By Kari Hawkins, USAG RedstoneMarch 11, 2011
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Team Redstone solidified some educational partnerships March 1.
Reaching out to the principals of Huntsville's secondary schools, Arsenal officials provided information on the educational outreach programs that they hope will grow an interest in science and engineering careers among the city's school students.
As the first-ever such meeting held on the Arsenal, officials foresee it being one of many conducted with school officials from the area's city and county school systems. The Huntsville City Schools Secondary Principals Meeting was held in the Community Activity Center near Gate 10.
"We are pretty passionate about what we do, and we recognize we are partners in the future of this city and our schools," Garrison commander Col. John Hamilton told the school principals and administrators as part of the event's opening remarks.
Hamilton mentioned the financial issues now facing Huntsville City Schools, which must find ways to reduce operations and services to overcome a debt of nearly $20 million.
"We do challenge you to recognize the finances," he said. "But that's not the real problem. The real problem is fixing the finances without changing the quality of our schools. It is going to take the entire community. We've got to continue to improve schools at the same time we're saving money.
"We face some real tough challenges. We're here to assist you in any way we can."
Hamilton mentioned federal programs that can be a source of revenue for school systems.
"I trust leadership in all local schools are pursuing those to get the finances available," he said.
He also thanked the principals for the work they do to educate "our children every single day."
Echoing the colonel's words, Kara Wall of the Aviation and Missile Command/Garrison Public Affairs Office, told the principals that more than 50 organizations at Redstone are prepared to assist with educational programs that encourage interest in science and math.
"We are really a diverse and thriving installation," she said. "We offer a lot of wonderful opportunities for educational outreach."
The public affairs office provides a speakers bureau, which can coordinate speakers to augment science and math instruction in the classroom, and coordinates tours that bring high school faculty and students on the installation to learn about career opportunities. The office works with Arsenal organizations to support educational needs in the community.
"We are all one team and we work together," she said. "The (Arsenal) people here today are scratching the surface of this really big thing we have out here."
Among the speakers was Barbara Williams, the Arsenal's director of Youth Education Support Services and school liaison services, who's primary responsibility is to "level the playing field for transitioning military connected children and youth" and "reducing the impact of the mobile military lifestyle" for military connected school-age children.
Military-connected children move nine to 14 times during their parent's career.
Williams also represents the children of Department of Defense civilians and contractors who work on the Arsenal.
"I work to identify some of the barriers to academic success and find solutions," she said. "My main thrust is to coordinate partnerships in education."
Williams works to ensure that "innovative programs and partnerships" continue to enrich the educational experience of the Arsenal's school-age children. She mentioned the Girls Science and Engineering Day, National Education Partnership Alliance, Military Child Education Coalition and Association of the U.S. Army Back-To-School supply program, and many other programs and partnerships. She attends school board meetings, Parent/Teacher Association meetings, educational community forums and school open houses in an effort to keep informed on issues and challenges facing the local school systems.
"Parents and families who move to this area want to choose a great school for their children. I enjoy telling them about your schools and what they offer," Williams told the principals.
Representatives of AMCOM, the Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center, and Marshall Space Flight Center explained their educational outreach programs to the principals.
"We like to be involved in anything that we see that would be a leveraging or partnership opportunity with the community that brings value" to educating students in science and math, said Gayla McMichael, AMRDEC's educational outreach manager, as she mentioned such programs as Mathcounts, Gains in the Education of Math and Science, and the Science and Engineering Apprentice Program.