As published in the Marietta Daily Journal
Journalist: Ross Williams
The Cobb Safety Village got some special visitors Tuesday (April 25, 2017).
Unlike the typical visitors to the village, they were not elementary school students from Cobb County or Marietta City Schools, and they were not there to learn about how to prevent fires or ride bikes safely.
They were college professors representing Chungbuk Province in South Korea, and they came to Cobb County to pick up tips on how to operate a safety village.
Some folks in Chungbuk want to open up their own safety village, and they are looking to Cobb’s village as a model.
The site’s director, Allison Carter, said the visitors have land and money to start the project, but are looking for tips on how to make it sustainable.
The professors asked questions about funding and operation costs as they toured the facilities, snapping photos on their cellphones and reading over safety pamphlets.
Carter and County Manager David Hankerson told the group about the site’s history and funding. Carter said fire deaths have gone down since the county began its safety education program, even though population has gone up. Both officials touted the safety village as an example of a successful public-private partnership.
“You think in terms of sustainability, this is a lot better, not the pure public or pure private, but kind of in between?” asked Dohyeong Kim, a professor at the University of Texas at Dallas.
Both Hankerson and Carter said yes immediately.
“Public-private partnerships are huge with us,” Hankerson said.
How to get support from the private side of the public-private equation was another big topic for the visitors.
“When you tried to get these private companies involved in terms of sponsors and contributions, how did you approach them and induce them to these kinds of products?” Kim asked.
Carter spoke at length about the history of the village, how it has expanded from Cobb County Schools to now include Marietta City Schools, as well as private schools and homeschooled children. She said statistics and tests given to students weeks after their lesson show they are retaining their safety knowledge.
Hankerson said the best way to get people to buy into the safety village concept is to let them watch a group of kids go through the curriculum.
“If they’re not sold on the village, that’s what gets them,” Hankerson said. “To see the attentiveness of the kids. If you walked in that room while the instructor’s teaching, some of them will look at you, but most of them won’t pay you any attention. They are focused on that instructor. And that’s what wins corporations. So a lot of the time, if someone’s on the fence, if we can get a corporation to come out here with some of the decision-makers and see the kids and what we do and provide, that is a marketing ploy. This business takes on life.”
Most of the tour was serious, with discussion about funding and accidental death statistics and the like, but not even these learned men could keep a straight face when the village’s mascot, Sparky the Safety Dog, made an appearance.
The distinguished professors laughed and took time to pose for pictures with the gigantic Dalmatian before continuing their tour.