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Standing Strong for Students Back-to-School Tour showcases collaborative efforts to help students succeed

NEA leaders spotlight union-led school improvements and effects of budget cuts on education quality


WASHINGTON - September 16, 2011 -

National Education Association (NEA) President Dennis Van Roekel and Secretary Treasurer Becky Pringle crisscrossed the nation in a five-day, seven city back-to-school tour under the theme, “Standing Strong for Students.”

Van Roekel, a high-school math teacher from Phoenix, Ariz., and Pringle, a physical science teacher from Harrisburg, Penn., traveled to school districts that—despite the negative effects of budget cuts and harmful education policies—have excellent examples of teachers and support professional who are working tirelessly to help students succeed.  NEA members continue to collaborate with colleagues, school district educators and community leaders to improve student learning.

The veteran educators were on the road to get first-hand views of the countless ways that NEA members are working to help transform public education in their communities. Van Roekel and Pringle visited schools in Dayton, Ohio, Romulus, Mich., Orlando and Miami, Fla., Evansville, Ind.,  Seattle, Wash. and Las Vegas, Nev. to view union-led innovation, transformation and partnerships.

The 2011 Back-to-School Tour coincided with the start of year two of NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign (PSC), the Association’s multi-year effort to help transform low-performing schools. The campaign is in 34 schools across 16 states.

Joined by state and local leaders, Van Roekel visited the following schools:

Monday, Sept. 12 (Dayton, Ohio) –Van Roekel kicked off the Association’s “Standing Strong for Students” Back-to-School Tour with visits to Westwood PreK-8 School and Belmont High School. The national education leader visited the two Dayton schools to see how local educators are working with parents and community leaders to improve student success. 

Tuesday, September 13 (Romulus, Mich.) – Van Roekel visited Romulus Community Schools, which faced a tough local election to renew funding, an endeavor that previously failed twice. School leaders and community members joined forces with NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign and on the third try, voters passed the millage.  The win ensured continued collaborative reform at Romulus Middle School, a PSC site. 

Wednesday, September 14 (Orlando, Fla.) – At this stop, Van Roekel took part in a roundtable discussion with local education  stakeholders. The group shared opportunities and obstacles, along with ideas and insights to help ensure the success of all students.

Thursday, September 15 (Miami, Fla.) – Van Roekel concluded his leg of the Association’s Standing Strong for Students Back-to-School Tour in Miami. During his visit to Miami, he spoke with key education stakeholders to discuss how they could work together to support students. Miami was Van Roekel’s second stop in Florida, a state where education funding and programs are plummeting. “This annual tour is about putting faces and names to the stories we’re hearing about the devastating effects of cuts to education budgets nationwide on our students and educators,” Van Roekel said. 

NEA Secretary-Treasurer Becky Pringle also participated in NEA’s Back-to-School Tour, visiting   the following schools with state and local Association leaders:

Monday, September 12 (Evansville, Ind.) –Collaboration was the focus of Pringle’s visit to the home of the groundbreaking Equity Schools, which aims to transform schools through professional development for teachers and extended learning time for students.  Pringle congratulated local education leaders from Evans School and McGary Middle School for their work in turning academically-challenged schools in Evansville into positive learning environments. 

Tuesday, September 13 (Seattle, Wash.)West Seattle Elementary School, a PSC site, used its first year of School Improvement Grant (SIG) funding to increase wraparound services, especially necessary for its high-needs student population. Health care, counselors have helped educators attend to the needs of the whole child. Staff members expressed concern over federal money going away at the end of the three-year SIG grant, and not being replaced by state or local money. 

Wednesday, September 14 (Clark County, Nev.) – Pringle gave the educational support professionals of Clark County, Nevada some much-deserved appreciation on the final leg of NEA’s Standing Strong for Students Back-to-School Tour. Educating the whole child involves everyone in the school building, including bus drivers, nurses and cafeteria workers. When teachers work side-by-side with school support staff, students don’t fall through the cracks. Pringle was welcomed by NEA's largest ESP local, the Education Support Employees Association with more than 6,000 members. "I've met wonderful, passionate people,” Pringle said as she prepared to return to Washington, DC, from her three-city portion of the back-to-school tour.  “We will take what they have told us and bring it to policymakers, [who] don’t always understand what’s really going on in schools.”

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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: Brenda Álvarez  (202) 822-7823, balvarez@nea.org