Pals for a day

It was Anita Zucker's fourth year participating in the Principal for a Day program, which was created by the Charleston County School District in 2003.  Why would Zucker, who works as director of community relations for the InterTech Group in North Charleston, want to do this?

For Zucker, the wife of billionaire Jerry Zucker, it's one of the best ways to achieve her goal of working to improve communication between schools and the business sector. She wants to expose schools to the opportunities and programs many businesses are making available to students, and she wants to find students who can benefit from these opportunities.

The Principal for a Day program, facilitated by the Education Foundation and the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, allows leaders in schools and the business community to share ideas, resources, and a sense of responsibility for public education by providing a first-hand perspective of the decisions and responsibilities principals face daily.

"One of the purposes is to get businesses and local communities involved in our schools," Zucker says. "Businesses need to partner with schools to provide more than just money. Schools need ideas for training opportunities because students need to be competitive with the rest of the working world."

The morning Zucker arrived at Fort Dorchester High School, last Thursday, she hit the ground running taking a tour of the classrooms. Principal Jim Atkinson had already set up meetings with curriculum leaders at the school to give Zucker the chance to identify some of the needs.

"So far, I've visited the media center where I observed a parent and child taking part in an individualized graduation plan (IGP) meeting. I visited the culinary program, an electricity class where students are learning how to create electrical fixtures, and the child development class.  I was in a class where the students are building a house that will eventually be sold," she said. "I also met with the directors of the music and drama programs, and spoke with the ROTC students.  

She met with Daryl Evans, Fort Dorchester's career development coordinator. "My role here is to prepare students for the real world," Evans said. "Eventually, they'll end up in the work force, and we want them to be prepared." Evans, who coordinates workshops and shadowing opportunities, found a great resource in Zucker, who was able to identify numerous opportunities for some of the students.

"It was a great opportunity to talk to some of the teachers," she said. "I wanted them to tell me what we, as a business community could do for their students."

Zucker says the key to filling a need or addressing a problem, is knowing what the problem is. She sees the big picture. "If we don't know what the needs are we can't fix the problem. If schools are interacting with businesses on a regular basis, everyone will have a clear idea of what's going on in terms of grants, education, health issues and human needs. The overall health of a community is really important."

No doubt, her visit to the school is just a small part of her ongoing effort to get everyone more involved in what's going on in the schools. "Kids will make their own choices. We need to help them so that they make the right choices, " Zucker says. "It's going to take everyone - parents, schools, churches and businesses to help them. We can all be spokespersons for education."

Contact Sharon Gnau at 873-9424 ext. 215 or sgnau@journalscene.com