As part of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce GO CAPS program, Deb Fine, a teacher at Springfield's Pipkin Middle School, got an up-close look at heavy equipment operations at APAC-Central, a company specializing in asphalt and concrete pavement construction, materials and services. (Photo provided)

OPINION |

Guiding principles for equity and inclusion in Springfield are being applied to a soon-to-be-announced community action plan to reduce poverty.

In April, Springfield’s City Council adopted guiding principles of equity and inclusion developed from the mayor’s initiative on equity and equality. Mayor Ken McClure established a workgroup  a year ago to develop principles to improve equitable access to opportunities and to recognize the inherent dignity, value and worth of everyone. These are the five pillars of change adopted for Springfield:

  • Dialogue and Understanding
  • Cultural Consciousness
  • Advocacy and Partnerships
  • Structural and Systemic Barriers
  • Personal and Organizational Accountability

A similar group met the past two years to focus on next steps for meeting two main community goals finalized in 2015 through the Impacting Poverty Commission (IPC). The first goal was to reduce poverty by five percentage points by 2025 and the second goal is to increase postsecondary educational attainment (education beyond high school) — both by 2025. 

On August 4, Community Partnership of the Ozarks will hold a news conference to provide an update on the goals.

The Impacting Poverty Commission developed a community action plan and more than 80 percent of the action items were completed. 

Analysis of the commission’s work reflected a need to enhance ecosystems with a focus on population intersections to determine if Springfield is meeting the needs of individuals who call Springfield home. Data was disaggregated, lived experiences were heard and a focus on access and inclusion were points of discussion in the development of a new community action plan that will be revealed at the news conference.

Springfield is nationally known for collaborating with positive outcomes. One example is the City Council’s adoption of the five pillars of change. The five pillars were used as a baseline to develop new community recommendations and goals that will be presented August 4. The five pillars and goals were designed by individuals from private, public or social sectors to strengthen relationships and opportunities.

Education beyond high school is key to better job opportunities and poverty reduction. One example of collaborative success is the work of local school districts and the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce. The GO CAPS (Greater Ozarks Centers for Advanced Professional Studies) program at the Chamber hosts a “Teacher Externship” every year. The Teacher Externship Program connects educators with business partners by having them experience industries and professional fields outside of the schools where they teach. Teachers take knowledge and experiences from their externship back to their classroom to better prepare students for the workforce.

Some of the key outcomes:

  • Businesses benefit from participating as hosts for the teacher externs by finding tangible ways to engage, meet, and prepare for future workforce. 
  • Businesses show teachers aspects of their business to share information in the classrooms about what companies can offer their students — from internships to jobs to careers. 
  • Teachers are encouraged to make lasting connections with their host business to continue collaboration throughout the school year. 
  • Teachers experience the workforce for which they are preparing their students.

Businesses have creative control over what they wish to highlight and how they want teacher extern(s) to spend their time.The first externship opportunity took place July 19-20. The next one takes place August 2-3. For more information, contact Karen Kunkel at karen@springfieldchamber.com, or visit the GO CAPS website. The program is open to teachers, counselors, administrators, technologists and others in grades 6-12. Several school districts in Missouri participate in the program. The program is funded by a Pathways for Teachers grant from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Francine Pratt

Francine Micheline Pratt serves as director of Prosper Springfield, a community collective impact model charged with oversight of community goals to reduce the poverty rate and increase postsecondary educational attainment. She is president of Pratt Consultants LLC, which focuses on community engagement, business infrastructure development, conflict resolution, strategic planning, and diversity training. She also is a creative partner for the Queen City Soul Kitchen restaurant. Email: prattconsultants@yahoo.com More by Francine Pratt