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Evitt Foundation and Businesses Support Technology

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In 2013, Catoosa County Public Schools opened the Catoosa Online Academy (COA) to support high school students who desired a flexible schedule. COA students have access to a teacher, but most of their instruction is delivered online. This format allows students to learn anytime and anywhere they have technology and access to Wi-Fi.


In 2014, COA drew the attention of Ringgold Telephone Company’s Executive Vice President, Phil Erli. Mr. Erli said, “I was very impressed with this innovative endeavor that provides students an opportunity for virtual learning.”


Superintendent Denia Reese said, “Phil Erli is a visionary, and I knew when he supported this step toward virtual learning that we were headed in the right direction to prepare our students for success.”


Through the Evitt Foundation, Mr. Erli established a $10,000 matching grant to expand the COA concept in the system’s secondary schools. Mr. Erli said, “This project aligns perfectly with the Evitt Foundation’s mission to work toward promoting child welfare and education in the Catoosa County community.”


Superintendent Reese explained that with the success of COA she and Steve Sawyer, Catoosa County Public Schools Director of Technology, began exploring expanding online learning with digital classroom platforms and greater student access to technology in all the system’s schools. She said, “We can’t deny it. Technology is ingrained in our students’ culture. Our kids carry close to the sum of human knowledge and access to about 2 billion people around in their pockets. They are very proficient consumers of knowledge. If we want them to be successful citizens in a global economy, we must teach them to be creative producers and owners of knowledge, and we must help them develop the communication skills to share knowledge with others.”


She added, “The Let’s Get CONNECTed! initiative will transform our schools into 21st Century learning environments where students utilize technology to develop the skills they need to be successful in a rapidly changing workforce.”


Mr. Erli and Mr. Sawyer presented Let’s Get CONNECTed! to local businesses. Mr. Erli said, “Steve Sawyer is so innovative and passionate about integrating technology into our classrooms. I was not surprised that other business enthusiastically supported this project.”



The businesses supporting Let’s Get CONNECTed! include: The Evitt Foundation ($10,000), United Way ($5,000), Ringgold Rotary ($3,000), Ringgold Kiwanis ($2,000), NWGA Bank Foundation ($1,000), Stagg Law Firm ($1,000), First Tennessee ($1,000), and First Volunteer ($500).


Julie Thomsen with United Way of Greater Chattanooga said, “We are glad to be part of this exciting project. As a way to improve high school graduation, a goal for United Way is to support projects that help children read on grade-level. We believe the CCPS plan to use technology to engage students and individualize instruction will help achieve this goal.”


Ringgold Rotary also supported the Let’s Get CONNECTed! initiative. Barton Mathews and Randall Peters from Weeks and Peters Insurance commented on the importance of the project. Mr. Mathews said, “Personally and in businesses, people are using technology outside the classroom. We are glad to support a project that will allow our students to bring the technology they use in life into the classroom.”


Mr. Peters added, “We believe Catoosa County Public Schools is on the cutting edge with this initiative. We are pleased to support projects that enhance the education system because the future of our country depends on young people who are well-educated and prepared for a rapidly changing world.”


Mr. Erli said, “I would like to thank every business who made a donation to prepare our students for the future. The businesses in this community have shown that they are vested in the Let’s Get CONNECTed! initiative. I am thrilled that we raised $23,500 to support 21st Century technology in Catoosa County Schools.”


Superintendent Reese explained that the $23,500 donation has been used to provide digital classroom platforms in all the county’s secondary schools. She said, “The digital classroom platform allows students to have access to learning anywhere they have Wi-Fi. Learning can be more personalized, and communication between students, teachers, and students is enhanced. Students must use skills today’s employers expect in the workplace including working in teams, prioritizing, problem solving, collaborating, and communicating to complete assignments.”


The next step in the Let’s Get CONNECTed! initiative is to purchase iPads and Chromebooks so every student in Catoosa County schools has access to technology. Superintendent Reese said, “I want every student that graduates from a Catoosa County school to be prepared for success in a technology-driven society. To accomplish this goal every student needs equal access to technology. Our community has overwhelmingly supported ESPLOST since 1997, and on March 1, 2016, they will have the opportunity to pass ESPLOST V so we can provide an iPad or Chromebook for every child in our school system.”


Pictured L to R: Justin Whitaker and Julie Thomsen (United Way); Steve Sawyer (Catoosa County Public School); Phil Erli (RTC/Evitt Foundation); Randall Peters and Barton Mathews (Ringgold Rotary).


Catoosa County Public Schools | P.O. Box 130 | Ringgold, GA 30736 | (706) 965-2297