Washington Week in Review-Day 2

Getting ready to tour the White House!
It was definitely a day of possibilities...the possibility that as I ran on the Mall toward the Lincoln Memorial in the crisp 33 degree temperatures of a 7 am start, that I would collapse and be completely unable to move and hence miss all the big plans the rest of the day held. Trust me, running a 5k on average three to four days a week on a treadmill does not prepare you for a run with a seasoned marathoner who said as we left the hotel,  "it's not that cold outside, is it?" I knew then that I was doomed. That's why calmer heads prevailed and when we made it to the Washington Monument I threw in the towel and turned back. And actually it's a good thing I did...because I just had enough time to pull myself together to get ready for the White House!

Normally I don't think about upgrading from my retro Blackberry to one of those new high-tech phones with 4G coverage...but I sure was glad that Mandy Grisham had hers with her! There we were, showing our id to the nice guard at the gate of the White House...and our names weren't on the list! How could they not be on the list! I had spent days working on a schedule, getting everyone to sign in, organizing logistics...and for nothing! I looked at Felisa Hilbert's face and knew that her dream was about to be crushed and I frantically tried to connect to my email to save the day...but it was Mandy's phone that was able to show Will that we were on the list. Whew!

After the tour...ready for the next adventure!
Sadly, while the tour was incredible, it forced us to cancel a meeting with the staff at KaBOOM! Fortunately Mandy was able to meet with them the next day, but I was looking forward to a rousing game of foosball in the conference room. Alas, that grudge match was not meant to be. It's important to note that the deadline for the KaBOOM! Playful City USA grant application is fast approaching. 

  • Playful City USA is an application-based national recognition program honoring cities and towns that make play a priority and use innovative programs to get children active, playing, and healthy. Playful City USA communities make a commitment to play and physical activity by developing unique local action plans to increase the access to play in their community. In doing so, some of the most innovative concepts and cost-effective programs are being developed in Playful City USA communities.

After another quick lunch, off to a meeting with the Department of Education! There is a great opportunity for family and parent engagement in this strong and growing partnership between the Department of Education and Mom Congress. The goals of this collaborative communication effort are to help our schools (where our children spend close to 6 1/2 hours or more a day) and our families (with whom children spend the remainder of their time) build a bridge to educational attainment and achievement together. By using the resources that the DOE has, and by positioning Mom Congress delegates as role models and mentors we can better help ALL parents feel that they are an essential part of their communities educational experience. 

As we know the President is due to make his State of the Union address on January 24. No doubt an emphasis will be placed on the idea that education is a shared responsibility of all citizens and that by working together we can achieve great things. Knowing that the recent Quality Counts 2012 results reveal that not one state earned an A, and that although Kentucky (my state) moved up 20 spots in the ranks to 14th...we did that by earning a C+. So while Kentucky is higher than the national average (which is 76.5) the highest score earned was by Maryland with a B (87.8). So while Kentucky ranks exceedingly high in regards to assessment and accountability (which makes sense with the new implementation of the Common Core State Standards and the new tests that have been created and which will be tried this Spring) we actually scored a C when it comes to a "chance for success." So how do we build those chances for success? By collaborating, communicating, connecting, and counting on one another as equal partners in these endeavors. 

Did you know that there are resources available to assist parents? As much as I know about education/edreform, in our nine years as public school parents, I've never been handed a brochure or guided to a website to help me ask key questions that would better help my children in their educational experience. 

  • Helping Your Child Succeed is a great resource of materials that can help. I'd also start reading the Department of Education's blog (you can sign up for alerts/etc) to get a sense of what's happening in and around education. Interested in the waiver process? What about student loans? Curious about how Title I dollars should be spent? It's all here...and more. 
What I took away from this meeting is that it is all about COMMUNITY CONNECTIVITY. That all "stakeholders" (for lack of a better term) have a responsibility to step up and be actively engaged in education, from pre-school through college. That along each and every step of the journey we make a difference, and that by working together our impact is greater than by just working alone or in silos. 

Yes, we know education is a serious business at times, so it was now time to have some serious fun! Thanks to Byron Garrett we were able to engage in lively conversation about what 2012 will hold. Over a scrumptious bowl of gumbo from the Acadiana, we talked parent empowerment and the work that Gwen Samuel (Mom Congress, CT 2010) is doing. We talked about how you don't always have to meet with your Senator or Congressman/woman, but how it is essential to get to know the staff in the office and build those relationships as well.  We spoke of the Books Make it Better advocacy campaign that fellow delegates Jen Barth (MC Oregon 2011),  Renee Berry (MC Washington, 2011), and Meghan Lynch (MC New Jersey 2011) along with support of the other delegates started. Byron is always a gracious host and we were excited to hear more about the plans for next year's Education Nation. Several Mom Congress delegates had been invited in the last two years to attend, as well as to participate as panelists. Who knows what this next year will hold? 

Shree C., Mandy G., Melissa B., Byron G., Myrdin T., Rachel L., & Felisa H. 
All of us are quite hopeful that Byron will be able to join us at the next Mom Congress...and you can too! The application cycle is now open. Are you passionate about education in your community? Maybe you feel it's time to return recess to schools? Perhaps you've created a fantastic parent partnership program in your community and feel you need to share. Do you read every article about ESEA, NCLB, CCSS, and AYP as fast as your fingers can google? Then this is the program for you! Applications are due February 15, 2012. This year's theme: parent school communication/connection. I know you have something to contribute...and I'd love to see you there! 

Are you as exhausted as I am? By the time this evening ended as much as we were looking forward to a good night's sleep, we also knew that there had been magic in the air. That the time had come to go from a magazine contest to a movement...that in 2012, the best is yet to come!

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