A community can use positive peer pressure to encourage student success in school — and a group of leaders in education and business of the Tyler 1st Steering Committee talked Thursday about ways to do just that.
At a breakout table discussion, Assistant City Manager Susan Guthrie suggested family and neighborhood book nights. "We could also have a communitywide book club," the Rev. Orenthia Mason said. Rev. Mason is also the president of the Tyler Independent School District Board of Trustees.
Other ideas included partnering with the news media for a possible "Learning is Cool" poster and video contest on television and radio, which would feature public or private school students, and finding ways to motivate students and their parents to guide them.
"Kids want to feel like they are making a difference," said Kim Tunnell, chief leadership and performance officer for TISD.
Assistant City Manager Guthrie suggested celebrating student achievement the way athletics are celebrated. Talk at the breakout table also turned to gangs and how students are pressured to join, often because the gangs provide a sense of belonging.
"Is there a way to channel that energy into positive ways?" the Rev. Mason asked.
Ninety percent of Tylerites said in a citywide survey taken last year that education is important — and community involvement is important for students in both public and private schools to be a success.
The Tyler 1st Comprehensive Plan, formerly known as Tyler 21, was launched in 2007. The plan addresses issues such as downtown revitalization, historic preservation, parks and recreation, transportation and housing and neighborhoods. The plan is reviewed every five years.
The 2012 city survey was conducted by phone, e-mail and online, and 427 surveys were completed. In January, the steering committee will have a final report out, and in May, the completed plan will be presented to City Council for their approval.
Other breakout tables discussed the roles of parents, business, employers and teachers in education.
TISD Superintendent Gary Mooring said the city had been inspirational in its long-term strategic planning success and that the school district must follow suit.
"I've worked in many school districts and had never before seen the amount of interest in wanting to move TISD forward as now," he said.
During the summer, a district team-building workshop was held, he said.
"We want to do a strategic plan and do it right, and we want to be more collaborative with the community," Mooring said.
And Christi Khalaf, executive director of the Tyler Area Business Education Council, gave the Steering Committee members some sobering statistics about the importance of the community working together to help students succeed.
Ms. Khalaf noted that in 1973, only 28 percent of all U.S. jobs required a post-secondary education and skills, but by 2020, 65 percent all jobs will require this level of education.
"In Smith County, 35 percent of residents possess a post-secondary credential," she said.
Currently, 19 percent of East Texas students are successful earning a higher education credential, Ms. Khalaf said.
"This doesn't have to be a bachelor's degree, necessarily — it can be any type of credential," she said.