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NEA President stops in Columbus during back-to-school tour

Van Roekel and others announce $550,000 service-learning grant


COLUMBUS - August 25, 2010 -

National Education Association (NEA) President Dennis Van Roekel stopped in Columbus, Ohio today as part of a five-day, seven-city, back-to-school tour.  In addition to getting school staff energized about the upcoming school year, Van Roekel highlighted public school innovation, partnerships, and the importance of community and parental involvement. He was joined locally by Ohio Education Association (OEA) President Patricia Frost-Brooks and Columbus Education Association (CEA) President Rhonda Johnson and Columbus City Schools Superintendent Dr. Gene T. Harris.

“We know that great things are happening in public schools,” said Van Roekel. “This is our chance to listen and figure out where and how these great ideas can be replicated. We will be using NEA’s publications and websites to share successful strategies with our members, and we will also be tapping into our personal and Association connections and networks.”

Van Roekel was joined by local and state education leaders on the first day of school at West High School, South Mifflin STEM Academy K-6 and Champion Middle School – a priority school that has received a $2.97 million School Improvement Grant.

“Back to school is a critical time of year for students and educators—and parents too,” said OEA’s Frost-Brooks. “When parents are engaged in their children’s education, students are more motivated, they get better grades, and they are less likely to drop out.”

“Everyone gets excited during back-to-school time, but we have to come up with creative yet practical ways to sustain that energy all year long,” said NEA’s Van Roekel. “We want parents involved throughout the school year and at every grade level.”

At South Mifflin STEM Academy K-6, Van Roekel and local and state education leaders were joined by Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Deborah Delisle in announcing a $550,000 service-learning grant from Learn and Serve America, a part of the Corporation for National and Community Service, the U.S. government agency that also houses AmeriCorps and Vista.

“This grant is a huge opportunity for Columbus that will result in teaching and learning opportunities for everyone,” Van Roekel said. “Teachers will receive professional development to help them to create more effective hands-on learning opportunities for students. It’s a win-win scenario.”

NEA’s partners in “Bringing Learning to Life” include the Columbus Education Association, the Ohio State University College of Education and Human Ecology, Columbus City Schools, and the Ohio Education Association. They will work with community groups to restore schools to their traditional role as community hubs.

“To better prepare Ohio students for future careers and success, we are partnering with our communities, parents and teachers to provide innovative learning opportunities,” Ohio Gov. Strickland said. “I’m very pleased to welcome the National Education Association to Ohio because they share our commitment to providing students with the right resources to encourage the critical thinking skills necessary for success beyond the classroom.”

According to Van Roekel, the service projects that will come out of this grant also have the potential to engage more community members in students’ learning. In addition, the NEA Foundation will have the opportunity to reapply for a third year of the grant and an additional $275,000.
“We look forward to seeing the work that comes out of this project,” he said. “Our hope is that we will be able to replicate it in other places.”

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NEA Foundation release: http://www.neafoundation.org/listings/news-release/nea-foundation-awarded-550k-to-develop-national-model-for-service-learning/
For more information on NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign, go to neapriorityschools.org
Social Media News Release available at: http://tinyurl.com/2vzp2cc

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The National Education Association is the nation's largest professional employee organization, representing 3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Samantha Kappalman  (202) 316-3980, skappalman@nea.org