Thanks to a partnership between the Columbia County school system and Mercedes-Benz of Augusta, Allison Palfy drives a Mercedes C300 to school every day.
A year-long lease for the luxury car was included as part of her prize when the Cedar Ridge Elementary School teacher won county Teacher of the Year honors in October.
Driving the car to work makes her feel "like a princess," Palfy said during the annual business partners holiday breakfast sponsored by the Columbia County School System on Tuesday.
In addition to teachers, such business partnerships offer support to pupils in a way the school system can't, Palfy said.
Business partners provide food for many needy children on weekends, vision screening and free eyeglasses, toothbrushes and toothpaste, and coupons to area restaurants.
Those partnerships let pupils know that their community cares about their education, and Palfy said statistics show that children perform better in schools that enjoy strong community support.
Superintendent Charles Nagle credited the school system's numerous business partners for its popularity.
Through their donations and efforts, area schools are more attractive to educators, allowing the school system to recruit some of the best teachers in the state, such as Palfy, Nagle said.
During the meeting, Nagle said he didn't want to dwell on the negatives of the economy.
Instead, he chose to elaborate on the importance of sales tax dollars to the school system and a new 1-cent sales tax proposal to be presented to voters next year.
Through the penny sales tax, the system has been able to build numerous new schools, including the $38 million Grovetown High School, without incurring any debt, Nagle said.
Sales taxes also have funded purchases of new school buses and $2-$3 million in computer hardware upgrades.
"We don't have state dollars to do this," Nagle said. "It's all local."
The system soon will start construction on a new elementary school on Baker Place Road. The sales tax package coming before voters next year likely will include plans for the construction of an additional five new elementary schools.
Nagle urged business partners to support the sales tax package when it comes to a vote as a means of bettering their community.
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