CEC named a ‘2012 Innovator’

The Central Educational Center (CEC) charter school in Newnan will be recognized later this month by the Southern Growth Policies Board as one of 13 education and workforce development “Innovators” across 13 southeastern states.

Coweta County School System spokesman Dean Jackson said CEC was chosen for the award from among a number of nominees from 13 southeastern states that have achieved success important in the area of education and workforce development. Hosted by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, the ceremony will be held in Chattanooga on June 25 and will focus on the importance of the connections between the regional workforce and education, Jackson said.

“CEC was begun by business leaders, the Coweta County School System and West Georgia Technical College to link education and the workforce in a different way at an earlier age for the benefit of students and companies. Twelve years after it began, the hard work to plan and implement CEC is achieving an even broader range of objectives,” said charter school CEO Mark Whitlock. “CEC has been involved with community leaders in recruiting new jobs and increased investment for Coweta County and has been involved in assisting the state’s second largest technical college, West Georgia Technical College, to provide even more programs and services directly in Coweta County. CEC has been involved in creating even more connections among our three Coweta County public high schools. All the while, CEC has remained focused on that mission to ensure a viable 21st century workforce.”

Whitlock said that CEC was nominated for the award by Jason Chernock, a Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute project manager, based on his experience with CEC when surveying Coweta County last year.

“Mr. Chernock led our community through a recent gap analysis examining citizens’ service needs and the capacity of local non-profits to meet those service needs” said Whitlock. “He asked CEC to be one of the non-profits to participate and held community group sessions at CEC.”

Chernock’s work with the Enterprise Innovation Institute included identifying and applying innovative approaches to economic development, fostering public engagement and involvement, supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses and conducting customized research for foundations and nonprofit organizations, said Jackson. He is spearheading the Regional Data Mapping Pilot Project, an effort to assess the strengths, challenges and gaps among non-profit and human service providers throughout several metro Atlanta communities, Jackson said.

As for the impact felt by CEC, Jackson said this year 376 CEC-based high school interns participated in with 216 employer sites. Over the last two years, 342 of the school’s students (called team members at CEC) graduated with high-skill college certifications obtained at CEC because of the connection between the Coweta County School System and West Georgia Tech, Jackson added.

“This year's Southern Growth Policies Board Innovator Award focused on identifying truly unique practices for strengthening our workforce in an increasingly competitive global business environment,” said Chernock. “I can think of no organization more deserving than the Central Educational Center. The Central Educational Center was universally praised by everyone I spoke with in Coweta County as an example of how to meet both the educational and workforce development needs of the community.”

The Southern Growth Policies Board (SGPB) is a non-partisan public policy think tank based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina which develops and advances economic development policies by providing a forum for partnership and dialog among a diverse cross-section of the region's governors, legislators, business and academic leaders and the economic- and community-development sectors.

Supported by memberships from 13 Southern states, the SGPB’s public-private partnership is devoted to strengthening the South's economy and creating the highest possible quality of life.