In previous posts, I have mentioned the signs of civic success from the book “Our Towns” by Deborah and James Fallows. The first sign of civic success was that “people work together on practical local possibilities rather than allowing bitter disagreements about national politics to keep them apart.” Second was that “you can pick out the local patriots.” Here is their third sign of success, which I would assert frames an opportunity for UHV and Victoria to think about our future together:
The phrase “public-private partnership” refers to something real. Through the years, I had heard about public-private partnerships but had thought of this as just another slogan. If it meant anything at all, it was probably a euphemism for sweetheart deals between big government and big business – the public-private partnership to build the latest fighter plane, for instance. In successful towns, people can point to something specific and say, “This is what a partnership means.”
In Greenville, S.C., the public school system includes an Elementary School of Engineering in a poor neighborhood. The city runs the school; local industries including GE, BMW and Michelin, send in engineers to teach and supervise science fairs at the company’s’ expense.
In little Holland, Mich., a large family-owned scrap-recycling company works with the state correctional system to hire ex-convicts who would otherwise have trouble reentering the workforce.
In Fresno, Calif., a collaboration among the city, county and state governments, the local colleges and universities, and several tech start-ups trains high school dropouts and other unemployed people in computer skills. The details vary, but the more specifically a community can explain what their public-private partnerships mean, the better.
In my view, UHV has a great opportunity to partner up in our community with both the Victoria Independent School District and Victoria College. Early on in my tenure at UHV, I began meeting with VISD Superintendent Quintin Shepherd and VC President David Hinds. We now meet every month without fail to talk about partnerships.
Soon you will see banners going up around town that declare to Victoria that VISD, VC and UHV are “Partners in Your Education.” By that, we want to proclaim to all children in this region that there are pathways to whatever future they can imagine for themselves.
We want people to know we are partners and not competitors to help our students get to that future. We want to put students in the position of choosing for themselves the path that best fits them and know that we will honor and affirm those choices. Higher education as a whole always has been bad at collaboration.
Collectively, we tend to wait and see who shows up at our doors. To be successful in the future, I would assert that we need to reach back deliberately and pull students forward. We are already in conversation with VISD and VC about what we can do together. Possibilities like laboratory schools, planning innovative new curriculums, and professional development programs for teachers leap to mind.
UHV is fortunate that Dr. Hinds and Dr. Shepherd see the future as we do and are ready to work with us in blazing new trails. When that happens, I believe we can partner up with private entities like Caterpillar, Dow, Formosa or some of the other exceptional companies in the region to bring the public-private partnership concept to reality.
I am optimistic that there will come a time when the Fallows write their next book that they will cite our partnerships in Victoria like they have done with Greenville, Holland and Fresno.
There’s more to come. Stay tuned.