BENNINGTON -- As Bennington area educators returned to school from summer break they were met with appreciation and insight from economic leaders about what skills they hope students obtain by the time they complete high school.
The Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union-wide event held at Mount Anthony Union High School included teachers and support staff from its nine schools, along with dozens of business leaders and members of the community as the supervisory union continues to align its curriculum with the Common Core State Standards.
The Common Core, adopted by the state in 2010, sets standards in English and math of what students are expected to know by the end of each grade and what high school graduates must master to succeed in college and the work force.
Inviting input from community
Inviting input from the community is necessary under the SVSU curriculum policy and was used as a way to allow school administrators and staff an opportunity to learn how the community defines "college and career readiness."
Throughout the morning members of the staff and community intermingled into groups to share their thoughts on what students should know in order to be ready for college or the work force. In addition to things like math and reading, business leaders focused on employability skills such as work ethic and professionalism.
Lindy Lynch, who owns Kevin’s Restaurant in North Bennington with her husband and is president of the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce, said she employs nearly 40 people, many of whom are fresh out of school or in college, and that it is important they be prepared for the work force. Whether they are chefs or wash dishes, Lynch said employees must be able to read, be self-motivated, be problem-solvers and they must take pride in their work. Many of those skills, she said, can be taught through the school system beginning at a young age.
Lynch was one of five members of the Bennington Economic Development Task Force who took part on a panel to discuss their hopes for the schools and what the future economic climate in Bennington looks like. Others on the panel included Jeannie Jenkins, academic coordinator at Community College of Vermont, Michael Harrington, Bennington’s economic and community director, John Shannahan, director of the Better Bennington Corp., and Peter Odierna, executive director of Bennington County Industrial Corp.
Odierna described the manufacturing climate and the "composites cluster" in Bennington as continuously growing and creating an opportunity for good jobs that will rely on educated youth.
"In terms of what’s going to drive our local economy, there’s no question in my mind there’s going to be plenty of good jobs available, and I think it’s up to us as a community to find pathways so those good jobs will be filled," Odierna said.
Monday’s gathering was the first conversation of its kind between the local education and business sectors, but both sides agreed there must be continued conversation to improve outcomes that benefit the entire community.
"We are thrilled that the Core Standards were adopted and we want you to know that as a business community we want to be a part of this as you move forward," Shannahan told the group.
Monday was the first of five in-service days for teachers and support staff. Students begin a new school year Sept. 4.
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