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Gainesville school board discusses community partnerships
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Huddling Thursday night for a retreat away from school system offices, the Gainesville City Board of Education discussed ways it can improve community partnerships.

School board member Sammy Smith said he believed the system needs to foster relationships with residents who don’t have children in the system.

“This is one focus and connection I think we are wise to keep on our priority list,” he said.

“In some cases, these are graduates or grandmamas, or in some cases they are brand new to the city” and wondering about the local school system, Smith said.

Board member Maria Calkins agreed.

“I think that’s such an opportunity for us, (dealing with) quality of life, big picture. ... Because of SPLOST and all of our community initiatives, we need to have that relationship and trust,” she said.

The system’s SPLOST, or special purpose local-option sales tax, is a 1 cent tax approved by voters and levied on all purchases, with proceeds going largely to school construction and renovation projects.

Board member Delores Diaz said that, during her campaign for office last year, she made sure to meet with residents of Seasons on Lake Lanier, a lakeside community for empty-nesters and other older adults.

“They were so appreciative that someone had taken the time to talk with them, even though they don’t have children,” she said. “They are stakeholders in this (system) as much as anybody, because they are footing the bill.”

Calkins said residents like those “could be our new, best group of volunteers in a one-on-one reading program.”

Diaz and Smith nodded in agreement.

“That development bills itself as an active-adult community,” Smith said. “Well, we have activity for them.”

The board talked about beefing up or maintaining other partnerships, such as with Gainesville City Council, Gainesville Parks & Leisure Services and Quinlan Visual Arts Center.

Board Chairman David Syfan referred to states competing for $4.35 billion in federal stimulus money to spur comprehensive education reform in an initiative known as “Race to the Top.”

Part of the effort involves “looking at all the various community agencies and how you integrate them into what you’re doing in the school system, so we’ll be doing some of that,” Syfan said.

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