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The future of public education
Area residents gather for A Vision for Public Education forum Monday
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    Ideas were flying around the Statesboro High School cafeteria Monday night as about 70 people from across the region brainstormed about where they would like to see public education in 2015.
    People from Liberty, Jefferson, Glynn, Candler, Screven, Effingham, Bryan, Evans and Bulloch counties, as well as from the Vidalia City school system, gathered for "A Vision for Public Education in Georgia," a public forum sponsored by  the Georgia School Boards Association and the Georgia School Superintendents Association.
    The gathering at Statesboro High Monday was one of eight community meetings held statewide.
    Bulloch County School Superintendent Dr. Lewis Holloway welcomed the group, and handed the microphone over to Sis Henry, representing the Georgia School Boards Association.
    "For too long we have allowed legislators to control public education," she said. She said these forums are brought about because "It's time to actually  talk about what the vision of public education should look like (in the future)."
    There were parents, students, teachers, school board members, superintendents and principals in the group, which was subdivided into several smaller groups, where facilitators helped stir discussion as to what the participants wanted to see regarding public education in five years.
    Dr. Bill Barr managed the forum, and explained points considered for improving public education and getting the project going.
    Citizens concerned for public education should work towards creating a vision, engaging citizens in the public education process, get communities involved with their schools and "creating a single vision for change," he said.
    Getting students interested in the learning process is vital as well, he said. "We've got to touch the passions of young people to motivate them to learn."
    As participants moved into smaller groups, the conversations grew lively as the group members shared ideas. Facilitators wrote these points down as others spoke, touching on topics such as discipline, parental involvement, focusing on education of students in 0-5 grade, encouraging enjoyment of school and paying special focus on foreign languages at an early age.
    Other suggestions for a better public school environment included more hands-on, real-life projects to encourage students; smaller class sizes, alternatives to traditional classrooms and class seating; no mandated testing, more problem solving and more diversity in teaching methods.
    Participants said they wanted to preserve having teachers directly involved with students, keeping the importance of academics, arts and physical education; and focusing on foreign languages.
    The suggestions brought up by the groups will be considered by project coordinators as the "A Vision for Public Education in Georgia" continues.
    "I think this is a great idea," said Bulloch County Board of Education member Mike Herndon. "One of the most important things in public education is public involvement in a positive way. That's what this was," he said, referring to Monday evening'; forum. "Good things usually start with good ideas."
    For more information about A Vision for Public Education in Georgia " access Internet website www.visionforpubliced.org.