DeVos Praises Culture at PWCS’s Ashland Elementary School

| April 25, 2017 | 0 Comments | Education

Newly appointed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos visited Ashland Elementary School, Tuesday morning, where she met with students, educators and military parents, and learned about all the school does for its military children.

The Prince William elementary school has an unusually large population of students whose parents serve in the military. The school has welcomed that student population by easing their transition and providing opportunities for families to receive community support as well.

“Our teachers are going above and beyond,” Principal Andy Jacks told DeVos.

DeVos said that she has visited with military families over the past several weeks and found that having those children make a smooth transition from one school to another is crucial for their success and well-being.

Although serving military families is not a function the Department of Education currently oversees, she is considered changing that.

“If there is one common theme that I’ve heard from our military families that I’ve talked with in the past several weeks, it is the importance of those transitions. Assuring that their children had a great place to go to school and a learn even that is going to meet their needs.”

DeVos praised the environment at Ashland.

“I think I felt it more than saw it. I think it is the culture, the spirit here, and I attribute the leadership both the principal and all of the staff who come here every day and are here to serve the kids.”

To hear from the military community, DeVos attended a roundtable discussion with students, educators and parents who are connected to the military community in some way. DeVos listened to the various ways in which Ashland served that community.

Military children new to Ashland are assigned a buddy, thus they do not need to eat lunch alone. Teachers and administration are informed when a parent is deployed overseas so they can offer their support. The community also organizes events for families, and hold month long celebrations for military holidays.

Parents asked DeVos to advocate for similar programs around the country.

They also shared the challenges of being a military parent besides often being deployed such as working odd hours and needing daycare options.

“If not yourself, I hope someone [in the administration] takes it on,” one Air Force mother said.

A father worried if child’s high school credits will transfer to another state. “Is there a standard?” he asked.

Military parents said that they feel privileged to have their children attend Ashland and some moved into the neighborhood based upon Ashland’s reputation.

Ashland Elementary also used the Education Secretary’s visit to showcase other learning opportunities the school offered. When DeVos entered Ashland, students greeted her with their school cheer led by Principal Jacks.

DeVos read “Hero Mom” to kindergarten, second and fifth-grade students. She visited Carolyn English’s fifth-grade class to witness a cooperative learning activity.

In a fifth-grade technology class, DeVos watched as students fixed broken computers. The class has donated 50 computers to students and classrooms in need, so far this year.

DeVos praised what she witnessed at Ashland.

“[I received] a wonderful, wonderful welcome here, and just seeing the faces of the children that I had the opportunity to meet. That is the best. They are wonderful and joyful and excited to be here, and in an environment that is clearly working for every kid that I saw here.”

Outside of the school, DeVos’s visit was met a mixed reaction from community members, which were divided, especially on the issue of vouchers.

“I don’t think she’s qualified for her position,” said Paige Wilemth who protested DeVos’s visit. “I don’t think she’s done due diligent for what is best for our diverse communities. I don’t think she’s looking out for what’s best for all our students and that’s a concern for me.”

Resident Heather Brouillette agreed. “Ashland does a great job [for military families], but I don’t think she has Ashland and those military families at heart. They all go to public schools, and that’s not on her agenda. She doesn’t care.”

Others were more welcoming of DeVos and supportive of her agenda.

“I’m against Common Core,” said a Nokesville woman. “I believe in vouchers for all. I think she is going to make a wonderful secretary.”

“Vouchers give everybody a chance,” said a Coles district woman.

A Potomac woman explained how she knew Betsy DeVos from her town in Michigan, and her husband worked for DeVos’s family. “They are great people. It is a great company – fantastic company, fantastic people..”

Despite different political opinions on public education and school vouchers, all community members outside the school shared a concern for quality education for U.S. children.

DeVos also told reporters she is interested in helping all students receive a quality education.

“The role [of ensuring civil rights] is a very important one, and it really is to help ensure that every child has a safe and nurturing environment in which to learn. It is a very broad goal, but a very important one.”

© 2017, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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