NASA joins local

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 4, 2001

strategic planning session


Staff Writer

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Jan. 3, 2001 10 PM

Representatives from NASA showed Pike County that they are about more than just space exploration.

During a two day strategic planning conference that started Wednesday, David Powe, manager of the John C. Stennis Space Center’s Office of Education, will be outlining just what entities in Pike County can do to improve education and, in turn, economic development.

Sherry Key, director of career and technology education for the Troy Board of Education and the Pike County Board of Education, said the school systems are partnering with the Stennis Space Center in Iuka, Miss. to accomplish some goals.

She said the plan is three-fold ­ building on the strategic plan initiated by the Pike County Chamber of Commerce, providing the mechanism for each school system to develop a unique perspective for the strategic plan and investing in technological training of school administrators and all other stakeholders in the School-to-Work initiative.

"What we’re trying to do is get a cross section of people involved with education to help us with our plan," Key said.

That is why Powe and others with the Stennis Space Center visited the area this week ­ to show them what they can accomplish.

In 1991, NASA was part of a Tri-State Education Initiative, linking Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee for the betterment of education. That effort results in a number of success, including (and nowhere near limited to) having the greatest number of science fair winners and administrators of the year, most school districts to achieve top accreditation rating in Mississippi, largest number of bond issues passed in recent history and economic growth attributed to improvement in education.

"If the desire is there, the commitment is there, the money," Powe said. "It takes everyone to get the job done."

In order to do that, there’s a process, Powe said. "The process" includes: identifying customers’/stakeholders’ needs, developing an implementation plan, inventory/gap analysis, collaborations/implementations and evaluation.

The key to accomplishing the goal, Powe said, is being focused on specific needs.

For example, in the Tri-State Education Initiative, 29 school districts within a 50-mile radius of Iuka involved 500,000 stakeholders in an economically depressed area in the foothills of Appalachia. That area which had no goals was able to accomplish what some thought were never possible.

Through improving education, the community as a whole and the overall quality of life are improved.

"You are working together and you are planning together," Powe said of those gathered together Wednesday morning. "You’re all one team and you need to be working together."

Of course many will question how much this will cost Pike County taxpayers and they will likely be surprised by the answer.

Key said the program will cost nothing as far as computer equipment and software is concerned because all of that is provided by NASA.

"That software gives every person at the table an equal voice," Key said.

She said this program is a "phenomenal" opportunity for Pike County.

Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford said creating a strategic plan for education is something that can benefit the entire area.

"What’s best for the county and region benefits Troy," Lunsford said.

According to Powe, the area is well "on the path to success" and expects the strategic plan to take Pike County even further.