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New class on the horizon
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Collaborative efforts of the county and Dawson County High School are brainstorming a way to teach high school students about their local government and community operations.


“There is a void of teaching local issues in the school system, and we think it would be valuable for students to understand how their community works,” Dawson County Manager Kevin Tanner said.


According to Wayne Chelf, principal at Dawson County High School, Tanner approached him with a proposal to develop a class in which local political and government employees have the opportunity to teach students how local politics and government work.


“In talking with teachers, the focus of government education is primarily on the state, regional, national and international levels; local issues are not covered,” Tanner said.


Tanner described the class to be a combination of Leadership Dawson and the county’s Citizen Academy.


“This would give the students an insight into day to day workings of the community through the eyes of individuals and local officers,” he added.


Chelf agreed with Tanner “1,000 percent.”


“I think this is something that has never been addressed. The local level is where politics start, and is where more of us will have an impact than any other level, because we are amidst the local arena,” Chelf said.


With many details still to be determined, Chelf plans for this class to begin during the fall of 2009.


Tentative plans for the curriculum of the class include having various people that represent county government and local offices speak during one class period about their employment.


As a resource person, the speaker would focus on their respective role, how they got there, what their tasks are, the impact their role has on the community and other aspects unique to their job.


Examples of resource personnel would be the sheriff, county manager, tax commissioner, an EMT and various others.


“I’m excited about it,” Chelf said. “It’s not something that textbooks have been written about, its constantly changing and varies from one community to another.”


Chelf plans to initially start this program with the driver’s education students.


The driver’s education course only lasts about four and a half weeks; the new local issues class would complete the remaining period of the nine-week block.


According to Chelf, the board of education has approved the idea, so he and Tanner will be working out the details of how to implement this into the school day and have it ready for the coming school year.


“This could grow to be something substantial, but for now, in terms of getting it ready, they are going to start on a smaller scale and let it evolve,” Chelf said.