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Sharing the Love for Public Education: Standing up for Pontiac!

Brenda Carter

By Brenda Carter, MASB President-Elect, Pontiac School District

DashBoard, Aug. 5, 2015

It was another cold and dreary winter day as my husband, Pontiac Councilman Randy Carter, and I stood shivering in line in front of the Welcome Center in the nation's Capitol. We were waiting to see our congressional senators. The line was very long, and the security guards were letting 10 people in at a time. To avoid boredom (and catching pneumonia), we started a rather long and lengthy conversation with total strangers and one gentleman inquired as to why we were in line.

I told them that we were there with Michigan school board members from around the state. We were waiting patiently to see Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters. We were standing up for public education by expressing our support for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. He asked how this affected educating children. I took the opportunity to share how Pontiac, a deficit district, is overcoming challenges in extraordinary ways.

Pontiac School District, with the help of Oakland Schools, met its challenges head-on. The administration created a wrap-around program that entailed increasing NWEA and MEAP scores. Academic improvements are being achieved on all grade levels. Student enrollment stabilized in 2014, and is projected to increase in 2015. PSD's deficit decreased 24 percent in the first year and is projected to decrease significantly in 2015. Painful decisions recommended to the Board of Education in 2013 are bearing fruit in 2015. Our International Technology Academy is attracting students from all over Michigan with its stellar academic curriculum. Our sports programs returned at all levels. The Barry Manilow Project provided more than 20 new instruments for our band program. PSD averted being dissolved by turning the school district around.

It is almost like watching a basketball game where the home team is down in the fourth quarter. Imagine how it feels to see your team rally back, against all odds, to win the game! PSD is being hailed as the model for deficit school districts. They wonder how we did it. They wonder how we keep doing it! It takes the dedication and commitment of the Board of Education, administration, principals, teachers, staff and our union. All were willing to bite the bullet to save the district. There is also one very important component that I don’t want to leave out—our community.

One gentleman and I exchanged business cards. I only had my MASB business cards with a Lansing address. We said our goodbyes and continued to our destinations. The next day we received an email from Rob Hochstetler, President of Central Electric Power Cooperative, Inc. Mr. Hochstetler went online and Googled our district and made the final payment on a reading project at Whitmer Human Resources Center Elementary School, one of PSD's elementary schools. The project was "The Book Dreamers: Once Upon a Time.” Mr. Hochstetler sent the following email:

Mr. and Mrs. Carter, It was a true pleasure meeting you in Washington yesterday. I believe I have a passion for young people and learning, but I can’t hold a candle to the two of you. I jumped onto donorschoose.org today and made a small donation in your honor. I said a little prayer as I choose the project hoping that it is in the public school system in Pontiac. I grabbed a few screenshots of the page for Ms. Ewing’s class. She teaches at Whitmer Human Resources Center Elementary School in Pontiac. She only needs $21 to get her project completed. I mistyped Mrs. Carter’s email address so that she would get an acknowledgement. . .

 God Bless,
Rob

I was truly amazed. Our conversation about PSD prompted Mr. Hochstetler to track down and donate to an elementary school in another state!

I received another email from Margaret Ewing, the kindergarten teacher over the project:

Mrs. Carter,

Today I received a donation for my classroom project "Book Dreamers" on DonorsChoose.org. The donation was made in honor of you and Mr. Carter from Rob Hochstetler of Chapin, S.C. He stated that he met both of you in D.C. and that it was your passion that inspired him to make this donation.

I would like to thank you for broadcasting your positive messages about our school district and for its teachers who work tirelessly for Pontiac Schools. It continues to make me feel proud to know that you are fighting on behalf of our district.

Sincerely,
Margaret Ewing

It was just another cold and dreary day in our nation's capital, but the conversations held that day changed the lives of Mr. Hochstetler and Mrs. Ewing, two total strangers with two things in common—a passion for young people and learning. Most importantly, the conversation changed the lives of the kindergarten class that so richly benefits from the donation. My husband and I were humbled to be the conduit that connected the two.

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