GeorgiaForward Aims to Unite the State

August 11, 2021

GeorgiaForward is continuing their 2021 series, “Two Georgias No More: Bridging the Rural-Urban Divide.” Reframing the discussions on healthcare, education, housing and broadband, this series demonstrates how deeply linked and interconnected Georgians are. Addressing these statewide challenges starts with understanding the State of our state.

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A panel discussion on June 17 focused on education and featured four education experts from across the state: Chief of Staff Matt Jones at the Georgia Department of Education, Superintendent Keith Simmons of Griffin-Spalding County School District, Superintendent Michele Taylor of Calhoun City School District, and Superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris of DeKalb County School District. Dana Rickman, president of the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, moderated and opened the session by grounding it in three questions for the panelists and listeners: What opportunities for collaboration exist, not only government-led but also citizen-led, public-private partnerships, nonprofit initiatives, etc.? What common ground can we find to move forward? How can we continue this discussion?

Topics included lessons learned from COVID, particularly in regard to rapid decision-making and resource-building; mental health for teachers as well as students and preparing to welcome back a student population in August with increased mental health needs; and how the pandemic underscored already-existing challenges in digital connectivity or lack thereof.

The webinar is available at Also available for viewing is the series kickoff on May 12 focused on health care in partnership with Georgia Health News. CEO and Editor of Georgia Health News Andy Miller moderated the expert panel featuring Dr. Patrice Harris, Immediate Past President of the American Medical Association, Matthew Hicks, Chief Policy Officer of Grady Health System, and Jimmy Lewis, CEO of Hometown Health.

Stay tuned for a session on housing in August and one on broadband in October.

“We all want the same things—safe communities, good schools, accessible healthcare, dependable connectivity. It’s time for rural and urban Georgia to have these conversations and work toward solutions together,” said GeorgiaForward Managing Director Brenda Belcher.

This article was originally featured in the July/August 2021 edition of Georgia’s Cities Magazine.

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