller. “When you have strong schools, they turn out strong individuals, who in turn become the work force in your community.”

Miller, along with Assistant Superintendent Kevin Finefrock, presented the district’s new strategic plan and an update on school spending, as well as ways businesses and the schools are working together to better impact the community.

Norton presents Charting the Course presentations to local business leaders as a way to keep businesses in Green informed about the city’s progress toward its strategic initiatives and economic development efforts, according to city officials.

Miller said the district is working hard to make sure its students not only have the best opportunities, but also have the tools and experience to be successful once they leave. According to Miller, there are three key ways in which the district is doing this: collaborative partnerships, AAA (academics, arts and athletics) Excellence and knowledge of the millennial generation.

By using collaborative partnerships, the district can often save money and achieve more, Miller said. An example of this would be the new wetlands project that is in the area in front of Green Middle School. This project not only gives students an opportunity to study the ecosystems and different species of plant and animal life found in wetlands, but also saves money because students no longer have to be bused to such an area, and it will help alleviate drainage issues for the city, he said.

“Students and teachers are really excited about this project,” Miller said. “They can’t wait to get out there and study the wetlands. But, I’ve also seen community members out there on evenings and weekends taking advantage of a new place to exercise while enjoying nature.”

According to Miller, 26 percent of last year’s graduating class had college credit at the time of graduation. He said Green High School also was recently ranked in the top 10 percent of high schools nationally.

“We’re not going to stop and rest on our laurels now, though,” Miller said. “We’re going to keep working to get into the top 5 percent, and hopefully, someday, into the top 1 percent.”

Miller said the district has a strong arts program, with 25 percent of its students participating in some sort of fine arts. He also said 35 percent of the high school student body participates in at least one sport.

“Arts and athletics are important to our schools,” Miller said. “They help give students a well-rounded experience, create and foster life-long skills and relationships, as well as teaching life lessons you can’t learn in the classroom.”

According to Finefrock, there are five unique qualities that millennials, the term used to describe young people today, posses. They are optimistic and engaged, have parents who are heavily involved in their lives, are motivated and goal-oriented, are team-oriented and feel a tremendous pressure to succeed. He said if the teachers and administrators are aware of these characteristics of the students they teach, then it can help them to find new ways to reach the students.

At the end of the presentation, Norton said he values the high return the district gets on its investments.

“We spend roughly $8,000 per student and get great results,” Norton said. “There are other schools that spend $12,000 or more, and don’t see the results we do. I think that really shows the community we get the most we can out of their tax dollars.”

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