The new superintendent of DeKalb County Schools said her top priority is to see all DeKalb County students prepared to compete in a global economy.

Cheryl Atkinson spoke to the DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce on Oct. 3 about her goals as the new leader of the school system, including a plan to visit every school in the system and meet with principals, teachers and parents.

Atkinson said increasing foreign language courses will be key.

“Our students are going to need to be able to communicate in different languages and they can’t start when they’re in high school,” Atkinson said.

She said countries like India and China start teaching children English as soon as they begin school so they are proficient in two languages by graduation.

“We must do the same for our children if they are going to compete,” Atkinson said. “This world is getting smaller every day and we’ve got to take it seriously.”

She said technology, interdisciplinary learning and critical thinking will have to be incorporated into the curriculum for children to succeed.

And she hopes to see vocational training evolve to teach students skills for jobs in cutting edge fields.

“We also need alternative energy courses, fuel cell courses, green technology courses early, not waiting until they get to high school,” Atkinson said. “The jobs that our parents and grandparents worked and even the jobs we worked … are gone.”