2016 Kickoff Conference stresses the importance of partners in education

Dr. Todd Carver, left, Faith Middle School assistant principal, and Traci Kornett, a sixth-grade teacher at Faith Middle School, discuss the schoolwide Turkey Trot project Sept. 16 at the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce's 2016 Partners in Education Kickoff Conference.

Dr. Todd Carver, left, Faith Middle School assistant principal, and Traci Kornett, a sixth-grade teacher at Faith Middle School, discuss the schoolwide Turkey Trot project Sept. 16 at the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce’s 2016 Partners in Education Kickoff Conference.

By Danielle Davis, Bayonet & Saber /

The Greater Columbus Georgia Chamber of Commerce held the 2016 Partners in Education Kickoff Conference Sept. 16 at the Columbus Convention and Trade Center.

“We’re here today to put our game plan together along with our PIE partner, the 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry Regiment,” said Phyllis Parker, the principal of McBride Elementary School.

Lt. Col. Duane Patin, the 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry Regiment commander, joined Parker at the kickoff conference.
This event gives us time away from the school to plan for the year, Parker added.

Edwina Smith, the principal of Dexter Elementary School, hoped that the kickoff conference would provide her with some ideas to bring back to her school’s PIE partners.

During one of the breakout sessions, Faith Middle School assistant principal Dr. Todd Carver and sixth-grade teacher Traci Kornett presented the school’s Turkey Trot project.

The Turkey Trot was a huge project. All of the students were involved. Parents, PIE partners and the administration also participated, said Kornett.

“It began when our Parent Teacher Organization wanted to contribute to Santa’s Castle and they wanted every student to be a part of that. So we decided on something fun and healthy for the students to do. The Turkey Trot, a one-mile walk/run around the school, suited that,” she added.

Approximately $700 was given to Santa’s Castle and other families in need throughout the Fort Benning and Columbus communities, she continued.

Starla De Saussure, the Army Volunteer Corps program manager, and Tawanna Brown, the Fort Benning School liaison officer, also led a mandatory session for Soldiers already actively participating in PIE and those interested.

During the session, De Saussure explained the importance of logging volunteer hours to the Soldiers so that Fort Benning will have an accurate count of the hours that are being contributed to PIE.

Soldiers can earn the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal once they’ve logged so many hours, said De Saussure.

“The most important thing I want Soldiers to take away from today, however, is what an important role they play in the lives of these children. I have seen the impact firsthand. Children’s grades, behaviors and attitudes, all of that improves just by having these Soldiers around,” she added.

Brown offered suggestions to Soldiers on how to be good PIE partners while not over committing.

“If the school asks you to be there weekly, but you know that your mission does not afford you that availability, then don’t say you’ll agree to it. Whatever time you can contribute, do it, but you have to stay committed. That’s what is important,” said Brown.

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