Sumter Economic Development's mission is to be the galvanizing force of Sumter County's economic development effort by creating wealth for all citizens of Sumter County by increasing per-capita income and supporting the creation of well-paying jobs.
That being said, there are currently hundreds more jobs available and unfilled than available people with the appropriate skill sets to fill them. How do we continue to attract industry with the promise to provide them with the talent they need if we have gaps in our talent pool?
The answer is simple, focus our efforts on talent development in our schools.
There has never been a more opportune time to align all we do in recruiting new business and industry and assisting those who are expanding with the work of our educational system.
We know currently that the communities who are most successful in developing, training and growing talent are winning the game of economic growth. If we desire this outcome, then our school board must be at the forefront. It's their obligation, and we deserve the best, most efficient, effective and aligned board, working together for results. Period. End of story.
Keeping this in mind, the most critical race in the Nov. 6 election is for Sumter School Board, which will seat at least three new school board members and possibly five out of a total of nine seats. This gives Sumter an opportunity to move our public education system into a new era of developing a talent pipeline of the best and brightest minds in S.C.
It is absolutely imperative that we elect visionary, forward-thinking leaders to our school board. Teachers and students alike deserve a school board committed to a vision of high expectation of student achievement, of quality instruction and a board that sets clearly defined and understandable goals toward that vision. Now is the time to create a unified board with one goal in mind. We have some extraordinary talent in instruction, and we have amazing kids, and they deserve our best.
We need a school board that has strong shared beliefs and ethics - not infighting, politicking and parochial thinking. An organization that strives to teach children at high academic levels irrespective of location or former district affiliation will create the foundation for new ideas and 21st century, global talent development. Poverty, lack of parental involvement, transportation or any other factors are challenges to overcome, not excuses. Because there is simply no excuse.
The elected members of the school board are entrusted with developing policies that enhance the district's ability to create tools and curriculum that meet today's high standards and meet the needs of future and present employers. According to researchers Goodman, Zimmerman and Fulbright, the "highest-performing school boards are focused on establishing a vision supported by policies that target student achievement." The school board of our future should be accountability driven and spend less time on operational issues and more time focused on policies that improve student achievement.
So, what does all this mean? It means we cannot afford to miss this opportunity of having a voice in the election of our local school board and moving our school district from good to great! It means we must go to the polls on Nov. 6 and elect candidates for five school board seats that have the skills and acumen to deliver on the needs of our future talent pipeline. Once elected, we must hold them accountable as citizens to create a unified vision and district goals to become the highest-achieving school district in the state. Our future and the future of our community is at a turning point, and each of us has an obligation to Sumter's children through our vote to keep moving in a positive, forward direction.
Tomorrow can't wait. The future is now.
Jay Schwedler is president and CEO of Sumter Economic Development.
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