Business, educators hope to prepare grads for workforce

David Broyles Staff Reporter

October 18, 2013

The Surry County School System plans on building on recent robotics team support and the Steam for STEM event, which showcased student talents, with a fall business advisory council meeting.

The gathering was hosted by SouthData and was held at the firm’s Mount Airy facility Wednesday.

“We relish the opportunity to work with both Surry County and Mount Airy City schools,” said SouthData President John Springthorpe. “They are really willing to change things after they find out what business people would like to see (in their graduates). They should be applauded for their efforts.”

Springthorpe said the workforce, like society, changes and evolves and he felt it is important for educators to come back regularly to think outside the box.

“I’m glad they (educators) have been so responsive,” said Springthorpe. “They’re responding to what they are hearing.”

Surry County Schools Superintendent Dr. Travis Reeves said the council meeting was simply an extension of the goals of the system’s strategic plan and its ongoing partnerships with business and recent Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics initiatives.

He said the one of the objectives set for in the plan was to offer students and teachers a chance to learn more about educational as well as employment opportunities in Surry County.

“We have to work closely with our local businesses to learn about these opportunities,” said Reeves. “I strongly believe that our students graduating can be a stimulus for Surry County on an economic level. This is an example of planning your work and working your (strategic) plan.”

Surry County Schools Director of Secondary Curriculum and Instruction Jill Reinhardt said bi-annual meetings of the advisory council with subcommittee work in between the sessions were already being planned by the system. She said Springthorpe’s comments on their willingness to make changes as a great complement for the system.

Reinhardt said examples of recent programs helped through this type of cooperation include the Habitat for Humanity house builds at North Surry High School and ongoing robotics team mentoring. She said she hopes information from these meetings to make changes to internships and praised the support of the Surry County Economic Development Partnership and LeeAnn Stokes.

“Information we have learned from these events has led to changes in our health science programs,” Reinhardt said. “We also feel our virtual academy and college credit offerings can give us scheduling flexibility as we change the ways we are delivering these experiences to our students.”

She said the cluster groups from Wednesday’s events were tasked with finding ways to make internships more meaningful by being more closely related to the contemporary business world. She said this scheduling flexibility might allow for what has been only 90 minutes allowed for internships to three-hour blocks provided at several times a week.

“This really is different that what we’ve been doing. We’re looking for a way to deepen that. We would also like to provide externships for our teachers in business and industry so they can better apply what they learn to classroom content.” Reinhardt one project being considered is how to design “STEMersion” which is determining how to better get teachers looking at the direct applications for STEM in the business world.”

Other objectives in the subcommittee meetings included identifying what challenges local business face as well as global business challenges and offering students a chance to suggest solutions as well as defining what local businesses need to operate currently as well as five years in the future to help us design our internships and externships.”

Reach David Broyles at or 336-719-1952.