Chinese school principals visit Coweta
by Wes Mayer
On Monday, Coweta County was visited by 16 school principals from Hangzhou, a city in the Zhejiang province of China.
Throughout the day, the principals toured the Central Educational Center, the West Georgia Technical College Newnan campus, Smokey Road Middle School and Elm Street Elementary. At each location, the Chinese principals met with local educators Mark Whitlock, Peter Ludlow, Jose Casablanca and Heather Hildebrandt, respectively, to learn about Coweta County’s and America’s educational system.
“We’re really hoping that there will be some sister-school relationships coming out of this,” said Bette Hickman, executive director of Global Achievers. “We are very, very blessed to have these students and teachers come out today.”
Hickman was able to arrange the Chinese principals’ visit through Global Achievers, the group she heads that for years has organized overseas trips, visits and sister-city, sister-county relationships for Newnan and Coweta County students and residents with international partners. Hickman said she has visited China five times and thinks its educational system is excellent, but they could still learn something from the good work in Coweta County.
At Smokey Road Middle School, Casablanca prepared a PowerPoint presentation for the visitors, who were traveling with a translator. The presentation covered many aspects and statistics of Smokey Road Middle School and the Coweta County School System, and also included experiences from the school system’s most important components.
“We are more than just a school,” Casablanca said. “We are, in many ways, the center of the community. My intent is for you to not only hear about Smokey Road Middle School from me, but from our students and parents.”
The presentation covered the main vision of the school system — for all kids to attend school and feel safe doing it — information on the school system’s budget, how the school system as a whole is the largest employer in the county, the faculty and staff, who are all equally essential, and the student demographics.
“I can tell you, when you go into a classroom, you do not see these groups,” Casablanca said. “You see everyone working together.”
Casablanca also presented Smokey Road Middle School’s daily schedule, courses and extracurricular activities offered and information about the state CRCTs — Criterion Referenced Competency Tests.
Afterwards, Jenny Grote, president of the Smokey Road Middle School Parent Teacher Organization, spoke about the parents’ involvement and partnership with the school system. Grote spoke on how parents are an extension of the school at home, and how they help volunteer for school events and sponsor fundraisers to raise money for the school.
“As parents, we are a child’s best advocate for their education,” Grote said.
Two members of the Smokey Road Student Government Association, Roneesha Bowles, president, and Zach Quick, treasurer, also introduced themselves and talked about their responsibilities and involvement with the school. And two East Coweta High School seniors, Yehong Zhu and Ying Lin, who were born in China but have lived here for multiple years, spoke in Chinese about their experiences with the Coweta school system.
Last but not least, the principals were given tours around the school that ended at the gymnasium, where members of the middle school “Ritmo Caliente” band performed two pieces. Members of the middle school chorus then sang two songs for the visitors, including “Georgia on My Mind.”
“We love what we do,” Casablanca said. “But we wouldn’t love what we do as much if we didn’t have fun.”