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Business leaders offer advice to Hall school officials
Board to share comments at today's meeting
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Hall County School Board meeting

When: 5 p.m. today
Where: Hall County school board office, 711 Green St. NW, Gainesville
Contact: 770-534-1080

The Hall County Schools Board of Education met for an unusual reason last week: to ask for criticism.

Board members Bill Thompson and Sam Chapman, along with Board Chairman Nath Morris and Superintendent Will Schofield, met Wednesday with local business leaders to find out what the school system is doing right and what it can continue to improve.

"I thought it was a great meeting," said Kit Dunlap, president of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.

Dunlap said one comment was to make sure teachers and administrators understand not all students in Hall County will go on to college.

"Make sure there's a plan to make sure these students can go into the workforce or to a technical school," she said. "We like what's happening in the school system in the way of learning choices. ... It's not a strict math and language anymore."

Both Dunlap and Johnny Johnson, financial advisor for Raymond James Financial Services, cited World Language Academy and the Da Vinci Academy as prime examples of good things Hall County is doing in schools.

Johnson added the International Baccalaureate program was encouraging as well.

"My daughter was actually in the first group to graduate with an IB degree," he said. "She got a four-year scholarship to Mercer University. The training and the preparation it gave her were incredible. She's a sophomore this year and said in a lot of ways, college is easier than the last two years of high school."

Johnson said what struck him most about the meeting was the emphasis needed on "soft skills," such as how to show up for work on time, dress for an interview and simply be respectful of the workplace.

"They don't seem to have a realistic expectation of how they present and compose themselves," he said.

"So many fewer students actually have work experience in high school."

One thing he said he would like to see is students graduating with basic finance skills such as balancing a checkbook.

"(My friends in those classes) weren't the most academic, but some of them now have small businesses and are doing very well for themselves," Johnson said.

Greer Todd, chief operating officer for Lake Lanier Islands, said he applauded the school system for taking the time to ask what it could do better.

"Obviously everybody can do better," he said. "Schofield has some good, innovative ideas about preparing all students for the future and keeping them on a track that's good for them."

Todd had the opportunity to work with Hall County students as part of Hospitality High, a program where they work at Lake Lanier Islands. He said he hopes the program will continue to serve as a recruitment opportunity for future employees.

Schofield said the rest of the board will hear a recap of the conversation at tonight's board meeting.

"This was our first opportunity to do something like this and we hope it's the first of many," Schofield said. "We had very few comments that said students were not getting enough math or enough science. It was kids don't seem to have a firm grasp on what the work world looks like."


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