As August rounds the corner into September, summer is “officially” over and thoughts turn to autumn and the first days of school. It is definitely the time of year when everyone’s thoughts, whether young or old, seem to turn to the academic year ahead. In this complex and ever-changing world, the question arises, “What promises can we make and fulfill to help students become, in every sense of the word, the successful adults they are meant to be?”
Each generation faces challenges; this one, more than ever, must learn to adapt to the needs and demands of an evolving and expanding global community. As a result, educational systems are faced with making decisions that often result in enormous changes to cherished traditions and long-held beliefs.
The basic educational building blocks necessary for success today are much more sophisticated and demanding than those of previous generations. The “Three R’s,” so familiar to many, are being reworked and reshaped in response to almost daily technological advances and social changes.
According to Raymond Fashano, Chautauqua County School Boards Association executive director, at times, the changes have moved so quickly that the latest solutions sometimes become additional problems. In order to address these concerns, now and into the future, Jamestown Public Schools developed a new strategic plan whose primary goal is to, “Ensure academic excellence and equity for every student.”
The Jamestown Schools Promise Fund was recently established at the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation, as part of the strategic plan. Its aim is “to seek financial support to invest in initiatives, programs, and people that maintain the focus on the promise that lives within each and every student.” The fund will assist in “funding projects and programs, not supported by tax dollars, by marshaling community resources.”
Objectives of the strategic plan evolved through the combined efforts and input of many community members and educational staff alike. In addition to academic excellence and equity, other major elements include:
• Creating an engaging, nurturing school environment inside and outside the classroom, rich with opportunities to develop the “whole” child
• Improving communications and deepening family and community engagement
• Implementing operational standards and practices, designed to improve, support and measure student success
Because globalization and technology are greatly impacting today’s educational systems, questions arise specifically about how high schools and colleges are grooming young people for the work force. Dr. Bill Daggett, International Center for Leadership founder and president, stated during his address to the School Boards Association, “We need students who can work in teams and think independently.”
The Manufacturers Club at Chautauqua Lake Central School is striving to meet those same criteria. Its purpose is to increase education and training awareness for manufacturing, machining, and engineering opportunities. Jamestown Plastics president, Jay Baker, is a leader in directing this exciting initiative. He, along with a substantial number of volunteers from local industries, is meeting with over 130 students during their lunch hours to provide training and hands-on experience. According to a video produced to introduce students to the club, its goal is… “To learn about the great things we (industries) do every day, manufacturing the things you use every day. We want to use your (the students’) brains and ingenuity to make better products.”
There are many other ongoing challenges facing public schools in Chautauqua County: New York State’s unequal school funding distribution continues to be of grave concern; student motivation and family support is another, and last but not least, anxiety over educational standards, their structure and implementation is on almost everyone’s mind. Combined, these factors add to the complex web of worries and responsibilities surrounding local administrators and teachers.
As the City of Jamestown’s former superintendent, Fashano emphasized the importance of educational systems in …” developing a complete person” – one who can make contributions to society according to his or her talents; one who recognizes and lives by moral standards, and one who gives back to others, making this a better world.
Randy Sweeney, Community Foundation executive director, added, “The foundation is passionate about, and committed to, enriching the quality of life in the Chautauqua region. We are dedicating all our energy and resources into creating a desirable place in which to find a great job, raise a family, and enjoy the extensive array of arts and recreational opportunities available in abundance.”
The foundation’s Fund for the Region is designed to enhance educational opportunities, promote artistic and cultural events, support workforce investment, and encourage unique and imaginative strategies for economic development. Staying in touch with scholarship recipients, measuring their needs and interests, also helps the foundation facilitate conversations with others about creative and thoughtful initiatives designed to encourage young people to stay or return to this area.
To learn more about the Community Foundation’s Fund for the Region, the Jamestown Schools Promise Fund, the Manufacturers Club of Chautauqua Lake Central School, and how these, individually and together, are helping to “keep the door open” to a better life in Chautauqua county, visit crcfonline.org.