Clinton County GSC/GSPC find partnerships are key to candidate forum

By Brenda Brissette Mata

ST. JOHNS – In the spirit of collaboration, finding partners to help stage a candidate forum was a priority for the members of the Clinton County Great Start Collaborative (GSC) and Great Start Parent Coalition (GSPC).

Maria Cook, parent liaison with the coalition, said they did a lot of homework looking at different area agencies with which to partner.

“We had brainstormed and had several good ideas of agencies that we could partner with. Karen Black (Director of the Clinton GSC) and I put our heads together and realized that the work we do with CCRESA (Clinton County Regional Education Services Agency) is very important and they would be a great partner,” Cook said.

“We have a very good relationship with CCRESA,” Black said. “They are very supportive of all of our work and the goals that the collaborative and Parent Coalition are working together to accomplish.”

Tom White, president of the Clinton County RESA Board of Education, served as forum moderator. White is also head of the SOS (Save Our Students, Schools, States). SOS was also encouraging RESA to host candidate forums, so it seemed like a natural partnership.

There was a strong representation of both early childhood and K-12 education at the candidate forum.

“Not only did our superintendent take a leadership role in organizing the forum, but superintendents from other local school districts were represented,” Black said.
Audience members included teachers, board members, coalition and collaborative members, and the public, too.

“We invited all the candidates in our area,” Cook said.

Of the 11 state Senate and House candidates invited, seven responded indicating that they would attend. One had a conflict, so six ultimately participated.

Cook said the forum format was modeled using recommendations from ECIC and SOS.

The GSPC and GSC worked together to create a list of questions, which was whittled down from 14 to five.

Cook said some candidates came in very educated on early childhood and Great Start.

“You could tell they had done their homework,” she said.

Others were less informed.

“Some had no knowledge whatsoever of Great Start or even how important the early years of childhood are.” Cook said. “There are people out there who don’t know that 90 percent of the brain develops by age four and how that affects the rest of the lifetime learning experience and how that, in turn, impacts our society and our economy.”

Cook and Black said they were incredibly lucky to have Pamela Drake attend. Drake ran unopposed as a Democrat in the 85th state House district.

“When she spoke she was such a great advocate for Great Start,” Cook said. “She really educated the other candidates. She did part of our job for us.”

Black said Dennis Rainwater, Republican candidate in the 85th, also spoke positively about the rate of return on investment in early childhood.

In the end, the candidate forum offered information for voters and candidates alike.

“The audience and the candidates both walked away knowing the priorities of Clinton County from an early childhood and K-12 educational perspective,” Black said.

Maria Cook, parent liaison with the coalition, said they did a lot of homework looking at different area agencies with which to partner.

“We had brainstormed and had several good ideas of agencies that we could partner with. Karen Black (Director of the Clinton GSC) and I put our heads together and realized that the work we do with CCRESA (Clinton County Regional Education Services Agency) is very important and they would be a great partner,” Cook said.

“We have a very good relationship with CCRESA,” Black said. “They are very supportive of all of our work and the goals that the collaborative and Parent Coalition are working together to accomplish.”

Tom White, president of the Clinton County RESA Board of Education, served as forum moderator. White is also head of the SOS (Save Our Students, Schools, States). SOS was also encouraging RESA to host candidate forums, so it seemed like a natural partnership.

There was a strong representation of both early childhood and K-12 education at the candidate forum.

“Not only did our superintendent take a leadership role in organizing the forum, but superintendents from other local school districts were represented,” Black said.
Audience members included teachers, board members, coalition and collaborative members, and the public, too.

“We invited all the candidates in our area,” Cook said.

Of the 11 state Senate and House candidates invited, seven responded indicating that they would attend. One had a conflict, so six ultimately participated.

Cook said the forum format was modeled using recommendations from ECIC and SOS.

The GSPC and GSC worked together to create a list of questions, which was whittled down from 14 to five.

Cook said some candidates came in very educated on early childhood and Great Start.

“You could tell they had done their homework,” she said.

Others were less informed.

“Some had no knowledge whatsoever of Great Start or even how important the early years of childhood are.” Cook said. “There are people out there who don’t know that 90 percent of the brain develops by age four and how that affects the rest of the lifetime learning experience and how that, in turn, impacts our society and our economy.”

Cook and Black said they were incredibly lucky to have Pamela Drake attend. Drake ran unopposed as a Democrat in the 85th state House district.

“When she spoke she was such a great advocate for Great Start,” Cook said. “She really educated the other candidates. She did part of our job for us.”

Black said Dennis Rainwater, Republican candidate in the 85th, also spoke positively about the rate of return on investment in early childhood.

In the end, the candidate forum offered information for voters and candidates alike.

“The audience and the candidates both walked away knowing the priorities of Clinton County from an early childhood and K-12 educational perspective,” Black said.

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