National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel stopped in Columbus on Wednesday, Aug. 25, as part of his week-long, multi-city, back-to-school tour. The veteran high school math teacher arrived at West HS at 6:20 a.m. on the first day of the new school year to meet and greet the staff.

West HS is one of seven CCS Priority Schools designated by the Ohio Department of Education. The seven schools could receive a total of $20 million in additional federal funding over the next three years as recipients of School Improvement Grants (SIGs). President Van Roekel spoke with teachers and administrators of West’s Innovation Team tasked with using SIG monies to facilitate the transformation of teaching and learning at the school.

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, OEA President Patricia Frost-Brooks and CEA President Rhonda Johnson traveled from West HS to join Gov. Ted Strickland, Supt. Gene Harris and other dignitaries at South Mifflin STEM Academy to announce the award of a $550,000 service learning grant from the federal government.

Awarded by the Corporation for National and Community Service, the “Bringing Learning to Life” grant partners include NEA, OEA, CEA, CCS and The Ohio State University College of Education and Human Ecology.

“Teachers will receive professional development to help them create more effective hands-on learning opportunities for students,” stated Van Roekel. “We look forward to seeing the work that comes out of this project; it is our hope that we will be able to replicate it in other places.”

“The grant is vital to the Columbus community,” agreed President Johnson. “It will allow the members of the Columbus Education Association to receive professional development that will help them continue to lead the way in restoring schools to their traditional roles as community hubs.”

After a tour of South Mifflin STEM Academy, Van Roekel, Frost-Brooks and Johnson traveled to Champion MS. The visit to Champion MS illustrated NEA’s Positive Agenda and Priority Schools principles. Teachers recruited to staff this high-needs school are paid an extra $4,000 a year.

 After having lunch with the staff, Van Roekel departed for Austin, Texas.

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