Reflections on community investment in education

[caption id="attachment_1714" align="alignleft" width="150"] MICHAEL GEORGE[/caption]

I began formally working with our community 11 years ago to try to improve the educational opportunities in our public school system. A group of us, including Les Vadasz and Steve Kyle, began researching the formation of what ultimately became TSN (the Teacher Support Network). One of our objectives was to engage the broad community in re-establishing its role in public education. TSN became a Sonoma Valley Education Foundation (SVEF) program eight years ago. It has been my privilege to have been the president of the Sonoma foundation for the past year. Much has changed for the better in the foundation, the district and the community over the past 11 years.

We have benefitted from the perspective and action of two passionate, intelligent, forward-thinking superintendents. Our community has simultaneously, albeit with a little bit of expected lag time, stepped up to support the work of these two leaders. The district, the SVEF and the community are now focused on executing a strategic plan which tightly focuses human and financial resources on a few highly leveraged strategic intervention points for improving educational opportunities.

Our community has also awakened to the reality that we own the results of our public school system. The district is now viewed as part and parcel of the community. We acknowledge that the district’s students are our community’s future. Investing in that future is simply one of the wisest investments we can make.

The community has decided to invest in its future in a big way by supporting initiatives such as the linked learning pathways at the high school. These pathways knit the students, district and community businesses together in ways which benefit all parties. Other initiatives that focus on early cycle reading and math skills will, hopefully, provide more students with a solid foundation upon which they can learn more aggressively.

Yes, it takes time to reform educational infrastructure and capabilities. Strategic and tactical investing require a multi-year time frame to bear fruit. The results of the efforts of the SVEF, district and overall community should, I hope, serve us all well in the future.

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