Education Means Business

Otha Thornton, president-elect, National PTA and senior vice president of business development, Capital Commercial Development Group L.L.C. (Photo by Al Ferreira)

Otha Thornton, president-elect, National PTA and senior vice president of business development, Capital Commercial Development Group L.L.C. (Photo by Al Ferreira)

To paraphrase an old maxim: In the 21st century, the business of America is education. Nothing is more vital to the competitiveness and advancement of corporations large and small than a literate, tech-capable, and critical-thinking workforce.

Just ask Otha Thornton, president-elect of the National PTA and senior vice president of business development for Capital Commercial Development Group L.L.C., a construction company. He believes in a new, impactful version of mergers and acquisitions: develop productive private–public partnerships that create an exemplary workforce to be recruited by global industry in droves. He has come to grips with the disparities of the current work environment that, if not halted, will prove to be a harbinger for the future. The black unemployment rate is 15.7% compared with just 7.6% for their white counterparts—and this nation currently has 3 million job openings in tech-related fields.

As head of the PTA at Meade Senior High School in Fort Meade, Maryland, from 2006 to 2007, Thornton forged partnerships with more than 20 businesses, including Northrop Grumman Corp., Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, and Sotech Inc., to develop initiatives to improve schools. By working with Project Lead the Way, a national provider of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) curriculum, he used professionals and entrepreneurs to fully engage students. To get a sense of the difference this engagement made, prior to 2004, Meade did not make AYP, or annual yearly progress (state benchmarks that schools and districts are expected to meet); but in 2009, Newsweek ranked Meade in the top 6% of  U.S. high schools.

For Thornton, the critical factor driving education reform is putting “the right people around the table,” and identifying business leaders who will step up big time. He says of the effectiveness of programs like Project Lead the Way: “Parents and principals were able to go to corporations and say, ‘We’d really like to partner with you to give our kids the opportunity to see the relevance of the skills needed to be potentially employed with the companies.’ [In turn], some businesses offered students scholarships and internships while others allowed employees to come to schools to talk about their roles, exposing the kids to different opportunities.”

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  • Paul W. W

    Great article! Great man leading the parade, keep up the good work.

  • WALTER WEBB / FREELANCE WRITING

    THE WORLD EDUCATION HAS GROWN SO MUCH IT SEEMS AS THOUGH IT STREETS ARE PAVED WITH GOLD. TIAA CREF (TRIEX) TEACHERS ARE NOT ONLY INVESTING IN THE WELFARE OF THEIR STUDENTS, BUT A NEST EGG FOR THEIR FAMILIES. FOLLOWING PRINCIPLE PATH OF WISDOM, INVESTING IS EDUCATION IS A SOCIALLY CONSCIOUS THING TO DO. TAKE STRAYER UNIVERSITY (STRA) EVEN AT A WHOOPING $100 DOLLARS OR MORE PER SHARE PRICE THE SCHOOL HAS CARVED AN EDUCATIONAL
    NICHE MARKET WITH WORKING ADULTS. TWO PARENT FAMILIES, WORKING SINGLE MOMS, VETERANS OF THE MILITARY, AND EMPLOYEE EDUCATION PROGRAMS ARE FINDING CONVIENCE FOR THE SCHEDULES. AND WITH STRAYER’S SHARE PRICE AND ASSETS IT LIKE GOING TO THE MOST GIFTED UNIVERSITY SCHOOL. ANOTHER IS CORINTHIAN COLLEGES (COCO) WITH THEIR ATTITUDE TOWARD SPIRITUAL EDUCATION
    IN ITS CURRICULUM. MANY OF THEIR STUDENTS LOOK AT SOCIALLY CONSCIOUS INVESTMENTS LIKE CAPSTONE CHURCH FUND (XCBFX) AS A MEANS IN THEIR OVERALL
    GOALS AND OBJECTIVES. DeVRY (DV) EDUCATION OFFERS TECHNICAL SKILLS WHICH
    RIVALS THAT OF COMMUNITY COLLEGES. AND THEY PUT THEIR EARNINGS BACK INTO IN HOUSE MARKETING BY PURCHASING TELEVISION AND RADIO SPOTS TO PROMOTE ITS
    OBJECTIVES. A GREAT FUTURE IN ITT EDUCATIONAL SERVICES (ESI) IS IN STORE
    FOR THIS EDUCATION ROOTED SOFTWARE CURRICULUM. THEY HAVE ONE OF THE FASTEST PRODUCT DEVELOPED STUDIES SUPPORTING THE TECHNOLOGY FIELD. AND REAL ESTATE WITH AMERICAN CAMPUS COMMUNITIES (ACC) ARE SPRINGING UP ALL
    ACROSS AMERICA EDUCATIONAL CAMPUS WITH A MIXTURE OF DORMITORY AND CAMPUS
    APARTMENTS FOR STUDENTS. COMPANIES IN EDUCATION ARE PREPARED TO MEET THE
    FUTURE, NOT JUST IN LITERATURE, BUT A COMMUNITY RESOURCE ALSO.

  • Mechelle Brown

    This is a great article; however, the school where the student’s pictured with Mr. Thornton attend is not mentioned anywhere in the article.
    As a parent of a student who attends the school, I am happy to fill in the missing information your writers omitted.
    The school is Scholars Academy Charter School, located in Riverdale, Georgia.
    We, too, are doing great things with a limited budget and are in need of partnerships to help enhance the education of our students.

    • Mechelle Brown

      Please excuse my typo.

  • Abby

    Linda: Just cauhgt up with your blog sounds like you are fully engaged and lovin it! While you are missed, you’ll be back soon with new ideas. Enjoy!!! Joe

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