As the leading advocate for public education, NSBA has a mandate to “call attention to what’s working well, to promote our vision and needed changes, and to take on those who seek to dismantle the public schools of America.”
That was the message of NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel at the association’s Annual Conference First General Session Saturday as he reflected on his eventful first year as executive director, which included seeing Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy cite NSBA’s brief in a major employment law case and seeing NSBA’s “fingerprints” in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. He also announced the launch of the Stand Up 4 Public Schools national campaign.
Gentzel explained that this national grassroots campaign will raise public awareness through credible spokespeople and powerful personal messaging.
“[Last year], we promised to mobilize our forces – you, the school board members of America, along with colleagues and other friends of public education – to take the offensive,” said Gentzel. “Our goal was to set the agenda for education, and not simply to react to what others think. And that’s exactly what we’ve been doing.”
Gentzel announced celebrities Sal Khan, Montel Williams, and Magic Johnson are on board as official spokespersons for the campaign. Johnson will address the conference audience on Monday. Gentzel spoke about the importance of the message these luminaries have to share:
“These spokespersons are able to say, honestly, that their lives were shaped in powerful ways by the public schools they attended. They each have great stories to tell. We want to speak directly to the public that hears a barrage of unwarranted criticism about our schools. The truth is that today’s public schools really are better than ever.”
Gentzel encouraged the audience and public school students, educators, and school boards across the county to get involved to define their story and share gains in student achievement, graduation rates and school performance. This campaign, he explained, is for people who’ve dedicated their lives to public education.
“Here’s what we’re NOT saying: Public schools are perfect. They’re not, and we must acknowledge that we have work to do in some schools that are struggling to serve students well.”
Sharing the real stories of public education will be easier, Gentzel promised, with the rollout of the new NSBA website, which was unveiled at the conference. The new site features a robust search function, better functionality, including a responsive “mobile-friendly” design, and better content organization for easier access.
“We want to encourage every state association and local school district to join in this campaign,” explained Gentzel. “All these efforts are linked together and serve a common purpose: To fulfill our commitment to be the leading advocate for public education, to call attention to what’s working well, to promote our own vision and needed changes, and to take on those who seek to dismantle the public schools of America.”