When schools and business cooperate to better education for students, the community prospers.
Such was the message espoused by representatives of Fort Dodge's educational institutions to members of the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance Thursday at Fort Dodge Senior High.
FDSH students Shelby Portz and Libby Redmond spoke about how the senior high's leadership class has helped them to become better leaders. The class encourages leadership by entrusting students with responsibilities and organizing projects.
-Messenger photo by Brandon L. Summers
Tom Chalstrom, St. Edmond Catholic Schools interim president, spoke before a group of Fort Dodge educators and members of the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Association at Fort Dodge Senior High Thursday about how cooperation between business and schools benefits the community.
"What I took from that class is that ... it opened my eyes to that you don't need to have a title to stand up for the kids who are below you," Redmond, student body treasurer, said.
Andi Adams, FDSH instructor, said students need to learn leadership and helped devise a curriculum for the course
"We didn't need to be taught to be a leader. None of us had that happen," she said. "Now, today, with kids who are very enabled and won't mind if they live with their parents until they're 40 ... I'd say, 'You want to live with your parents until you're 40? Yeah, it'd be great. Three meals a day, xBox, live in the basement. No."
Dave Keane, FDSH principal, said classes such as Understanding Social Systems and civics classes are encouraging students to participate in government and take an active role in their community.
Neale Adams, Iowa Central Community College business and industry technology dean, explained students have the opportunity to take college-level courses at FDSH and earn college credit "free," while also preparing for their future careers.
One example is the culinary arts program. Senior High students, working with Chef Michael Hirst, an Iowa Central instructor, helped prepare the day's lunch.
"They are Iowa Central courses," Adams said. "(The teacher) has exactly the same credentials an Iowa Central instructor would have, they use the same textbook, they use the same syllabi, the same material. It is the same course."
Sue Wood, FDCSD director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, told how developing a 21st century curriculum, emphasizing skills such as critical thinking and problem solving, benefits not only students but also future employers and the community.
"You say to me things we need are kids who can think, kids who can communicate, employees who are creative, who can collaborate, who are flexible and who are productive and accountable," she said. "We strive to make sure our students can be these things for you when they become your employees."
This is evident in the changing math curriculum, which is introducing "productive struggle" to inspire these skills early.
"When they're faced with a problem, you give them a chance to struggle," Wood said.
Dan Kinney, Iowa Central president, said the education system in Fort Dodge is impressive.
"Our community, you can start at preschool and get a four-year degree," he said. "That ability for a student to never leave Fort Dodge, be born here and get a degree is unheard of with a community our size."
Iowa Central has seen continuing enrollment growth, Kinney said, and has expanded. One of its missions is to provide students with skills in demand by local employers, he said.
A partnership with schools and businesses is essential.
"For us to have a strong community, we've got to have a strong educational system," Kinney said, "and it starts by working together."