NCSS seeks to know more about poverty
It’s not just the poor who are affected by poverty. It’s the entire community.
That’s why the schools needs to be more poverty-informed, according to Craig Lockhart, Newton County School System Deputy Superintendent.,
“We are at the point where we’ve done a lot of academic things, but we feel we can’t move forward without addressing poverty,” he said.
Lockhart and Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey have been working on an initiative
to address poverty in the schools district-wide.
“We need to be more poverty informed,” Lockhart said.
School district leaders, including Board of Education members, have visited communities, transportation issues and food deserts — areas where access to fresh produce, dairy and meats is limited or nonexistent. “We’re trying to be aware of what impacts our school as far as poverty.”
“We’re looking at taking the lead,” Fuhrey said. People who have expressed interest in addressing issues associated with situational or generational poverty have been invited to partner “As a school system, we’ve gone a bit further at [how] the impact poverty has had on our students’ ability to perform at their peak.” BUILDING PARTNERSHIPS
“We feel like you learn more every time you engage in the dialogue,” Fuhrey said. She said she hoped Newton County could be a povertyinformed community, with structures set up that pool all resources in the community.
That includes building partnerships with government, nonprofit organizations and the faith and business communities. It’s one of the things Laura Betram, Executive Director of Newton County Community Partnership, believes is vital in an era of doing more with less.
“Our focus is to get the best bang for our buck,” Betram said. “We’re a poor community. We know what works in low income neighborhoods. What people don’t need is another informational booklet. What they need is someone to walk beside them.
“We have lots of little organizations doing good things, but if our goal is to have all students graduate from high school on time with the skills they need to have to be successful, we have to get better,” she said, adding that when the community focus is on the needs and desires of a group, working with them to help them improve the quality of life, those helped train their children, their friends and their neighbors, helping them improve their lives.”
Betram said she has worked with focus groups in low-income areas. “In every one of the focus groups, at least one person says they want a better for their child then they have themselves,” she said. “What we need to do is model the right behaviors and connect them with resources.” BEING POVERTYINFORMED
Betram, Fuhrey and Lockhart have all trained with Donna Beegle, Ed.D., author of “See Poverty, Be The Difference,” and “An Action Approach to Educating Students Who Live in the Crisis of Poverty.” She is the president of Communications Across Barriers and the founder of The Poverty Bridge Project.
Beegle, Lockhart said “is very solution oriented. We can all identify the problem, but we all get stuck on what to do next.”
Fuhrey said in her 25 years of education, she has never heard of anyone who had a strategy for the solution. “The reason I’m so excited is there might be a way to change the lives of 70 percent of the children and those community members who are impacted by poverty.”
Betram said Beegle’s training looks at why people live in poverty and what can be done to connect them with resources and help. She said people are penalized for living in poverty. For example, “You can’t get to probation because you don’t have a car, so now you have three more weeks of probation. You can’t get to the alternative schools because they don’t offer transportation, you get in trouble. BREAKING OUT OF SILOS
Fuhrey echoes Betram’s belief that everyone has to work together to solve the issue of poverty.
“This has to be something our community embraces,” she said. “The issue of poverty can’t be solved in silos. Everyone has to work together to solve the issue of poverty.”
One of the shared goals of the cities, the county, the Chamber of Commerce and NCSS is attracting and educating a workforce that lives in Newton County to attract businesses and manufacturers. “We need to help the Chamber and the mayors generate enough interest people bring their companies here. We need them, they need us,” Fuhrey said.