Skip to Content

Day 2 of NEA’s back-to-school tour: Columbia gets cash grant

Stop is part of multi-city tour to highlight innovation, collaboration in public schools

COLUMBIA, Mo. - August 24, 2010 -

As students across the country headed back to school, the president of the nation’s largest teacher’s union stopped by a Columbia public school to hear about its plans to improve student learning—and to deliver an NEA grant to help local educators close achievement gaps.

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel visited Alpha Hart Lewis Elementary School today and presented a $10,000 grant to educators to boost efforts already underway in the 17,000-student school district.

“The truth of the matter is we’re not delivering for every student and we should be, but we can’t do that without community and parent involvement,” said Van Roekel. “All stakeholders must be at the table, working together for the benefit of students.”

Accompanying the NEA president were Missouri-NEA President Chris Guinther, Columbia Education Association President Susan McClintic and Chris Belcher, superintendent, Columbia Public Schools, who shared tips on increasing parental and community engagement in schools—two key ingredients necessary to transforming low-performing schools.

“This grant comes at an opportune time,” said Belcher. “The funds will be used to further enhance community engagement around the district's achievement gap.  With the district's free and reduced-price lunch population continuing to grow, these funds will help the district open a dialogue with the community about how we can tackle the achievement gap together.”

The Missouri-NEA president agreed that more collaboration is needed. “Here in Missouri, we’ve made gains over the years in closing achievement gaps, but we’re not satisfied with our progress,” said Guinther. “We need to accelerate our efforts.” 

Educators in other communities have used NEA grants to increase parental and community engagement in schools and boost student achievement.

  • Oklahoma City, Okla.: At Putnam City West High School, educators used an NEA grant to change the way teachers related to parents of Hispanic students, and as a result, parents became more engaged in their children’s education. Between 2008 and 2009, the number of graduating Hispanic students rose by nearly 70 percent. 
  • Little Rock, Ark: A public engagement grant helped educators involve parents and community members in schools.  As a result, the achievement gap in mathematics narrowed by 20 percentage points for African-American fifth graders: 45 percent scored “proficient” in 2009, compared to 25 percent in 2006.
  • Columbus, Ohio: Educators worked with parents and members of the Linden community to build support for a groundbreaking plan to transform a failing school into a new school that will serve students in grades 7-12 with a curriculum that revolves around STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

The back-to-school tour welcomes students and their teachers to a new school year, and it spotlights public school innovation, partnerships and teacher- and union-led initiatives—all of which are helping transform low-performing schools. NEA is hosting a national summit on family/parental engagement on September 13-14 in Washington, D.C., that will bring together parents, educators and elected leaders from around the country.

On to Columbus, Ohio
The NEA back-to-school tour travels next to Columbus, where Van Roekel will visit South Mifflin Elementary School to hear first hand from educators and administrators who are creating new ways to ensure student success. Joining Van Roekel to announce a districtwide service-learning grant will be Gov. Ted Strickland, Ohio Education Association President Patricia Frost-Brooks, Columbus Education Association President Rhonda Johnson, and Columbus City Schools Superintendent Gene Harris, along with state and local education leaders and partners.

Read more from the road by visiting
For more resources on the reauthorization of ESEA, please go to
For more information on voices from the classroom, visit
Follow us on twitter at

# # #

The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional 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: Staci Maiers  (202) 822-7823,