MARSHALL — Helen Warwick, MISD Board of Trustees President, recently returned from a summer trip to Washington, D.C. But this was no sightseeing vacation. As usual, Warwick was visiting the nation’s capital to discuss some of her favorite topics – Texas school board advocacy and, more importantly, the Marshall Independent School District.
Warwick was selected last year to participate as one of just 60 Texas school board members at the 2016 National School Board Association (NASB) Advocacy Institute in Washington. The conference was originally scheduled for January, but a snow and ice storm in Washington forced the conference to be postponed until June.
“When you are a Texan, I can tell you, it is a lot easier to pack for D.C. in June than it is for January,” said Warwick, who had received a stipend from the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) to attend the conference which allowed her to attend without having to use any MISD funding.
Throughout the week spent in Washington, Warwick and other school board members in attendance from around the country were granted access to members of Congress and other guest speakers. Keynote speakers for the conference included Jeffrey Toobin, senior analyst for CNN and a staff writer for The New Yorker and Larry Sabato, founder and director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics.
Members of Congress who also spoke at the convention included Todd Rokita (R-Ind.), a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and Chairman of the Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee, member of the House Education and Workforce Committee, and Vice Chair of the House Budget Committee. Board representatives in attendance also heard from John B. King Jr., Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
All of that took place the first two days of the conference, on Sunday and Monday, Warwick said.
“In between those keynotes, we had sessions on the new Every Child Succeeds Act (ESSA), which is the replacement legislation for No Child Left Behind (NCLB),” Warwick said. “It has great potential to remove federal intrusion in public education and provide more local control back to school districts. It is currently being ‘interpreted’ by the U.S. Department of Education. Then, it will be ‘interpreted’ again by the Texas Education Agency (TEA). We aren’t quite sure what it will look like when all that interpreting is finished.”
Warwick said there will be a window of opportunity to provide public feedback regarding ESSA implementation.
Warwick said representatives also received information about the efforts to modernize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, which impacts Career and Technology opportunities and funding.
On Tuesday, advocacy members visited Capitol Hill, where they were encouraged to discuss ESSA implementation, Perkins CTE Act and Child Nutrition Act during meetings with members of Congress. Warwick was well prepared for these meetings, having been briefed on talking points specific to MISD from Dr. Rebeca Cooper, MISD Assistant Superintendent for Leadership and Learning, and Cindy Brandon, MISD Child Nutrition Supervisor.
“I met with Senator John Cornyn as part of a Texas delegation,” Warwick said. “Since the Senate was in session, Sen. Cornyn graciously allowed us a few minutes of his time to discuss public schools with him. We shared the need for local control especially in the implementation of ESSA. We also discussed the need to amend the Child Nutrition Act’s strict requirements for whole wheat pasta, and bread, and miniscule sodium allowances. We also shared the importance of reauthorizing the Perkins Act so we can continue and expand CTE options for our students.”
Warwick also received a one-on-one audience with Rep. Louie Gohmert, and discussed the same topics. The one-on-one meeting with Gohmert allowed Warwick to focus the conversation directly on MISD.
“Our meetings with Cornyn and Gohmert were both cut short, as both were called away for a vote,” Warwick said. “But I did get the opportunity to invite both Sen. Cornyn and Rep. Gohmert, and their staffs, to visit Marshall ISD and see for themselves the great things our students and staff are doing.”
Approximately 600 school board members and superintendents from around the nation attended the conference.