By William Mayes/Michigan Association of School Administrators
On April 22, leaders from the education, business, manufacturing, government, and nonprofit sectors gathered for Gov. Rick Snyder’s 2013 Education Summit. The day’s events focused on ways Michigan could better serve its students while boosting the economy by creating a smoother transition from school to career. Those of us who participated left with a common belief: Michigan will become a vibrant place to learn, work, and live only when all sectors work together.
That conviction is what drives my organization and the school administrators it represents. It is visible in our planning, in our policies, and in our practices. All reflect not only willingness, but also a passion for connecting with other sectors and thinking together about how we can move Michigan forward through educational leadership.
That’s why we applaud Snyder and Superintendent Mike Flanagan for recognizing that this important conversation should continue in a transparent way with a representative task force that includes the voices of experienced educators. In fact, I already know the type of school leader I would invite to the table.
I’d look to superintendents of local districts like Fraser, who are taking risks and bringing technology innovations to all facets of their school districts.
I’d consider intermediate school district leaders in Traverse City and elsewhere who are making meaningful connections between students and local partners from industry, business, and nonprofit worlds.
Finally, I’d pull ideas from the overworked, remnant of school counselors who juggle caseloads of 500 or more students each year on how the system might support them better in advising the students who will flow into Michigan’s talent pipeline.
We agree with the Governor that this pipeline is key to Michigan’s economic health. In fact, at last week’s Summit, school leaders in our workgroup defined the essential skills students need for success — goals that resonated with business partners in the room. We agreed that all graduates should be able to:
--Communicate (using both verbal and writing skills)
--Think critically and creatively
--Use technology as a tool
--Get along and work together
When public schools — or any schools — send those kinds of job candidates into the workplace, employers will be well positioned to deliver specialized on-the-job training. Because an effective education system should prepare students for available careers that will move Michigan forward. Educators share that belief with Governor Snyder.
But we also believe that a vibrant system of public education will do more. For Michigan to excel, public education must:
1. Unleash potential and motivate excellence
2. Continue the legacy of the American Dream
3. Protect freedom and democratic ideals
4. Foster creativity, innovation and ingenuity
5. Even the playing field
6. Open doors to opportunity
7. Create community gathering spaces
8. Provide safe havens and helping hands
And it should do it for every Michigan child and citizen.
Our beliefs allow for technology tools that make us more efficient only if they also make us more effective in meeting our goals for all children.
They drive our passion for protecting and improving our public education system. Because, as the governor contends, Michigan’s system is broken in that it allows funding inequity, erects barriers to collaboration, limits capacity and stifles innovation.
Yet despite the odds, most of our schools still patch together programming, find ways to collaborate, uncover capacity, and innovate like crazy. And they produce graduates who still lead the world in creativity and innovation.
So, in the spirit of the governor’s 2013 Education Summit, we invite government and public-sector partners to join educators in thinking together about how we can create a vibrant education system for generations of students.