On Tuesday, our community celebrated the opening of Phillips Community College’s ADTEC Advanced Manufacturing Lab and our honored our Citizen of the Year and Business of the Year at the annual Phillips County Chamber of Commerce Banquet.  Governor Asa Hutchinson was the keynote speaker at both events.

A sense of optimism ruled the day at both events as our community continues to move forward and Governor Hutchinson stressed the importance of the educational community in the economic development process at both events.  The new Advanced Manufacturing Lab is another state of the art tool in this community’s arsenal to make sure we have a workforce with the skills necessary to serve our employers, many of whom partnered with PCCUA to fund the development of this facility.  

We cannot overstate the importance of PCCUA to our community’s future economic development success.  This new facility, along with the college’s many other programs and offerings, provide this community with a significant asset when recruiting new industry and serving current employers.  

Another significant piece of the puzzle, as noted by Governor Hutchinson in his remarks at the banquet, is public education.  Our community’s economic development efforts are also inextricably intertwined with the Helena-West Helena School District. Our community is to be commended for recognizing that vital role of HWHSD and investing in the future of our community and our students by providing them with facilities that match the quality of those around the state and region.  These facilities will be a huge boost in our efforts to make sure that we fulfill our mission to produce graduates who are “fully prepared for life as responsible, productive, and caring citizens.”

HWHSD, as noted in previous columns, has shown steady improvement in a wide variety of areas, including multiple years of test score growth.  As we have improved, we have seen increased optimism across the community we serve. However, we know that work remains to be done. This week also saw the release of the annual school performance report with letter grades based on the results from the 2016-17 academic year.  

The good news is that our high school grade improved and our district is no longer mentioned among those in the statewide newspaper headlines of the districts at the bottom.  The flip side of the coin is that we still must get better and improve our performance so that we can start being mentioned with the schools making A or B instead of those mentioned as C or D.  

I am honored to be able to be a part of these efforts.  One highlight in our performance report is the much better score that we received in the category reserved for growth (improvement).  That number shows what we already knew and that is there is foundation on which we can continue to build.

Last week, I discussed all the reasons a family should choose HWHSD.  Those same reasons are part of why our district has shown improvement.  We are doing great things every day in HWHSD. Come join us and be a part of this community’s renaissance.  When Cougar Country thrives, Helena-West Helena thrives. Until next time, GO COUGARS!