Csintyan: New Chamber/EDC should focus on education

The newly merged Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Corps should make K-12 public education a top priority, the chamber’s top official said.

Dave Csintyan, president and CEO of the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, said the business community needs to partner with public schools to ensure a well-trained future work force. The newly merged organization should be the organization to jumpstart the efforts.

“The way the chamber was purposed in the past, we were more vertically aligned – we weren’t thematically aligned,” he said. “I think the difference with the new organization now, it has to be thematically relevant and part of that should be education.”

In December, the boards of the Chamber of Commerce and the Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corps agreed to unify as a single organization called the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC, effective Feb. 1, 2012.

A search committee is conducting a national search for the CEO of the new organization.

Csintyan spoke at the chamber’s “State of Education” luncheon Wednesday to a crowd of business leaders and educators.

Dr. Nicholas Gledich, Colorado Springs School District 11 superintendent, said he welcomes the business community involvement in the schools. Schools have serious budget challenges, and in recent years a growing number of children are living in poverty. He said he would love to have one adult volunteer for every child.

The economic benefits to the business community of graduating 100 percent of the student body equal millions of dollars, he said. In Colorado Springs, 2,000 students dropped out of the class of 2010, he said. If half of those had graduated they would have contributed $11 million to the economy.

“We hope to work with the business community to produce high school graduates that are ready for the workforce,” he said.

Csintyan said he realized the importance of the business community’s input when he recently handed a young store clerk a $20.25 for an $18.16 bill.

“She grappled with it and said, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t know what to do with this,’ ” he said. “That resonated with me on a personal level.”

He called the business community the ultimate end-user of the public school system and said businesses has an incredible role to play through volunteering and mentoring – but also through input into curricula that would ready students to work in Colorado Springs’ work force.

“I will encourage our board to take a far more cohesive role alongside educators,” he said. “Our effort as a new organization – and I may be over running my headlights a little bit – but, I really think our new combined organization needs to have a very crystal clear focus on education.”