Red shirts dotted the J.D. McCarty Center’s conference room Thursday morning as the Norman Chamber of Commerce held its annual Partners in Education breakfast to celebrate local educators and increase connections between individual Norman schools and local businesses.
“Today we’re talking about how this community can support and uplift education. We do have a lot of different ways we can do this,” Norman Chamber President and CEO Scott Martin said. “The thing I want educators to know is that the community certainly supports what you are doing on behalf of students.”
Norman Public Schools Superintendent Nick Migliorino said schools are thankful for financial donations to the NPS Foundation and for people who volunteer at Norman schools, but NPS is also hoping to strategically grow its community partnerships.
“The impact a partnership can have on a child’s life is tremendous,” Migliorino said.
One example he used was the district’s partnership with Norman Regional Health System which brings at least one health assistant or nurse into every school to give regular checkups. Migliorino said at one of these checkups a nurse found something in one student’s scan and suggested they get a follow up appointment with a doctor.
The nurse’s suggestion ended up saving the child’s life.
Local business leaders and educators also offered other examples of what Partners in Education relationships can look like in Norman.
Oklahoma Electrical Cooperative’s Education and Outreach Coordinator Tory Tedder-Loffland and Lakeview Elementary Principal Paula Palermo discussed how they work together.
“Coming from a business perspective, what value can OEC offer to that school and what value can that school offer to OEC, because it has to go both ways,” Tedder-Loffland said.
She and Palermo said OEC staff have been able to connect with the community in a unique way through their volunteer time at the schools and Tedder-Loffland and the Lakeview librarian designed multiple guided inquiry lessons about electricity.
They also said the best way to make sure the program is successful is to make sure there is a set point of contact in the building that was not the principal because that position already carries a lot of responsibility. The business CEO shouldn’t be the point of contact at the business for the same reason.
“Your relationship with your schools might work differently and it is all up to you to communicate in that relationship,” Tedder-Loffland said.
Leslie Christopher with BOLD Multimedia and Monroe Elementary Principal Lori Connery shared the school’s volunteer program called “Monroe Champions.”
Christopher said the program started as a way for parents to more strategically plug into classrooms and help teachers, but it is also an example of how Partners in Education can join a school’s existing volunteer, tutoring or mentor programs.
The program works by directly connecting volunteers with specific teachers at specific times during the month.
“We so appreciate the financial support, but the people in our building make the difference for our kids,” Connery said.
Connery said they asked staff to share what kind of help they could use in their classrooms.
Then parents and other volunteers were asked to step in to those roles. Both women said it was more important to be a regular and dependable volunteer instead of volunteering a long amount of time for one day.