SIERRA VISTA — Cultivating an effective educational system through communication, feedback and a shared vision is a message Cochise County Superintendent of Schools Jacqui Clay is taking to local communities.

In a “Why Are We Here?” themed presentation Thursday evening at Thunder Mountain Church, Clay spoke of how a strong public school system is essential for a community’s success and sustainability.

“Our vision is that Cochise County has a diverse and well-educated, skilled workforce participating in a thriving economy,” said Clay, who emphasized the importance of community entities working together to achieve a well-balanced and aligned educational system.

Parents, educators, pastors and younth attended Clay’s presentation, where she touched on a number of concerns that challenge public education.

“So, why are we here?” Clay asked her audience. “We’re here because we share a common interest. We all want quality education for our kids, which is vital for every community’s sustainability. To achieve this, we need to work together, collaborate and develop strategies to ensure that feedback is continually exchanged throughout all areas of our educational system.”

The components of every successful educational system extend beyond school administrators, teachers, staff and counselors, Clay said. For educational systems to thrive and achieve success, they require support and input from legislators, local leaders, community members, businesses and post-secondary institutions.

Every single person in a community has to “own” education,” said Clay, who spoke of how school systems are composed of interrelated parts that impact one another to produce outputs, much like interrelated parts of the human body.

“The body can’t support life unless all the parts work well together. Our education system is very similar to how a body functions,” she said. “If we put money and time into our school systems, into our students, the output will produce leaders.”

Finding incentives to keep young people in the community is another piece of Clay’s message.

“We need to not export our children; we need to keep them here. We need to give them more vision, purpose and direction so they don’t go.”

“An educational system that understands its interdependency is destined for success, which is the catalyst for economic growth and sustainability within the community, state and nation.”

Clay urges community members to become involved in schools to help improve interrelationships and communication.

“Is there is no conversation, then our (educational) system becomes fragmented,” she said.

Stephanie Thomas, president and founder of the Sierra Vista Parents’ Coalition, a group of parents and community members dedicated to improving connections between schools and the community, also spoke on Thursday.

“I work with Jacqui Clay on educational issues,” Thomas said. “The relationships between schools, families and communities are important in helping children succeed academically, and our goal is to help strengthen those communications within our educational system.”

Thomas invited the audience to write down their top three concerns regarding education in Cochise County. Those surveyed touched on a range of topics, including behavioral health, school funding, teacher retention, curriculum, discipline, school boards, college and career readiness, teacher retention and more.

Reorienting some points in Clay’s presentation, Thomas said, “Our organization’s mission is to bring community, schools and parents together,” she said. “Research shows that when we all work together on educational issues — when we communicate our concerns — kids do better.”

She spoke of how every person in the room, whether a parent, educator or business owner, wants the best possible educational opportunities for children.

“That’s where collaboration comes in,” she said. “What we want to do is to figure out how to bring the community together to help children become economically independent.”

The public is invited to attend the 2020 Innovations in Education Conference on Jan. 24 and 24 at Cochise College in Sierra Vista where a number of educational concerns will be addressed. For information, contact 520-432-8950.

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