Education still pays

For several years Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, and others have been talking about the importance of math and science proficiency. With the recent downturn and many highly educated people out of work, it has become more apparent why these visionaries have been pushing us in this direction.

In the tough economic environment, as Kathleen Parker suggests in her article, What if a college education no longer pays, it is no longer enough to have a liberal arts degree and an MBA. Instead employers are searching for individuals with broad backgrounds.

It is cheaper to hire one person who can easily move from technical subjects to marketing to cultural interface issues and then on to accounting than it is to hire four or five people who each have a narrow focus. So it is not that education no longer pays, it is that the competition for jobs has increased. Employers expect a higher, broader skill level from each employee.

As a result, parents should think carefully about what their children are learning in primary and secondary school and about the breadth of extra-curricular activities they choose. In addition, college students should think carefully about what they study and about internships and other opportunities that may help them secure a job on graduation.

Change is tough, but with the current economic environment it is imperative. Make sure your kids have opportunities. Think ahead and make sure your child gets the best, broadest education possible.

Don't miss the Bay County Education Forum

boyJuliann Talkington

On the Saturday, January 31 form 2:00 – 4:00 pm, the first annual education forum will be held at the St. Andrew Episcopal Church Community Room located at 1608 Baker Court in Panama City.

Learn about how to find the right school for your child; financial planning for education and the link between diet, exercise and learning.

The event is sponsored by the Florida Department of Health, Ryan Dobbert of Merrill Lynch, Northwest Florida Surgery Center, Hans Caspary of Head and Neck Associates, the Panama City Renaissance School, Chautauqua Learn and Serve Charter School and David Kozan of CDM. For more information, visit the event website at or call 850-215-8712.

Tough economic times, require new approaches to education

One has to wonder how public education in Florida will be transformed by decreasing enrollment and a shrinking state budget (Enrollment down 30,000 at Florida’s public schools).  Some people are discussing doom and gloom scenarios while others argue the tough times will encourage us to find more efficient ways to educate our kids.

We probably can’t do much to change the economy, but we can work together to come up with innovative approaches to provide high quality education at a reasonable cost.  Some of the latest approaches include on-line “virtual” schools, international models and back-to-basics options.  In each model, the goal is to teach more job specific skills for less money.

In addition to changing the way we teach our children academic subjects, some experts suggest we should rethink how extra-curricular activities are organized and funded.  In the January 4, 2009 News Herald article, What is in their wallets, Pat McCann talks about cuts to high school athletic programs. If we continue to run the programs with the same approach without large budgets, the quality will erode quickly.  Some pundits suggest we can provide the same or more attractive options by allowing outside organizations to offer these services.  In Europe, for example, professional sports organizations run youth teams.  In the US, national and regional sports organizations could possibly fill this role.

The thought of different types of schools and  extra curricular options is a bit unnerving.  However, in the current economic environment, creativity and flexibility are important.  If we want our kids to have the best options, we will all probably have to start thinking outside the box.

Interdisciplinary thinkers needed

It is amazing how the world changes in a few years.  In the 80s and 90s, corporations wanted skilled people to handle programming, maintenance, marketing and manufacturing operations.  Now companies want something different.

Modern companies need broad, international thinkers who are comfortable moving between cultures and disciplines.  In today’s work environment, it is not uncommon for modern employees to work with programmers in India, manufacturing personnel in China and marketing people in Chicago, all in the course of one day.  Unlike a decade ago, it makes no sense to spend a year learning the latest computer software because it is obsolete within a few short weeks.

The speed of change is so fast, it is mind numbing.

Now the question is, can our educational system change to meet the demands of the new paradigm.  According to Catherine Gewertz, in her Education Week article, Assessing ’21st-Century Skills’ Won’t Be Easy:

“Business and higher education leaders are pleading with schools to teach ’21st-century skills,’ such as interdisciplinary thinking, that students need to flourish in an increasingly global, technology-rich society.”

However, parents and educational institutions seem to be dragging their feet, fixated on what worked in the early 90s.

At this point, kids need more than computer classes in kindergarten and special schools that focus on math and art.  To be good interdisciplinary thinkers, they need an understanding of all subjects well, really well.  As starters, everyone needs to know and understand Algebra and geometry, the periodic table and conservation of energy, the US Bill of Rights, and design and color.  We need young people who are as comfortable with differential equations as they are with discussions of the Tang Dynasty.

What we did in the 90s isn’t enough.   We need to change our perspective and expect our kids to learn more.  If we do, companies will rush to hire US graduates.  If we don’t, our kids will face tougher job prospects when they enter the workforce.

Juliann Talkington is the administrator of the Panama City Renaissance School. Reach her on 850-215-8712 or

Resort Collection Educates the Tourism Industry

This has been discussed in the past, and the Resort Collection of Panama City Beach has taken the lead in paving the way to provide education to those involved in the tourism industry in our area.

“This is an opportunity to raise the bar among our employees and give them the tools to reach and exceed the expectations of our visitors.” Said Tom Sparks, general manager of The Resort Collection, “We are proud to be the leading hospitality organization in this program, it is our commitment to make Panama City Beach the premier destination of Northwest Florida Gulf Coast.”

By instilling some form of formal training for employees of the local tourism industry, a standard can be easily set for what is expected in order create a great customer experience for tourist of Panama City Beach.

The Resort Collection of Panama City Beach has partnered with Gulf Coast Community College (GCCC) to create the first of its kind hospitality education program for Bay County.

During a planning session last week, members of The Resort Collection and GCCC laid the foundation of what will become the Hospitality Corporate Culture training and education program.

This twenty hour course which is part of the college’s Lifelong Learning department, will provide the hospitality and tourism businesses in our community with a consistent industry wide training program to increase customer service standards and the customer’s experience while visiting our destination.

This Hospitality Corporate Culture program will officially launch before the end of the year. Sparks said, “The program will be open to employees at all levels of the hospitality industry and will prepare us to better serve our domestic and international travelers as our destination grows.”

The program is being facilitated and managed by John Hamati, president of Vie Hospitality LLC. Hamati has a successful history in the hospitality business and has helped create this initiative to fill the gaps in local training.

“The Hospitality Training Program has been a hot topic for the Greater Panama City Beach Chamber of Commerce and for Gulf Coast Community College for over two years now.  Finally, with the assistance of the Edgewater Beach and Golf Resort, The Resort Collection along with Gulf Coast Community College, we are now able to launch this new training in Panama City Beach.” Said Hamati, “we thank Tom Sparks, general manager of the Resort Collection, and the Edgewater Beach and Golf Resort team as well as Gulf Coast Community College in stepping forward and making this training a reality.”

Better education necessary to diversify Bay County economy

JuliannBy: Juliann Talkington

Juliann Talkington is the administrator of the Panama City Renaissance School. Reach her on 850-215-8712 or

With the state of the economy in Bay County, we are all searching for ways to improve conditions. People talk wistfully about the new airport and what it will do for the area. The champions speak about more tourists, more permanent residents and high-quality employment opportunities.

With rising gas prices and a nationwide recession, many people are starting to wonder how realistic these projections might be. Even though it would be nice to think Bay County is insulated from tough economic conditions elsewhere, it is probably unrealistic. Like other tourist-based economies, Bay County suffers when outsiders don’t have extra money to take vacations.

Continue reading “Better education necessary to diversify Bay County economy”

Math + Science = Jobs

JuliannBy: Juliann Talkington

Juliann Talkington is the administrator of the Panama City Renaissance School. Reach her on 850-215-8712 or

We have beautiful beaches, few traffic problems and warm friendly people, but we still struggle to diversify our economy. How is this possible?

A discussion with a Coastal Systems Station science official highlighted one of challenges. According to this person, it is very difficult to find and attract technical people who are US citizens to work at the base. The salaries are good and the working conditions are pleasant. So why aren’t people in Bay County lined up to take these jobs?

Continue reading “Math + Science = Jobs”

Bay County should take the lead in educational innovation

JuliannBy: Juliann Talkington

Juliann Talkington is the administrator of the Panama City Renaissance School. Reach her on 850-215-8712 or

With the dismal state of primary and secondary education around the country, Bay County has a tremendous opportunity, if we are willing to lead.

According to Michael Hodges in Dangerous Erosion of Education Quality and Productivity, the Trends in International Math and Science Study (TIMSS) * shows advanced US high school seniors continue to score poorly in international science and math comparisons – near the bottom of all the countries tested.  In addition, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) * shows the general US student population scores well below the international average in math and science.  And worst of all, this trend has continued for many years.

Continue reading “Bay County should take the lead in educational innovation”

Economic development in Northwest Florida depends on education

JuliannBy: Juliann Talkington

Juliann Talkington is the administrator of the Panama City Renaissance School. Reach her on 850-215-8712 or

On Friday, Florida’s Great Northwest, the economic development organization for our region, presented details on a target industry study. The event was attended by government officials and business and community leaders from Bay County and the surrounding areas. The study suggested our region has a competitive advantage in four target industries: 1) aerospace and defense, 2) health sciences and human performance-enhancement, 3) renewal energy and environment and 4) transportation and logistics.

Continue reading “Economic development in Northwest Florida depends on education”

Education in Bay County – Let’s market what we have!


By: Juliann Talkington

Juliann Talkington is the administrator of the Panama City Renaissance School. She can be reached on 850-215-8712 or

What do employers and employees look for when they consider an area for relocation? Schools are always at the top of the list. Employers want skilled workers and potential employees want quality education at a reasonable cost.

So what is the state of primary and secondary education in Bay County and the nearby areas?

Within the past five years the number of schooling options has increased substantially. Most follow the standard US education model, but the area now hosts a Montessori school (South Walton Montessori Academy in Rosemary Beach) and a school that offers academics to the higher European and Asian standards and foreign language immersion (Panama City Renaissance School).

Continue reading “Education in Bay County – Let’s market what we have!”