The success of a local economy and school district can reflect one another, as Beatrice Public Schools and local agencies are striving to show.
Beatrice Public Schools feeds the local economy by providing diverse programming and partnerships that aim to draw in and maintain families and graduate successful community members, officials said.
“I think schools are a valuable tool for economic development and recruitment,” said BPS Superintendent Pat Nauroth. “I just think that in most communities, people don’t think about how we can collaborate. We have made a conscious effort as a community ... about, ‘How do we work together to sell ourselves?’”
Nauroth said area economic leaders NGage (Gage Area Growth Enterprise), Beatrice Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, Main Street Beatrice and the city of Beatrice have all been working together, along with the school district.
“We need to support each other,” Nauroth said. “What we’re seeing on our side is if there are activities that (these agencies) are doing, we try to be supportive of that, if it’s something we can lend our voice to.”
In turn, the same agencies can use their knowledge base of BPS as a tool to sell the community, Nauroth said.
“So that when they go off to talk to places, they understand what’s going on in the school and, as community partners, they can say, ‘Hey, are you aware that we offer preschool services for 3- and 4-year-olds that’s a collaborative venture with Blue Valley Head Start?’ Those types of things,” Nauroth said.
Nauroth, who serves on the NGage (Gage Area Growth Enterprise) Board of Directors, said BPS staff meet periodically with staff of NGage, Beatrice Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, Main Street Beatrice and the city of Beatrice.
“A lot of those entities are part of our strategic planning groups,” BPS Director of Curriculum Jackie Nielsen said. “One of our strategic planning focuses is that really strong bond between the community and the schools and how (to) build that, because that is key to ensuring the success of the district and also ensuring the success of the community. You have to have the close collaboration.”
Nauroth said that after wrapping up a marketing and branding campaign last year, the school district is more actively sharing with the public its positive news and general information about academics and preschool, summer school and other programming.
“We do this through social media, the newspaper, radio, quarterly utility bills, our website,” Nauroth said. “We try to get that message out both locally and regionally just to make sure that parents and people in the community are aware of what happens. Because often when people are thinking of moving here, they’re talking to community people about, ‘How are the schools? What’s offered here?’ Things like that.”
Nielsen said the BPS Facebook page has proven to be a useful tool.
“We frequently get messages from patrons and stakeholders just asking questions,” Nielsen said. “So it’s nice to be able to quickly answer those questions and simply provide them with resources that they need.”
Also new within the last year is the strengthened partnership between BPS, NGage and leaders of industry in the area.
Beatrice High School is in the process of organizing future tours of local manufacturing companies for interested high schoolers. BHS currently transports upperclassmen to select colleges for tours.
The high school also offers dual-credit courses in topics including English, math and Spanish that apply toward students’ credit at Southeast Community College. Students can sign up for other classes to learn technical skills such as computer-aided design, woodworking and construction.
At half the cost of in-state tuition, BHS students can also enroll in SCC classes under six different academies – agriculture; education; welding; health; business, marketing and management; and law enforcement.
A couple of years ago, the high school was not yet involved in the Southeast Nebraska Career Academy Program, BHS principal Jason Sutter said.
“It’s become a really positive thing for our students and great opportunity for our kids to earn high school credit in areas they’re already interested in, but now also credit through SCC,” Sutter said. “More importantly, we’re giving our kids opportunities to learn by different pathways, class work and materials so they can continue to approach those careers. We’re putting more focus on (offering) opportunities to help them know what they want to leave BHS with as far as career.”
NGage Executive Director Glennis McClure said SCC is a wonderful asset to the high school.
“The partnership between Beatrice Public Schools and Southeast Community College is very much needed,” McClure said. “And they get that. They understand that importance. … I think also Southeast Community College believes that their outreach to all students in public schools is important.”
Additionally, the high school is in the process of bulking its opportunities in job shadowing, work-based learning and occupational internships for its students.
“I think the public schools are becoming more active in helping students connect in business and industry here so they can learn about what opportunities are here for employment,” McClure said. “It also helps students understand what skills they need to develop to work here or anywhere.”
Nielsen said the partnerships between the school district and, for example, NGage and manufacturing businesses, are important to all stakeholders involved who want to keep students in the community after graduation.
Nielsen also mentioned the diverse programming in Best Possible Summer, the district’s summer education program. The curriculum is tied to state standards in reading, math, science and writing and is often hands-on and in-depth. Sessions include robotics, art, law and other fields. The district’s partnerships during the summer program include YMCA, Beatrice Humane Society, Homestead National Monument of America, the University of Nebraska Extension Office and SCC-Beatrice.