Appalachian Bound: Bus Tour Day Seven

Deputy Secretary Tony Miller joined a class at Picadome Elementary in Lexington, Ky. Official Department of Education photo by Joshua Hoover.

Deputy Secretary Tony Miller joined a class at Picadome Elementary in Lexington, Ky. Official Department of Education photo by Joshua Hoover.

Lexington: Finding inspiration in language

Deputy Secretary Tony Miller stopped by Picadome Elementary School in Lexington, Ky for the first stop of day seven of the Department’s back-to-school bus tour across the country. Picadome is a unique school in that all 500 students study Japanese. Miller, who speaks a little Japanese himself, took part in a classroom lesson, then joined Maureen McLaughlin, director of ED’s International Affairs Office, and community members for a roundtable discussion.

Picadome is one of three elementary schools in the Fayette County Public Schools system to offer Japanese—a district that offers foreign language classes in more than half of its elementary schools, which is four times the national average.

During this stop, the message was clear: foreign language study helps to develop students who are career and college ready.

Miller commented that schools like Picadome “are making magic every day.” Praising the school and its teachers, Miller said that, “we are going to take this message with us as we travel.”

Charleston: Early learning in West Virginia puts children on the right track

Duncan greets students at Elk Elementary.

Secretary Duncan were greeted by students from Elk Elementary. Official Department of Education photo by Joshua Hoover.

After saying Sayonara to the students at Picadome, the Education Drives America bus visited Elk Elementary Center in Charleston, W.Va., where Secretary Arne Duncan rejoined the tour and was accompanied by Deputy Assistant Secretary for Early Learning Jacqueline Jones and Office of Special Education Programs Director Melody Mugrove.

Greeted by a throng of cheering children outside the school, Secretary Duncan made the rounds to shake hands and exchange high-fives with the excited group.

Elk has two preschool programs, and is part of West Virginia’s universal pre-k initiative that has built strong collaborations between state preschool, Head Start, and childcare to provide more high-quality preschool opportunities for children across the state.

Secretary Duncan visited with Elk students in art class, on the playground, and at an indoor pool equipped for special needs children.  He then met for a roundtable with state and local leaders to discuss their efforts to increase the competencies of the early childhood workforce and congratulate the West Virginia Department of Education on the creation of the new Office of Early Learning, charged with promoting greater collaboration across state agencies.

McDowell County: Working to create great schools and communities

Following the stop in Charleston, Secretary Duncan’s tour wound its way through West Virginia’s rural hills to McDowell County, W.Va., where he joined Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and Gayle Manchin, former West Virginia first lady and wife of U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, for a community discussion on how to build public-private partnerships to support educational improvement as the path to a brighter economic future.

After many of the local coalmines closed, and following major floods a decade ago, the McDowell community suffered serious economic stagnation. The AFT has created the “Reconnecting McDowell” program that brings together business, government and nonprofit organizations to establish programs that address the challenges faced by this community.

“Every child deserves the best,” Secretary Duncan said at the McDowell town hall. “To see everyone rallying around not just the schools, but the entire community, is inspiring.”

The Education Drives America has one more day of exciting stops in Roanoke and Richmond, Va., and a final homecoming event at the Department of Education headquarters in Washington.

See what people said on Twitter during day seven.

Cameron Brenchley is director of digital engagement and is blogging and tweeting his way from coast to coast during ED’s annual back-to-school bus tour.

1 Comment

  1. I love the fact that you are visiting around the country various school. Can you tell me what are we as a country doing to foster the intelligence in our gifted children enrolled in the public schools? Once in high school it appears these children are forgotten. I have a daughter that will be 15 when she graduated high school and begins attending college. Thank you.

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