It started with a huge inviting hug . . . a strong and welcoming gesture that placed my mind at ease as I interviewed a student from the Clayton County System of Care organization (CCSC). My anxiety was at an all-time high, as I waited at the helm in an empty conference room not knowing what to expect. Was the child going to be angry? Would he or she even want to talk to me? Where would I start the conversation? These questions were all put at ease as Cameron Dews, an eight-grader at Rex Mill Middle School, met me with a warm smile and hug, pushing away my formal handshake. Cameron was happy, engaged, and feeling truly grateful for his time and experience with CCSC after a life altering tragedy had left him lost and in need of . . . care. This is the definition of the Wrap-Around Services that many school leaders envisioned in this county without fully being able to implement–until now.
With Clayton County Public School’s (CCPS) new superintendent, Dr. Morcease Beasley, the need for heathy collaborations such as the county’s partnership with CCSC which provides social and behavioral prevention/care, and many more collaborations, are first on his agenda. South Atlanta Magazine (S.A.M.) sat down with Dr. Beasley to find out just what healthy collaborations means to him 79 and its importance to Clayton County.
S.A.M.: What are healthy collaborations? Is it vital to your administration? Why?
Dr. Beasley: I would say healthy collaboration is basically organizations, partnerships, and individuals who understand their various roles–individually and collectively–and how important it is to work toward a common goal or outcome. They bring to the table the appropriate communication, interpersonal relationships, and content knowledge to have impactful collaboration. It is vital, I don’t think there is anything we can do that can sustain over time without healthy collaboration. Whether working at the classroom level at a school or working the cluster–which is a set of schools–to improve achievement. Also, it may be working with district and various government agencies and nonprofits to provide Wrap-Around Services, all require a degree of healthy collaboration working together for the benefit of our children.
S.A.M.: Has CCPS changed with the needs of educational and community collaborations today?
Dr. Beasley: I feel good about our start. I think we’re doing more, we’re building those bridges with the government, elected officials, the nonprofits such as CCSC, the United Way, and the Clayton County Fire Department (CCFD). For example, the CCSC is an organization that helps us to address the social and emotional needs of students. When the school may have depleted their outreach services, we can refer them through our counselors to assess the student further and see where they are and what they need in terms of support. Another example is the United Way, and one facet of our partnership is a health clinic that not only serves the population of North Clayton High School, but the surrounding area of uninsured and even insured members of that local community.
S.A.M.: How can your central office staff implement healthy relationships?
Dr. Beasley: We have a great collaboration with the county and the students at Charles Drew High School and Mundy’s Mill High School. The Firefighter/ EMS pathway begins in the 10th grade when students take an Introduction to Public Safety course. Those students that wish to pursue a career in Firefighting and EMS (18 are selected from each school for a total of 36 per year) enter our academy in the 11th grade, where they are transported to the county’s facility for two classes during the school day and taught the firefighter curriculum. During their senior year, they are taught the National Registry Basic EMT curriculum. Upon graduation, those students who have successfully completed the program are offered positions with the Fire Department, where they will undergo additional recruit training. As Firefighter/ EMT’s they enter the workforce at [a starting salary of ] $41,545.67 per year right out of high school. We think that is amazing!
S.A.M.: How can the frontline staff use healthy collaborations to encourage community/parental engagement?
Dr. Beasley: All of us are engaged in what I call community development. To that end, each principal is a community developer. So, he or she is working to build collaborations and of course that would include drawing in the teachers, the staff members, community leaders, parents, and students. Each principal has a wealth of resources in their varied communities, such as faith-based institutions that want to provide students with tutoring and incentives, and monitoring of the schools to make sure that we have extra security. Those are just some of the school level collaborations that we’re working towards initiating.
S.A.M.: Is there such a thing as a plan for healthy collaborative sustainability?
Dr. Beasley: Yes, there is a plan. We implemented a new department called the Engagement of Governmental Relations and Partnerships. The goal of that division is to help develop and sustain healthy relationships and collaborations for years to come.
Schoolhouses do not teach themselves–piles of brick and mortar and machinery do not send out men. It is the trained, living human soul, cultivated and strengthened by long study and thought. That breathes the real breath of life into boys and girls and makes them human, whether they be black, or white, Greek, Russian, or American.
–W.E.B. Du Bois
I end this article with a quote from the great W.E.B. Du Bois, one of Dr. Beasley’s most admired educators. The educational system is not just an ideal of work and study, it is a place to nurture the whole child–mind, body, and spirit–which is first for Dr. Beasley.