Ten years ago I was hired by a rural school district in Arizona to serve as Superintendent. In my first year, I was learning the intricacies of the superintendency, was responsible for mentoring a first-year principal, and was learning the roles of Business Manager and Federal Grants Director. Nothing in my educational background and coursework prepared me for the many hats that I would be required to wear. In fact, when my husband learned I would be responsible for managing an $8 million budget, he looked at me askance and said, “You can’t even balance your own checkbook!”
by North Carolina Department of Public Instruction
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) welcomed U.S. Department of Education (ED) leadership including Deputy Secretary Cindy Marten, Senior Advisor to the Deputy Secretary Staci Monreal, and U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) Director Andrea Suarez Falken, to Raleigh on Oct. 19, as part of ED’s annual Green Strides Tour. The three-day visit in the Tar Heel state honored past and present recipients of the ED-GRS recognition award. These schools, districts, and postsecondary institutions have received recognition for their progress in the three Pillars of ED-GRS. They each demonstrate efforts in all three of the following areas: 1) reducing environmental impact and costs; improving health and wellness; and ensuring effective environmental and sustainability education.
This past year-and-a-half challenged everyone on such a huge scale. And our students were among the hardest hit by the disruptions of the pandemic. Without in-person classes, Friday night football games, spring musicals, and so many other opportunities to develop deep and nurturing in-person relationships and make lasting memories in school, it was a challenge to create a strong sense of community. As a former administrator and teacher, I understand how important that feeling of togetherness is to achieving school success.
Of all the topics of conversation taking place in preparation for in-person learning none is more important than the topic of teacher and principal retention. Throughout the month of June, I experienced what I can only call a “retirement party circuit” as I bid yet another colleague farewell after a multi-decade career in education. These veteran teachers and administrators expressed a level of disdain for remote learning stating such an approach to teaching wasn’t what they were trained to do, nor did it satisfy their need to be in the classroom with students feeling the synergy that characterizes engaging learning. I cannot fault these educators for their decision to retire and many self-described themselves as having “done their duty” throughout the pandemic but could no longer maintain the stamina to meet the challenges the post-COVID-19 classroom will present. They were simply burned-out.
President Biden has a bold vision for the future of country in his Build Back Better agenda, and critical education investments like the free community college and advancing affordability proposals are about opening opportunity for all Americans. As we close out National Hispanic Heritage Month, it’s also a time to celebrate what these proposals would mean for Latino students trying to pursue a postsecondary degree or certificate.
By Ruth Ryder, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education
Today, the U.S. Department of Education awarded $17 million to 27 grants representing 15 states through the Assistance for Arts Education (AAE) program. These grants were made to national nonprofit organizations, local school districts, colleges and universities, and other arts organizations to enrich the academic experience of and promote arts education for students, including disadvantaged students and students who are children with disabilities. The Arts play critical role in a child’s education. They allow students to become creative thinkers, to connect, design and apply their learnings which in turn prepares our children for the future workforce with the skills and capacity to think outside the box with creative solutions.
Today, the U.S. Department of Education awarded three new grants under the American History and Civics Education’s Academies and National Activities programs to provide students greater opportunity to learn about the rich history of our nation and build the skills needed to fully participate in civic life. The American History and Civics programs enable institutions of higher education, non-profit organizations, and other interested applicants to explore innovative and creative ways to support educators and the teaching of American history and civics to students. This program aims to develop more active and engaged citizens, but does not dictate or recommend specific curriculum, as these decisions are – and will continue to be – made at the local level.
By Andrea Suarez Falken, Director of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools program, ED’s Facilities, Health, and Environment liaison, and Director of the Recognizing Inspiring School Employees Award program
Responding to feedback from the 2020 ED-GRS cohort that a recognition award—without a recognition ceremony—doesn’t feel the same, we offered as much in-person recognition as we could for this year’s ED Green Ribbon Schools honorees. On Sept. 28, we recognized 27 schools, three early learning centers, five school districts, five postsecondary institutions, as well as three state education agency officials at a Washington, D.C., ceremony for their efforts to cultivate sustainable, healthy facilities, wellness practices, and authentic place-based learning. Prioritizing climate and sustainability in schools and school systems is central to President Biden’s Build Back Better Agenda, which includes a $100 billion investment in rebuilding our nation’s public schools to create safe and healthy learning environments for all students.
Today, the U.S. Department of Education awarded 68 new grants totaling $185,511,391 million through the Alaska Native Education (ANE) and Native Hawaiian Education (NHE) programs. ANE grants were made to Alaska Native Organizations and entities located in Alaska that are governed predominately by Alaska Natives and support innovative projects that recognize and address the unique educational needs of Alaska Native children and adults. Similarly, NHE grants were made to Native Hawaiian educational organizations; Native Hawaiian community-based organizations; and public and private nonprofit organizations, agencies, and institutions with experience in developing or operating Native Hawaiian programs or programs of instruction in the Native Hawaiian language address a significant need to assist Native Hawaiians and to supplement and expand educational programs. The American Rescue Plan made available an additional $170 million to support these programs.
In 2011, we launched the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) recognition award and began honoring schools, districts, and postsecondary institutions for their work to: 1) reduce environmental impacts and save money; 2) improve health and wellness; and 3) teach effective environmental and sustainability education.
To the educators who are preparing for this upcoming school year or those who have already begun,
After a school year of uncertainty, this is a reminder that you are valid in your feelings about this school year. Whether you are eager to begin or are still recovering from the previous year, I want to encourage you to think back to your “why”. In the midst of it all, it is easy to forget what brought us to this profession. We all have different stories that led us to become educators. So throughout this school year, I challenge you to take a moment and reflect back to the beginning of your story.
Even a pandemic cannot stop the arrival of year two of the newest recognition award at the U.S. Department of Education (ED). Designed to shine a spotlight on good work and ignite more positive contributions, while engaging state and local stakeholders, the Recognizing Inspiring School Employees (RISE) Award is kicking off its second award cycle, with nominations due to ED this fall. ED is also seeking peer reviewers to help select the single national honoree this winter.
This award was inaugurated back in April 2019, when Congress passed the Recognizing Achievement in Classified School Employees Act, enabling ED to begin honoring one extraordinary education support professional annually. The subsequent fall, ED officially launched the first award cycle.