Four years ago, leaders in Tulsa, Okla., looked at their community — home to nearly 30 percent of the state's population — and decided to make quality education for every student a key priority. The result was ImpactTulsa, a partnership of some 300 organizations and 15 school systems serving some 170,000 students
Oklahoma state Rep. Monroe Nichols, former chief operating officer of ImpactTulsa, says that even though the partnership is just a few years old, it has already produced results.
"We have significant progress in several areas," he said. "We have seen significant growth in the number of children enrolled in preschool. We've seen significant increases in high school graduation rates, and just as important because we are working together, we are better able to identify the specific interventions we have been working on that have helped us obtain those increases."
Nichols will be talking about the ImpactTulsa experience on Monday at 5:30 p.m. at the Wink Theatre and the public is invited. His speech is sponsored by Believe Greater Dalton, a public-private partnership of the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce and local governments aimed at implementing a five-year strategic plan for Dalton and Whitfield County. It is focused on strategies in six areas to improve the community: educational outcomes, housing, entrepreneurship, economic development, downtown development and community pride.
"I would encourage anybody who has a stake in education, which is really everybody in the community, to come and listen to Monroe speak," said chamber President Rob Bradham.
ImpactTulsa is itself based on the StriveTogether model, first pioneered in 2006 in the Cincinnati, Ohio, and northern Kentucky area.
"Strive is now a national network of over 70 communities across the country," said Nichols. "We have communities as large as Dallas, which is much larger than Tulsa, to rural communities in Kentucky and Tennessee and South Carolina that are smaller than Dalton."
Nichols says the model works in such disparate areas because it is "community driven."
"This is about building a shared community vision, the community developing goals and tracking how things are progressing," he said.
Bradham says he hopes Nichols' speech is the start of developing a community vision for the Greater Dalton area, which is Whitfield County.
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