Education Summit Results LO13051

Edwin Brenegar III (
Fri, 28 Mar 1997 11:44:06 -0500 (EST)

Replying to LO12771 --

Dear LO friends,

A few weeks ago, I reported to you about an Education Summit which we were
to have this past weekend here in Asheville. I am the vice-chair of the
Asheville/Buncombe VISION Education Task Force which planned it. And I
told you I would report back after the event. I'll tell you a little
about what we did, what we achieved and what we plan to do.


The Summit's purpose was to provide an opportunity for the community to
respond to a set of strategies which were identified through a visioning
process conducted during the summer of 1995. Our task was to identify
specific action steps, benchmarks and partnership needed to fulfill the
vision strategies. The task was monumental because it included preschool
ages to adult, public and private primary and secondary institutions,
including homeschools, and post-secondary including technical colleges,
public and private colleges and universities.

We subdivided the Summit into two parts: 1. A series of Student Summits
held at seven public high schools, one public middle school for
behaviorally challenged students, and five independent schools ranging
from a Christian academy to an exclusive college-prep boarding school. 2.
An Education Summit which brought the community together to listen and
discuss education in general and the vision strategies in specific.

The design of both parts were centered in a set of questions which we
asked the public to answer. These questions were developed around four NC
state education reform initiatives. Each of the vision strategies fit
into one or more those initiatives. The Student Summit questions were
worded differently than the Education Summit, but dealt with the same
issues. A team of facilitators and recorders were trained to go into each
school and discuss the questions with students selected by the school
administration. Our only request was that these students would be able to
speak to the full range of student education experience, including that of
marginal or under-performing students. This the schools did very well.

The Education Summit was organized to provide any participant an exposure
to the full range of education opportunities available in the community.
We began with a high school principal who has turned a failing rural high
school in SE Ohio into a national model for how to develop a school as a
genuine community. Following the opening address, a report of the four
state reform initiatives was given. Then a panel consisting of three
system superintendents, an independent school head and a high school
student each made brief presentations followed by questions. Then in
succession we had the local community college president, the local state
university chancellor and two people involved in preschool education bring
presentations. Following lunch, another of the state's university
chancellors gave a presentation on education in the next century. Then we
adjourned to break out sessions where for an hour and a half we
discussed the questions we had drafted by the event. Upon return, each
group made a presentation of their discussions, I summarized, the chair
charted next steps, and we adjourned for the day.


Just to hold an education event which was not focused upon limited
resources, the personalities of superintendents and principals and the
failings of the past was a significant step forward. Our Task Force was
committed from the beginning to openness. We all laid aside our personal
agendas in order to provide the community the opportunity to speak. This
we did and accomplished.

Our other achievement is the material we gathered which we will put
together in a report to the community which will become a working
strategic action plan identifying specific ways to improve education.

But in the important sense, our achievements are yet to be realized.
Those achievements will be actual improvement through increased community
involvement and partnership with schools. Our Summit was one step, an
important one, but just one of many to follow.

WHAT WE LEARNED First, that high school students are very aware of the
issues involved in secondary education. The issues which are important to
them are relevance and control, or how does this subject relate to what I
will be doing in later life and what difference will it make? This goes
beyond just academic focus on career preparation, but to life skills. Even
in the college prep independent schools, they felt a need for greater
relevance. That just focusing on getting them prepared for college level
work was not addressing the issue of relevance. They want a greater
variety of teaching styles used by teachers. Their rationale, different
students learn in different ways. The want to do more team learning, in
groups, in dialogue, less straight lecture. They want higher standards
and expectations placed on them. The public school students, even the
high achieving ones, wanted to be challenged more. Students also said
they felt they should have the opportunity to evaluate their teachers.

It is the case for all of our facilitators and task force people who
participated in the Student Summits, that we were surprised by their
responses, their level of articulation and depth of thought.

Second, that the two hardest groups to reach were parents and teachers.
While we met our numbers for total attendance, we were not pleased with
the number of parents and teachers in attendance. So we have decided we
will conduct specifically focused Summits for these two groups. Probably
for teachers in Summits for individual school systems, for parents at the
individual schools.

Third, the Education Summit repeated some of the same issues which the
students identified. The three broad areas are 1. Communication: between
students, teachers, parents, administrators and the public in general.
And at the center of the issue of communication was the need for trust and
respect in those relationships. 2. Relevance: Not only in terms of
preparation for career and life, but also in terms of cultural diversity,
personal development as a whole person through a more integrated
curriculum and increased emphasis on high expectation for all persons
involved in education. 3. Team Approaches/ Partnerships: There was a
overwhelming sense from participants that decision making, accountability,
and evaluation should be done by everyone involved through partnerships.
For example: our first keynote speaker, the high school principal from
Ohio described how students and teachers are involved in the selection of
new teachers. Interestingly, this way of managing schools was described
by one group as a way of practicing continuous learning.

Finally, what we are beginning to see is that there is a great desire for
community, and that it cannot happen apart from individuals becoming
partners with the institutions in the community. The challenge, and it is
a great one, but the challenge is to learn how to help all parties learn
how to be effective partners. If what we see is accurate, then to give up
control is to empower, and therefore gain greater influence over outcomes.

My report to you has help me begin the process of preparing the report
which will go to the public in late April which will describe our actions
steps. I'd appreciate any questions or comments, especially from a
learning organizations viewpoint, as they will be very helpful to me in
preparing for our next steps.

Ever learning...

Ed Brenegar
Leadership Resources
210 Wood Dale Drive
Hendersonville, N.C. 28791
704/693-0720 voice/fax


Edwin Brenegar III <>

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