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A state legislator is hoping an upcoming town hall meeting will give a national perspective on building a "world-class" educational system in Orangeburg County.

A community education forum entitled “Envisioning the Future of Education in Orangeburg County” hosted by Rep. Jerry Govan Jr., D-Orangeburg, and other community organizations is planned for Feb. 7.

The forum will be held from 5:30-8 p.m. at Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College’s Roquemore Auditorium. A question-and-answer period will follow. 

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Addressing the unique challenges of students in poverty, including figuring out the best use of federal funding, is among the target areas for the forum, Govan said. 

"We need to have an idea or sense of not what's going on necessarily just in Columbia or Orangeburg, but to be able to basically think out of the box," he said. 

July 1 is the first official day of operation for a new, consolidated school district combining Orangeburg Consolidated School Districts 3, 4 and 5.

"We have a chance to start afresh. And if we're going to start afresh, my feeling is that it's a great opportunity at this point to kind of get an idea or a feel for what's happening in other areas of the country and world with regard to education in terms of what they're doing right and perhaps what we can be doing better," Govan said.

Scheduled speakers include:

  • Dr. Monifa McKnight, chief school management and instructional leadership officer of Howard County, Maryland Public Schools.
  • Danielle Ewen, senior policy adviser, Educational Council, Washington, D.C.
  • Dr. Sandy Addis, direct of the National Dropout Prevention Center, Anderson.

"I'm real excited about the panel. The study which really prompted me do this town hall in Orangeburg is called "No Time To Lose," which basically looked at other educational systems in other countries around the world and basically came back with some conclusive evidence that was shared recently with our House Education Committee," said Govan, who is a member of the education committee of the National Conference of State Legislators.

"We were able to collaborate through the Legislative Black Caucus and the House Education Committee to get the policy analysts of the National Conference of State Legislators to come in and do a presentation on Wednesday, talking about the key factors and the educational initiatives that were going on around the world and where our country stacked up compared to others," said Govan, noting he will conduct a brief PowerPoint presentation on "No Time To Lose."

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As a community leader and parent and grandparent of children who either attended or are attending the public school system, he said his interest lies in "seeing us build a truly world-class educational system here that prepares our children for a multifaceted society in which a child" succeeds whether they pursue a four-year degree, two-year-degree or a vocational trade.

"I would hope that this forum will plant some very positive seeds, particularly in terms of our new board, of the possibilities of what can be done if we work together. And I hope that can walk away with a greater appreciation and sense of collaboration with regard to what we have at present here in Orangeburg County.

"Irregardless of where we stand, the bottom line is that we have a very viable public education system. We also have charter schools and we also have private schools in the area. So parents have access to all three of those venues in terms of trying to decide what's the best course in terms of education for their children," Govan said.

He added, "Based on the continuing competition for scant resources, whether it's on the federal or state level and based on what parents can afford, I think it's important that we try to build an educational model that meets the educational needs of all of our students and gives them the quality of education" to compete with any child in the world. 

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Govan said members of the existing boards in Orangeburg Consolidated School Districts 3,4 and 5 are invited, along with members of the new Orangeburg County School District board and "professional educators, board members and parents" from the public, private and charter school systems.

He said other members of the Orangeburg County Legislative Delegation are also welcome as the panelists explore ways in which the county can enhance its education system.

Govan noted the forum was not being held "in competition" with the newly elected consolidated school board.

"We're simply trying to share what we have learned and the resources that we have connected to, particularly in participation on these national committees" and assist them as they "exercise their fiduciary and other authority as elected or appointed entities," he said.

"For example, Dr. Addis and the National Dropout Prevention Center have done an excellent piece of work on dealing with trauma and wounded kids. He's been invited to talk about what's going on with the National Drop Out Prevention Network and what they're doing in working with these type of children," Govan said.

He said Ewen is considered a national expert on the national Every Student Succeeds Act, "which basically provides assistance to Title 1 schools." The basic principal of Title 1 is that schools with large concentrations of low-income students will receive supplemental funds to assist in meeting student's educational goals.

"How can we use that in that our environment in which we have limited access to state funds? Right now we have a state funding formula. How can we better utilize federal dollars" to particularly address the needs of students in high-poverty schools? Govan said.

He said S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster has announced a collaborative effort with the Senate and House to put out an education reform package and that he's "seeking participation of one or both of those bodies to come share some of the points of that proposal."

Representatives from local colleges and universities have also been asked to attend the forum to present financial aid and other information for interested parents, he said.

"We hope to have at least three, four or five," Govan said.

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Contact the writer: dgleaton@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5534. Follow "Good News with Gleaton" on Twitter at @DionneTandD

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Staff Writer

Dionne Gleaton has been a staff writer with The T&D for 20 years. She has been an education reporter, regional reporter and currently writes features with an emphasis on health.

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