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NEA president praises Romulus community collaboration

Van Roekel applauds Romulus community for work to improve schools for students

DETROIT - September 13, 2011 -

The president of the National Education Association congratulated local education and community leaders for forging effective partnerships that are turning formerly-troubled schools into positive learning environments.  NEA President Dennis Van Roekel stopped in  the Detroit area today as part of the Association’s Standing Strong for Students Back-to-School Tour, for a visit to Romulus Middle School.  

The national education leader visited the school to see how local educators are working with parents and community leaders to improve student success.  “In these changing times, providing every child with a world-class education requires more from all of us,” said Van Roekel, a high-school math teacher from Phoenix, Ariz. “Teaching and learning can’t just occur in the classroom. We must work together to help more students, in more ways and more effectively. We all—teachers, students, parents, elected officials and community leaders—are accountable for our children’s success.”

NEA is a strong proponent of community engagement and recognizes its positive impact on student achievement.  Research shows a direct correlation between parent, family, and community involvement and higher academic performance.

Van Roekel was joined by Michigan Education Association President Steven Cook, Romulus Education Association President Gary Banas and Romulus Community Schools President Carl Weiss.  "Our school districts are faced with unprecedented challenges in the wake of lawmakers’ decision to cut $1 billion from public education," said MEA President Steven Cook. "But Romulus has shown that communities support our public schools and will do what it takes for students to succeed.  We’re proud to show Romulus Middle School off to President Van Roekel and the nation.  This school is making great changes and we’re really seeing those changes positively impact the students.”

The group began the day with a tour of Romulus Middle School, which was among 28 Michigan schools to receive federal School Improvement Grants (SIG). The $5.3 million grant propelled the school to turn their academic record around, using the transformation model, which includes improving school leadership, extended learning time and operating flexibility. 
Also, earlier this year, local labor unions, including Romulus Education Association, along with parents, community leaders and members, and school district educators worked together with NEA’s Priority School Campaign to mobilize voter support for renewal of an existing business tax to support education that had been previously rejected twice. The funds provided by the renewal of the tax millage provided critical support to public schools, particularly Romulus Middle School, where an emphasis on positive school culture is giving students important life lessons on character and personal responsibility.

“We’re hoping that Romulus Community Schools will become a destination district and that our schools will attract students from the whole area,” said Romulus Middle School Principal Jason Salhaney. “Our staff has adapted to positive changes in a short amount of time in order to improve our school for our students with the help and support of parents and the community. We’re seeing a great response.”

NEA’s 2011 Back-to-School Tour marks the official start of year two of  the Association’s Priority Schools Campaign (PSC), a  multi-year effort in 16 states to help transform 34 low-performing schools

NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign is working with the Romulus Education Association to  align resources with the school district’s mission and vision so that  students come first. PSC is providing Romulus schools with resources such professional development to help educators engage culturally diverse students and students from low-income families. Normally a big-ticket expense for schools and districts, this NEA program and others provided to PSC schools provide  vital free services to school districts that are often financially strapped.

Van Roekel and NEA Secretary Treasurer Becky Pringle are crisscrossing the nation, visiting schools in seven cities, September 12-15th. The veteran educators are getting first-hand views of school improvements and strategies that can be replicated across the country. In addition to Romulus, the NEA leaders are visiting schools in  Orlando and Miami, Fla., Evansville, Ind., Las Vegas, Nev., and Seattle, Wash. 

Photos from NEA’s Back-to-School Tour in Detroit will be availablehere.
To learn more about NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign,
 including our work with Romulus Middle School, visit here
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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: Sara Robertson  (202) 822-7823,