This week, I am convening the Mayor's Education Summit, a two-day event that brings together 100 key policy makers and community members to work with national education reform experts on how we can make the Anchorage School District one of the best in the country.
During the summit, we will explore what constitutes educational success and develop reform scenarios. The summit will be followed by a series of community conversations in February at which citizens will discuss the scenarios and offer their ideas. Finally, in June, a Capstone Summit will be held at which the same summit participants will re-convene to review citizen comments and develop specific proposals and an implementation plan.
My reason for convening the summit is simple: As mayor, I want to ensure that our local education system is the best that it can be at preparing our students for success in life. I have condensed my goals into three basic questions: Are we the best school district in the nation? If not, do we want to be? If so, how do we get there?
The speakers presenting at the summit are established experts on various education reform approaches, and at the summit, they will share their experiences and success stories. We have a very good school district compared to the Lower 48. However, Alaska is unique both in location and in the fact that our major trading partners are Pacific Rim countries like Korea, Japan, China, and Taiwan. If we are to compete economically with these nations, we must also prepare our students to compete academically. Quite frankly, they set the bar much higher for their students and are achieving higher levels of academic success. We also look to other northern countries like Finland, which has achieved remarkable success through innovative methods of teacher training and individual student development.
I am very proud of the diversity we have represented at the summit; among the 100 participants are parents, teachers, principals, business leaders, elected officials, students, representatives from ethnic and labor groups, as well as special needs advocates. With so much riding on the results of the summit, it is important that the participants represent a cross-section of our community. Only through a true collaboration of all interested stakeholders will we be able to effect positive changes.
I am approaching the process with an open mind. What works well in other places may not be appropriate for Anchorage. However, we owe it to our children to investigate all the best ideas and practices that can help us achieve true academic excellence.
While participation at the Mayor's Education Summit is limited to the 100 invitees, we have taken steps to ensure that the public can watch the presentations while they are under way. GCI Cable will air the Summit live on Channel 1 on both Tuesday and Wednesday, starting at 9 a.m. You can also watch a live Internet broadcast at www.muni.org. The sessions will be recorded and available for viewing at a later date, too, so the public has plenty of opportunity to hear what was said and discussed.
I urge all citizens to tune in this week and hear what some of the country's education reform leaders have to say about improving student performance. It is critical that the entire community engage in a discussion about what the future of education in Anchorage could be, and to work to ensure it is realized.
Dan Sullivan was elected mayor of Anchorage in 2009.
By MAYOR DAN SULLIVAN