Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Commentary>>Making a difference by getting involved

By Lt. Col. Lisa Redinger
19th Mission Support Squadron commander

As families move from one base to another, the decision on where to live is influenced by the quality of local schools. The desire of every parent is to provide the best educational opportunities for their children. Our base and our feeder schools are committed to making this goal a reality. Together we’re working to build a partnership with parents, school administrators, and private organizations to champion world-class facilities, a safe learning environment, and quality school performance for our dependent children.

Our district may not have the best facilities, but looking a little deeper reveals that our feeder elementary schools – Arnold Drive and Tolleson – are performing very well in comparison to others in our district. Volunteers from the base have played a vital role in this success.

Recently, Arnold Drive Elementary was designated as a National Distinguished Title I school, only one of two schools in Arkansas to earn this distinction. Arnold Drive earned this award based on exceptional student performance, strong professional development; and partnerships among schools, parents, and communities. Another testament to their educational commitment, the principal, Ms. Jackie Smith, was recently evaluated as a “Master Principal.” Only one of three from Arkansas to make it to the final stages, she had to demonstrate school progress, and student and community involvement. We can clearly see the difference community involvement has made for this school.

At Tolleson Elementary, the school earned academic honors when one of their third grade teachers, Ms. Allison Brown, garnered the 2008-2009 Teacher of the Year Award.

Ms. Brown stated the best thing about her school was that the staff “…creates an atmosphere of the utmost respect, professionalism, and the highest expectation of students, faculty, and parents.” Living up to these expectations, the base community is also involved at Tolleson. Last year, base volunteers assisted with the school’s cereal drive by helping gather 250 boxes of cereal. This was the most in the district, earning Tolleson extra money for school improvements. Our commitment to our schools, really can make a difference.

Awards and recognition like these at the elementary school level show that community involvement in schools is vital and yields measurable results. It is easy to say you won’t live somewhere based on a school’s reputation. It’s much harder to commit to helping a school improve.

Our base leadership recognizes this need for involvement, and commits to making a difference in the education of our children. Each of our feeder schools is now partnered with a group from the 19th Airlift Wing: the 19th Mission Support Group with Arnold Drive Elementary; the 19th Operations Group with Tolleson Elementary; the 19th Maintenance Group with Northwood Middle; and the 19th Medical Group with North Pulaski High School. Each of these groups is actively seeking volunteers to assist with various projects throughout the school year, at each of the schools.

We’ve proven that community involvement makes a huge difference in our schools. We can’t expect our schools to succeed on their own. It takes an entire community invested in the education of our children to build a great school. Whether you have no children or five children, you too can make a difference. Volunteer your time, today – it all starts with you.


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