Albany State University Interim President Art Dunning urged the Albany Exchange Club Friday to join with the Albany educational collaborative of himself, Darton State College Interim President Paul Jones, Albany Technical College President Anthony Parker and Dougherty County School Superintendent Butch Mosely to help stem the county’s high dropout rate. (Staff Photo: Terry Lewis)
ALBANY — Albany State University Interim President Art Dunning had a simple message for the Albany Exchange Club Friday — “Albany is the economic engine of southwest Georgia. If we strengthen Albany we strengthen Southwest Georgia.”
If Albany is indeed the economic engine that drives the region’s economy, then education is the fuel of that engine.
“This nation is an extraordinary place, and I learned that by spending many years out of the country, ” said Dunning, who then began talking about the Albany educational collaborative made up of himself, Darton State College Interim President Paul Jones, Albany Technical College President Anthony Parker and Dougherty County School Superintendent Butch Mosely.
“The four of us got together and wanted to find ways to lower the county’s dropout rate by making some changes in secondary education,” Dunning said. “Butch Mosely told me the other day that four in ten of the kids who start school here will not graduate. That has to change. If Albany State, Darton, Albany Tech, the Dougherty County School System and the community put our resources together we can make extraordinary changes.”
The educational collaborative is seeking to model a local program after a pre-kindergarten through age 16 initiative in El Paso, Texas, a community that has transformed education through similar collaborative efforts that include businesses, community leaders, K-12 schools and higher education partners.
Dunning said the local group has contacted the Carl Vinson Institute for Government and the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development at the University to provide advice on listening sessions to hear from the community and to learn what they think can be done to strengthen the community and help put the infrastructure in place to carry the group to the next level.
The first listening session will be held July 1 at 6 p.m. at Monroe High School. In the meantime the local quartet will make a presentation Thursday, June 26, during the Albany Civil Rights Institute’s monthly Community Night. They plan on a fact-finding trip to El Paso some time in August.
“We are asking the Exchange Club and every civic club and church in Albany to help us with our dropout rate,” Dunning said. “Many of my early teachers were returning World War II veterans. These were men with extraordinary experience. We also have men with experience in this room, men who as mentors can teach those who have never been out of Albany.
“Adopt a school, mentor a student. Invest in your community and share what you know with young people who are trying to find their way. Let’s develop our human capital together.”