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Workforce preparation hot topic at retreat

By Noelle Edwards
nedwards@salisburypost.com
Dr. Judy Grissom, superintendent of Rowan-Salisbury Schools, told business leaders Friday that education and the economy are like the chicken and the egg: Maybe one comes first, maybe the other does, but either way, the two rely on one another.
Grissom spoke at the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce’s annual retreat Friday morning. Representatives from Rowan Partners for Education, Communities in Schools of Rowan County and the Rowan-Cabarrus Community College were also scheduled to speak.
Skip Wood, chamber chairman elect, said he considered several topics for the retreat. The economy, transportation and biotechnology were all possibilities, he said. But when it came right down to it, he decided a few hours spent learning about education and workforce preparation would be most helpful for the community.
“I don’t think there is anything more important we can do,” he said.
Grissom agreed.
“We need each other,” she said to chamber members.
She told the group how today’s students are different than students in former generations.
Students’ lives revolve around technology, she said. They learn through interaction, function best while multitasking, and are impatient with lectures.
She said the challenge for teachers is they are preparing students for jobs that didn’t exist a few years ago, and in their careers, students will probably use technology that hasn’t been invented yet.
She said getting some teachers to change their methods is a challenge.
“The only people who love change are babies,” she said.
She said if Rip van Winkle had gone to sleep in 1909 and woke up today, he would be shocked by the changes in transportation, technology, business and culture. But she said he wouldn’t see many changes in the way schools operate.
She cited the school system’s efforts to incorporate technology with education, including giving every ninth and tenth grade student at North Rowan High School an iPod touch and supplying certain classrooms with a computer per student, video camera, smart boards and other technology.
What schools need from businesses, Grissom said, is spots for students to intern or do apprenticeships, support for employees who have children in school, and support for candidates who will help the school system get more money than it currently is from the Rowan County Board of Commissioners.
“Think about the relationship between education and economic development, and support it,” Grissom said.

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