PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — On Thursday, the Bay County Chamber of Commerce announced a resolution “aimed at encouraging community business leaders to support school board candidates with private sector experience.”

The business organization noted that the school board is entrusted with governing local schools and advocating for more than 26,000 students in Bay District Schools.

“The school board oversees a $500 million budget, 2,500 employees, and over 40 facilities and should have experience that includes fiscal operation, personnel management, and facility administration,” they wrote in a news release.

“The overall goal of this initiative is to support district leadership but also hold it accountable to the high standards the community has for its education system,” Garrett Anderson, Chairman of the Bay County Chamber of Commerce, said. “This resolution affirms the business community’s commitment to our schools by encouraging those with professional business experience to seek opportunities on the school board.”

Anderson and the chamber said they are “concerned that students will not be adequately prepared for work and life in a diverse, global economy.”

They noted that “just 54 percent of Bay County students are not prepared for kindergarten, 49 percent of 3rd graders are not reading at grade level, 60 percent of 8th graders are not performing to grade level in math.”

The Chamber’s “A Better Way for a Brighter Bay” initiative, which was unveiled in June, is an effort to encourage business community involvement in the schools, hold district leadership accountable, and improve the overall state of Bay County District Schools, they added.

The first resolution in the initiative called on local business leaders to commit to mentoring in schools.

Through school-based mentoring programs like Elevate Bay, New Horizons Learning Center Mentor Program, Take Stock in Children, and others, the Chamber believes that the business community can have significant short- and long-term benefits for area youths.

For more information on the Bay County Chamber of Commerce, visit PanamaCity.org or @BayChamberFL on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Bay District Schools responded shortly after the news conference:

“We welcome, and applaud, the involvement of the Bay County Chamber of Commerce in our schools and in the lives of our precious children. We hope the local chamber will focus on the Paths to Prosperity Program as outlined by the Florida Chamber of Commerce as we believe the Chamber can, and should, have a positive influence on the ten root causes of poverty. Our children, and their families, need access to affordable housing, high-paying jobs/career fields and other resources that contribute to academic achievement and long-term success.”