Regional Forum Connects ED Leaders with Suburban Perspectives

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School administrators and business leaders from DuPage County participate in ED Regional Stakeholders Summit in Chicago, IL.

School administrators and business leaders from DuPage County participate in ED Regional Stakeholders Summit in Chicago, IL.

School administrators and business leaders from DuPage County, Illinois discussed their suburban perspective on the President’s 2011 budget and the vision for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) with Assistant Secretary of Communications and Outreach Peter Cunningham and other senior officials at an ED Regional Stakeholders Summit at the U.S. Department of Education’s Region V Office in Chicago on February 12.

“We look at this as the next step in achieving real change – ‘with’, not ‘to’ – educators,” said Cunningham.

DuPage participants expressed strong approval of the 2011 budget focus on higher standards, rewarding success, and being tight on goals and loose on how states and districts achieve those goals. Attendees, many representing high-achieving school districts, also noted approval for the Secretary’s move towards “more carrots and less sticks” demonstrated through the Race to the Top grant competition.

Darlene Ruscitti, DuPage County Regional Superintendent of Schools and a committee member for the forum, briefed the group on a position paper developed by county-wide curriculum directors that calls for a “wellness approach” to a new ESEA.

While Cunningham was on site in Chicago, the summit also engaged ED’s video teleconferencing system to connect participants with senior ED officials in Washington, DC. Alexa Posny, Assistant Secretary, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services; Richard Smith, Acting Assistant Deputy Secretary, Office of English Language Acquisition; and Michael Lach, Special Assistant for Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology Education, all responded to remarks and questions generated about their respective areas of expertise.

DuPage County panelists addressed these ED officials with feedback on aspects of the current law. They appreciated the current law’s focus on closing achievement gaps, especially at a time when rapidly changing demographics have transformed many suburban schools throughout the county into “salad bowls” of diversity requiring individualized educational approaches to address special needs and multiple languages.

While acknowledging the challenges, Posny pointed out the great strides that have been made in special education, in recent years. “Eighty percent of students with disabilities are in general education, and we have found that some of the best ideas for serving all students have come out of what we have learned from serving students with disabilities,” she said.

Lach pointed out that science, mathematics, technology and engineering are priorities of this administration, saying that the “focus is on increasing capacity with an emphasis on tools and supports for teachers” so that they can provide quality education for all students. He added that “scientists from outside the school—from universities, labs, business—need to come into the classroom.”

The event was organized by the Region V Office of Communications and Outreach and a committee of Ruscitti, Dr. Claudia Geocaris, assistant superintendent for Hinsdale Township High School District 86 and Nina Menis, Director of Community Relations for Naperville Community Unit School District 203.

Julie Ewart
Office of Communications and Outreach