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Rounding Up School, Business Partners

In Dr. Suess-style, Superintendent of Schools Edgar Hatrick suggested hopping on pop during the School-Business Partnership Recognition Breakfast Program on Friday, March 8.

Pop represents the power of partnership between the county’s 51 public schools and the hundreds of businesses teamed together to exchange ideas and services.

“We can accomplish together what we can’t accomplish on our own,” Hatrick said to the 275 people attending the breakfast and the representatives from 74 of the school district’s business partners. “Our school system has been transformed by the power of partnership. …The ultimate power of the partnership has to do with people engaged on both sides helping each other grow.”

The Loudoun County School-Business Partnership Executive Council hosted the breakfast to recognize businesses that helped Loudoun County schools in the past year, highlighting 74 of them in the “2002 School/Business Partnership Profiles” booklet and awarding four of the businesses with plaques.

“It’s a nice showcase of all the community and school efforts,” said Shirley Bazdar, director of career, technical and adult education at Loudoun County Public Schools and staff liaison for the executive council.

IN THE PAST YEAR, hundreds of businesses provided anything from printing or landscaping services to scholarships, job skill workshops and on-site work experiences. The businesses sponsored school activities, offered field trips and tours, provided courses and seminars, and offered mentoring and tutoring opportunities for students, along with computer instruction. Businesses also donated equipment and supplies; provided space for student displays, contests and college nights; and sent out staff to judge contests, projects and fairs.

“What it does is provide learning outside of the classroom where kids can see what it’s like in the real world,” said Joseph Vogric, member of the executive council and school board chairman. “There’s a lot of things at the table we can’t offer in the classroom.”

At the same time, businesses depend on the education system for their future employees, Vogric said. “It allows them to have input in the learning process as well,” he said.

The executive council organized in 1990 to facilitate matches between businesses and schools, drawing together a membership of corporate executives, business professionals, government agency representatives and education leaders to form the council. The council has 14 members and two staff members who work as liaisons, including Bazdar and Wayde Byard, school press officer.

The council provides networking activities, events with partners and recognition of the partnerships, along with hosting the annual Job for a Day program to place high school juniors in job shadowing experiences. The Job for a Day this year is scheduled April 10 to give 275 students a chance to observe someone in the field they are considering for a career. Last year, 167 students participated in the program.

“It gives them a chance to get in there to see what the real world is like, to experience what life is like on a day-to-day basis in a corporation they’re interested in,” Bazdar said.

Vogric said students can learn about the expectations for dress, conduct and communication in a particular field. “It’s a great opportunity for them to experience firsthand what goes on in the workplace,” he said.

At the same time, students can find out if the field is what they want to study, said Joseph Shields, chairman of the executive council. “An awful lot of us found that out after college,” he said.

THE BREAKFAST CONCLUDED with the handing out of the four awards, presented by Barbara Williams, chair of the School-Business Partnership Council Recognition Committee.

“A partnership is work. People need to be recognized and thanked for what they’ve done,” Williams said.

The awards went to GAM Printers, Lockheed Martin Management and Data Systems, Loudoun Times-Mirror and Meadows Farm Nursery.

GAM Printers in Sterling partnered with four high schools and a middle school to contribute printing for free or at a reduced cost to print school newsletters, tickets, programs and annual reports.

“We saw the need with the schools, and we’re more than happy to help them out. It gives us a chance to get our name out there and it gives a chance to work with the schools,” said Nathaniel Grant, owner of GAM Printers.

Lockheed Martin Management & Data Systems in Fairfax partnered with Dominion Trail Elementary School to provide field trips to the office, Engineer’s Day activities, Space Day assemblies, a school-wide art contest and guest readers, along with technical training for the school staff. The business has a three-year plan with the school.

“We got into the partnership because there is a tremendous focus on education in our organization. The partnership was a great way to maintain our focus on education and to give back to the community,” said Robert Rabinek, contracts manager at Lockheed Martin Management & Data Systems.

Loudoun Times-Mirror provided copies of newspapers to several schools, sponsored the Holiday Basketball Classic tournament and, along with Shenandoah University, provided Stone Bridge High School with a grant to print a school newspaper.

Meadows Farms Nurseries in Chantilly partnered with Ashburn Elementary School and Broad Run High School to provide landscaping at the schools.

“I grew up in Loudoun. I went to Loudoun County schools. It’s important for me personally to give something back to the community and school,” said Jay Meadows, president of Meadows Farms Nurseries. “I’m not really concerned how it will benefit my company. … It’s a good feeling to know you can give something back to the school system that gave me a lot when I was in it.”

Attendance at the breakfast has increased over the years. Last year’s breakfast drew 200 attendees while the 2000 breakfast drew 180 attendees.

“The businesses can supplement the school system for what the schools can’t get or don’t have access to,” Williams said.

“Your willingness to hop on pop has paid huge dividends,” Hatrick said.