NEA Back-to-School Tour to Promote Public School Success
By Amy Buffenbarger
With a new school year underway, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel and Vice President Lily Eskelsen will join the U.S. Department of Education’s Education Drives America bus tour to highlight public school successes, collaborative relationships that are helping students succeed and call for equity in all of America’s public schools.
“Our goal is to ensure that all our students receive an education that prepares them to be successful in the worldwide economy. We’re serious about the business of fixing and supporting all of our public schools now,” said Van Roekel. “We’ll be seeing first-hand, some of the ideas, strategies and improvements that NEA members are helping to implement and we’ll be looking for ways to effectively replicate some of these strategies in other schools and communities.”
The Education Drives America tour kicked off this week in California’s Silicon Valley and will end in Washington, DC on Sept. 21 after held coast-to-coast stops. This year’s tour is meant to highlight the role education plays in maintaining a strong middle class and global economic competitiveness.
“America’s future is directly linked to the quality of education that we provide our children, young people and adults,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a press release.
On Sept. 13, Eskelsen will join the tour in Salt Lake City. She’ll start the day with Jo Anderson, Senior Policy Advisor to Duncan, hosting a conversation with superintendents, school board members and local politicians to share stories of collaborative work being done in schools, states, districts that are making a difference.
After a visit and tour of the Horizonte Instruction and Training Center, Eskelsen will meet with school district officials, teachers, education support professionals and students for a roundtable discussion at Glendale Middle School.
The Salt Lake City school is one of the official stops of the Education Drives America tour, and part of NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign. Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter and ED Chief of Staff Joanne Weiss will join Eskelsen from the Dept. of Ed.
Located in a high poverty area, the school was struggling. Then, with the help of a federal School Improvement Grant and a faculty-approved plan that boosts the rigor of curriculum, extends class time, fosters parental engagement and community partnerships, and increases teacher development, the school is seeing gains.
“Glendale is a shining example of what NEA members – working through their union along with families, communities and elected officials – can do to help transform a school,” said Eskelsen. “Sustainable school improvement is about adopting collaboration, not triggering confrontation.”
On Sept. 18, Van Roekel will join Duncan at the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka, Kan. for an event highlighting civil rights and equal educational opportunities. They will honor the legacy represented by the U.S. Supreme Court case that ended legal segregation in the nation’s public schools.
“The Brown v. Board decision was a historic step in creating great public schools for all students. However, nearly 60 years later, we’re still struggling with the issue of equity and fairness,” said Van Roekel. “We need to do more to ensure that every student…wealthy or poor, urban or rural, regardless of race…gets a quality education.”
From there, Van Roekel will travel with Duncan to Emporia State University, the site of the Teacher Hall of Fame. Together they will host a town hall with current educators and prospective students to discuss how to best recruit new educators, retain those working in schools and elevate the profession as a whole.
Van Roekel’s last stop on the tour will be a panel discussion about labor management collaboration and community partnership in education at the Glenwood Leadership Academy on Wednesday, Sept. 19.
Glenwood is part of NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign and a success story that demonstrates how collaborative efforts among groups with a vested interest in education can support students and lift a community from despair. Van Roekel will be joined by U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Tony Miller, educators, union leaders, parents, community members and local education officials at the Evansville, Indiana K-8 school.