One of Dr. Chris Marczak’s first actions as new Maury County Director of Schools was to reach out to area businesses for ideas on improving the school system, citing research that shows when the schools are strong, the business community thrives. Together with the Maury County Chamber and Economic Alliance, Maury County Public Schools launched “The Grass Is Greener Where You Water It” campaign to make educational achievement the community’s highest priority through a series of marketing messages and community outreach programs.
“The more effort we put into what we are doing, the better the outcomes are going to be,” Marczak says.
Good Business Partners
Mary Beth West is a Maury County Schools alumnus whose communications firm was retained to work on marketing for the initiative.
“One of the first questions any company asks before it makes a major relocation or an expansion decision is, ‘Will this community provide the well-trained, quality workforce my company needs in order to be competitive immediately and, longer term, to grow in the future?’” West says. “Nearly every Maury County employer will look to Maury County Public Schools and Columbia State Community College as a key source for employees, so it’s critical for the entire community to support these institutions for the highest quality outcomes.”
“From a livability perspective, a strong education system attracts people and enhances population growth,” says Wil Evans, president of the Maury County Chamber and Economic Alliance. “That is often the No. 1 reason people cite for relocating to a particular community.”
Maury County has made large strides in the past year to ensure its education will be tops in the state, Evans says, and programs and partnerships offered by Columbia State and Maury County Public Schools are keys to future growth.
Maury County Schools has launched a Keys to College and Career Readiness program. The “keys” represent key performance indicators — a comprehensive list of academic goals for students to help align all the schools’ resources with the expectations of the community and business leaders. The school system solicited educational goals from community members, generating more than 9,000 responses.
Respondents were asked three questions: What should a student know and be able to do by the time they leave elementary school, middle school and high school?
“By that end, we had seven key performance indicators,” Marczak says. “So if you move here or your employees move here and put your kids in our schools, this is what we are going to emphasize, and this is what our schools are going to be focusing on.”
Columbia State Community College – which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2016 – works with Maury County Schools to provide students with extra educational and enrichment opportunities in a fun environment. One of its most popular youth programs is STEM Girls, which provides junior high girls with a day of classes and fun activities that introduce them to the real-world applications of science, technology, engineering and math. In its first two years, more than 600 girls attended.
“Our mission is to increase the education level of our communities,” says Columbia State College President Dr. Janet Smith. “By increasing the education level, it increases the quality of life. Above and beyond that, a student can come to Columbia State and receive a certificate in a year and begin work, or they can stay and receive an associate degree or transfer to a university. We provide an opportunity for them to get an affordable, high-quality education close to home – and it adds to the economy.”