Michael Meek

My monthly newspaper articles this year are from the perspective of a chamber staff member. When I drew up a list of topics for the year this past January, it was easy to pick education as the late August article. From perfect attendance initiatives, higher education creation and formation of Communities in Schools to the start of school challenges, our staff has been at the forefront locally of many life-changing projects.

One of my first committees to staff upon joining the chamber staff in the late 1980s was the Business-Education Partnership Committee (BEP). Being the spouse of a school teacher and the brother of an educator, it was always remarkable to me to be on the ground floor of so many projects that are so beneficial to this day 32 years later. The two most notable was the founding of Communities in Schools here and the creation of our community’s first higher education campus, the Central Texas Technology Center (CTTC).  

I have told the story many times of how then Canyon Middle School Principal Rusty Brockman, now Mayor Brockman, brought up a proposal to have a Communities in Schools organization started in our region. Mayor Brockman was also a member of the BEP and also luckily for us the head of that statewide organization was a former school teacher from Corpus Christi and friend of my brother’s. He helped set up the presentation, and I guess the rest is history as they say. The BEP wrote the application grant to the state with staff assistance and many dozens of meetings were held to get the organization up and running. Thousands of lives are positively impacted every day by Communities in Schools of South Central Texas.  

Getting a higher education facility off the ground was no small task either. The short story of the CTTC consists of our BEP-Chamber, as well as the then NBIDC via the city of New Braunfels, funding a study in circa 2001 by the Clarus Corporation of Nebraska to answer the question, “If you build it, will they come?” Funds were raised for the study, results proved up the need, and Alamo Colleges agreed to provide the operations of the coming campus. Oh, then there was the minor detail of finding $4 million to build Phase 1. Opening in 2004, Phase 1 was filled until 2015 when a bond issue was passed to build Phase 2. And in-between all this has been thousands of citizens of the region receiving life-changing skills and education.

The chamber promoted attendance via discount cards for many years, with staff gathering up the business commitments and distributing the cards to schools every 6-9 weeks. Local educators are feted each year with a Back-to-School Luncheon. Unfortunately, not this year with the pandemic upon us. But I am sure that initiative will continue in 2021. Teachers of the Year are honored from around the region here in New Braunfels. From the staff perspective, it is a lot of work to make sure all the details are handled and the event is worthwhile for sponsors. But that’s what we do. And thanks to great volunteer leadership, it makes the whole process so much more gratifying and seamless.

The start of the school year is also an issue that your chamber has been very involved with through the years. I can count many late nights in Austin at the legislature testifying to senators and representatives about the benefits of starting school later in August. The pandemic has made this issue nearly moot this year, but rest assured that it will be an issue we need to continue to work on in the future.

I am sure in the years and decades ahead that more opportunities will present itself to the chamber in regards to education. We are blessed to have two great independent school districts and multiple private schools in our area.

There is no shortage of quality volunteer leadership, and our staff will be there to support the needs of our children and grandchildren.

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