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City schools pushing parents to spread economics of education
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Gainesville city schools Superintendent Steven Ballowe exhorted parents and other interested people Tuesday to spread the word about the economic benefits of education.

The district has started a two-year campaign to make parents and others in the community aware of income disparities and ways to "give your child an advantage in life."

"If you go to school, try your best and be nice to people, you will be a success," Ballowe said at a morning forum at the district’s central office at 508 Oak St., adding that that is a life lesson for adults too.

Shirley Whitaker, assistant superintendent for special activities, added, "It’s a simple message. ... And we will help (students) in any way we can."

Ballowe also said, "Everybody needs to be able to walk across the stage with a diploma and say ‘I’m prepared to go to college’ or ‘I’m prepared to be a good citizen.’ "

As part of the effort, school officials are holding public meetings.

The district held an afternoon forum Tuesday and plans to hold sessions at 8-8:45 a.m. and 1-1:45 p.m. on Tuesday. The afternoon session will be presented in Spanish.

Elida Lopez, a parent coordinator for the system, is helping with Latino outreach in the effort.

Also, the district is distributing fliers and posters with the heading "How much is your child worth?"

The materials present a bar chart showing the monetary difference between education levels and tips parents can use to help improve their child’s education.

For example, the chart shows a high school dropout at the lowest end of the education scale and someone holding a professional degree at the highest end.

The gap, according to the school system’s research, is nearly $95,000 per year.

The parent tips include meeting a child’s friends, limiting TV and video game activity to one hour per day, attending a child’s school activities and having "a family time to read and do homework every night."

Ballowe said the system already has shared its campaign with Hall County and seven other systems in Northeast Georgia.

"We must hit this community on a constant basis for the next several years," he said. "... There has to be a consistency of message, but it must be repeated time after time."

Mario E. Delgado, who works in Gainesville and has grandchildren in the Coweta school system, was one of those attending Tuesday’s morning forum.

He said he was impressed by statistics Gainesville schools had presented regarding academic achievement, but he added that unless he’s "in left field," all may not be as rosy as it appears in the district.

"A lot of parents don’t know how to teach their children to learn," he said.

Blue-collar Latino workers have a high work ethic, he said, but sometimes don’t push their "children to excel as well as they could in this country," he added.

Sammy Smith, who is facing Eric Oliver for the City Board of Education seat being vacated Dec. 31 by Frank Harben, was at Tuesday’s morning session.

He said afterward that he "appreciates the message of students’ earning potential," but that the forums are being held at times that generally excluded working parents.

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