Forum on improving public education set for Tuesday

MANISTEE — Etched into the fabric of a strong economy and thriving community is quality public education, the strength of which takes a village to build.

We the People Action Network of Northwest Michigan and its partners are inviting parents, educators, community members and business leaders to a public forum entitled, “Public Education: We Will Raise It Up,” to further engage in this strength building effort.

All are welcome to attend the free event, which will be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday at Manistee High School, located at 525 12th St. in Manistee.

“If you look at the states that are doing well in education, you’ll see it’s really a group effort,” said Miriam Epskamp of We the People Action Network. “It’s not just the education field working on this, it’s the whole community. It’s business leaders, it’s people at the college level, it’s everybody pitching in.

“Whether you’re Republican, Democrat or Independent, everybody should be focused on this and figure out how we, as a region, as a state, can raise up and improve our education system and our schools, so that each child is getting the best quality education that they can get. ….”

The forum will feature keynote speaker Sheila Alles, the chief deputy superintendent of the Michigan Department of Education who is responsible for coordinating the state’s “Top 10 in Ten Years,” a set of targeted strategies designed to help Michigan become a top performing state for education.

Alles’ presentation will be divided into three segments, interspersed with panel discussions among local leaders, moderated by Ron Stoneman, superintendent of Manistee Area Public Schools.

“We were trying to think of a way to raise public awareness of the importance of public education and to get the community more involved on a regional scale, with Benize and Mason counties along with Manistee,” Epskamp said. “(Planning committee chair) Laurie Mason came up with the idea to invite someone from the state level to outline Michigan’s strategic plan to make this a premier state in education. … Then, we wanted a local panel to be on hand to react to that presentation and give insight on what’s happening at a local level.”

The panel will be comprised of David Slivka of the Manistee Manufacturers Council; Mary Ann Behm, program coordinator of Launch Manistee; Scott Ward, president of West Shore Community College; Jason Kennedy, superintendent of Ludington Area Schools; Douglas Rodriguez of the Benzie County Chamber of Commerce; and Matthew Olson, superintendent of Benzie Central Schools.

Questions will also be taken from the audience during the event.

“This is timely,” Stoneman said of the event. “We have a very important election cycle coming up, and for us to be successful in education we need to make it a priority in this election process.

“I think it’s important to spread awareness and education on what’s going on, so that we can create some advocacy toward that discussion. … And I really believe we’ll be able to identify that we agree more than we disagree, partisan wise.”

According to We the People Action Network, the strategies that make up the “Top 10 in Ten Years” span the breadth of a person’s educational experience — from early childhood through K-12 and post-secondary opportunities for all children, to the important role of parents and guardians, ensuring a strong workforce, and nurturing responsible and informed citizens.

The strategic plan calls for targeted and consistent investment in the main drivers of achievement: high expectations for all students, excellent teaching sustained by strong support and professional development, early childhood education, college and career guidance, and resources to reduce the impact of high-risk factors, including poverty.

“We have a tremendous opportunity as a state to lift student achievement and make Michigan a Top 10 education state in 10 years,” Alles stated in a press release. “It will take all of us — parents and families, students, educators and community and business leaders partnering together to make Michigan a premier education state.”

For more information on the event, contact We the People Action Network – Northwestern Michigan, WTPNWMI@gmail.com.

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Posted by Dylan Savela

Dylan is the county reporter for the News Advocate, he also is in charge of the Small Town Life, religion and senior pages. He can be reached at (231) 398-3111 or dsavela@pioneergroup.com.

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