“Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. The human mind is our fundamental resource.” So said John F. Kennedy and an era of focused education for all citizens – regardless of ethnicity truly began.  The election of President Barak Obama in many ways represents a new watershed moment in the equality this statement.  We are however at a time of great challenge, not just for education, but our entire State budget.  How does that affect our community, and as President Kennedy implied, our nation?

Two weeks ago, city council members and various other leaders in business and city government received a very flattering invitation from Dr. Greg Franklin, the superintendent of schools for Los Alamitos Unified.  He asked if we would be willing to participate in a “Principal for a Day” program on Wednesday May 27th.  We all went to one of the ten district (6 elementary, 2 middle and 2 high) schools for the first half of the day to observe the classrooms, student, faculty and staff.  Following our visit, we were asked to reconvene and share our observations, thoughts and “ah-ha” moments in an informal luncheon at the district offices.

Some of things which most amazed me at Lee Elementary with Principal Andrew Pulver were:

  • The technology in place – from “smartboards” which completely integrated traditional chalkboard writing format with the graphic design elements of a desktop computer.  This was a far cry from what I remembered even from my undergraduate level coursework in 1995!
  • The new cognitively guided instruction (CGI) which emphasized not only structures of thinking, but truly allowed students the ability to learn and select their own methodologies to analyze as they saw fit mathematical, writing / reading / storytelling skills and even scientific and historic facts. It proved we are teaching students to think, not just the facts anymore.
  • The “teach the teacher” focus of enrichment through mentoring and the Cotsen Foundation process of development brings great results to our schools.  At least private enterprise and entrepreneurship are successful in bringing new and innovative ideas to our teachers and thus our children. Can we do more?
  • Resources are scarce and are becoming less reliable at the California state level.  Potentially millions more are going to be removed from the educational budget for 2009 – 2011. Partnership with business, our military bases, cities and other non-profits are the wave of the future.
  • Volunteerism is high at the elementary level, but we need more support at the middle and high schools. Can you make time?
  • It takes a village of parents, students, teachers, staff and people who simply care about education all coming together to make a California Distinguished School – of which Lee is one. Congratulations to Andrew and his team!

As businesses, we give generously to so many fundraisers for schools with gift certificates, products, services and even our own facilities.  This is certainly part of what we can do, but let us consider how we can share resources, training, volunteer our time or offer our talents to our schools.  Personally, since my partner and I do not have any children, it was an honor to be part of the visit (in addition to being able to read a story “Two Bad Ants” which was really great fun) and stay connected to our most precious resource in community – children.  We can look to our Chambers of Commerce, our BNI, Leads Club, and other “working groups” not just for ourselves but for our future entrepreneurs and visionary leaders.  So let’s shop local, get creative in working with schools, take a minute and remember as one of the greatest philosophers of antiquity, Plato stated in 400 BC: “The direction in which education starts a man will determine his future life.”

 

Seth Eaker is the current President of the Seal Beach Chamber of Commerce and is the founder of Black Marble Consulting, LLC., a business consulting and marketing firm.