The Cobb Chamber of Commerce held its monthly marquee event, the First Monday Breakfast this week to honor the teachers of the year for Cobb and Marietta, as well as hold a panel on higher education with some of the top minds in the field.
Sponsored by the Center for Family Resources and held at the Atlanta Marriott Northwest, the hall was filled with both Cobb Chamber supporters and those involved in higher education. The event first took time to honor teachers of the year in both Cobb and Marietta City Schools.
Both teachers represent the arts, as Coy Dunn of Kennesaw Mountain High School teaches drama, while Joanna Cox of Sawyer Road Elementary teaches music. During the breakfast the Cobb County Schools and Marietta City Schools teachers of the year were honored to receive free one-year car leases of their choice from Ed Voyles Automotive Group. Cox chose a Chrysler Town and Country while Dunn chose a Honda Pilot EX-L touring model.
Ed Voyles Chairman and CEO Valerie Voyles was on hand to present the keys to the automobiles selected.
"Our teachers are so special to us," she said. "They are all outstanding. If you can just say 'thank you,' I think it goes a long way."
If either Cox or Dunn are selected as overall teacher of the year, they will get to keep the car for life. According to Voyles, this is the fourth year that her company has participated in the car lease giveaways and they plan to do it next year, as well.
Both Cox and Dunn seem to understand the significance of two teachers of the arts being bestowed with such an honor at the same time. In a video presentation presented during the breakfast, Cox said, "By recognizing art educators in a time when most school districts are cutting their arts programs, the Cobb community is singing out loud and clear that the arts are a valid and necessary part of youth education."
The other main event of the breakfast was a panel discussion featuring Dr. Ron Newcomb, Interim President, Chattahoochee Technical College; Dr. Ken Hammon, Interim Provost at Kennesaw State University; Dr. Guy Riekeman, President, Life University; and Dr. Lisa Rossbacher, President, Southern Polytechnic State University.
The purpose of the panel was to discuss how higher education influences the economic health of Cobb County. Cobb Chamber President David Connell served as moderator in what turned out to be a lively discussion.
One of the more interesting questions posed by Connell to the panelists was, "What are the major challenges that each of you face?" regarding higher education.
Several of the panelists concluded that the rising cost of a higher education is at the forefront of their minds. Riekeman, in particular, used the cost of Life University's popular chiropractic program. Since Life University is a private institution, it receives no state funding. Because of that, the cost to graduate from that particular program at Life is $102,000, which doesn't count books and other fees. At four-percent cost of living, Riekeman said he expects to see that rate jump to $152,000 over the next ten years.
Newcomb explained that his concern is the skills gap that seems to be widening in the job market. Companies come to him, he said, and say that they can't find qualified applicants for the jobs they need to be filled.
"When Lockheed Martin says 'we can't find structural aircraft technicians,' how can that be possible? I see my job, and they do too, as closing that skills gap."