Each generation faces the challenge of preparing the next generation for success. Our students today are faced with challenges and opportunities most of us never imagined when we were their age. They live in a world of global competition, of exponentially expanding knowledge, and of an economy strained by the deepest and longest recession since the Great Depression. They must learn to become lifelong learners, and they must have the tools necessary to compete with others around the world. As adults, we can choose whether to lament the job losses, to fear the changes necessary to thrive in the modern world, to wait on someone to come to our aid, or to stretch ourselves to create opportunities for our students that just a few short years ago seemed impossible.
Today’s students have grown up in an age of technology -- of cell phones and face book; of instant and frequent digital communication. School must be relevant to their world and must be sufficiently challenging to hold their interest. With the proper tools, they cannot only succeed, but thrive in the modern world. Over the past five years, the Rutherford County School System has been working diligently to transform our education program to provide learning opportunities in the “information age.” The infrastructure to support digital technology has been put in place. By the end of this year, all classrooms will have Promethean Boards, which essentially replace chalkboards with large interactive computer screens complete with Internet access. We currently seek to provide laptops for all 6th through 12th grade students for use in their daily schoolwork as part of our “Going g.l.o.b.a.l.” effort – Growing Learning Opportunities Beyond All Limits. These laptops will be used for the daily work of our students and will provide up-to-date digital textbooks, graphing calculators, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and other reference materials. Most assignments will be completed and returned electronically. In this new educational environment, computers will be the tools of daily work, just as they are in college and in the vast majority of today’s jobs. In fact, most employers looking to start a business or to relocate seek a technologically savvy workforce. North Carolina school systems that have implemented this type of 1:1 digital learning program boast huge increases in student achievement and college-going rate and equally huge decreases in school discipline problems. The potential benefits are phenomenal.
Please join me in supporting the efforts of the Rutherford County Schools Education Foundation to provide funding for Going Global. We fully realize that not everyone is in a financial position to contribute at this time, but for those who are, it is hard to imagine a more significant investment in our children and our community. Shrinking state and local budgets offer little hope for innovation for the foreseeable future. While we are seeking grant funding to supplement our effort, this will only be possible if we can demonstrate broad support within our community. Simply stated, if this is to happen now, it will do so because of the generosity and forward-looking spirit of the citizens of Rutherford County. Let us choose at this time to stretch ourselves to provide the resources for Going Global, to give our students a competitive edge for their futures, and to help offer our county hope for a brighter tomorrow.
John Mark Bennett
Chairman, Rutherford County Board of Education