Eighth-grader Wesley Wyatt doesn’t think his life would be as good as it is if it weren’t for his mentor, Art Jones.

Jones, a retired superintendent, started working with Wyatt two years ago, and Wyatt said their relationship is one of the reasons he makes good grades and wants to go to college.

Communities in Schools, a nonprofit dropout-prevention group, connected Jones with Wyatt, and the pair were featured Wednesday during the superintendent’s annual State of the Schools address.

“It really is essential that the community embraces schools, and that schools allow the community to be a part of their achievement,” Jones said.

Charleston County School Superintendent Nancy McGinley focused her talk on the importance of partnerships with groups such as Communities in Schools.

The district needs their support to reach the goals in its strategic plan, Vision 2016.

“We cannot do this work alone,” she said. “This work is hard work, and public dollars never go far enough.”

McGinley, who is in her sixth year as Charleston’s top schools leader, gathered more than 200 business, school and community leaders on the College of Charleston campus for her speech.

What else?

She spoke at length about the district’s efforts to prepare students to compete in a global economy.

The new Common Core State Standards will provide the content that students need to learn, and the district is working to personalize students’ learning.

This means using iPads and other new technology to individualize material for both high- and low-achievers, she said. All of that will be delivered through effective educators, she said.

Lighter moments

McGinley told the crowd about some of the documents her mom gave her when she moved to Charleston, such as her birth certificate and first-grade report card.

She projected the materials onto a large screen and used them to illustrate how much education had changed in the decades since then.

She joked that Robin King, her longtime administrative assistant, had been smart enough to cover up the year on her birth certificate.

When the projection of her report card popped up, someone in the crowd pointed out that King hadn’t removed the date. “Robin is in trouble,” McGinley quipped.

Anyone steal the show?

January Little, a junior at downtown Burke High, served as the day’s Master of Ceremonies, and he kept the crowd entertained with his jovial spirit and touching testimony on the impact of the district’s partners in his life.

Chorus students at Charleston Development Academy, a downtown charter school, closed the event, and their rendition of a medley of three love songs earned a standing ovation.

What was the reaction?

Sherrie Snipes-Williams, chief executive officer for the nonprofit Charleston Promise Neighborhood, was one of two community partners who spoke during the event. She said she was inspired by the stories she heard and impressed with the diverse crowd she saw. She called the day “fantastic.”

How much did it cost?

The district couldn’t provide a figure Wednesday for the cost of the State of the Schools address.

Use of the hospitality suite at the College of Charleston’s TD Arena was donated, and the district paid for the lunch, flowers, souvenir cups and printed materials.

Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at @Diette on Twitter or (843) 937-5546.