Bird's Eye View: Edwards focuses on education

  • Published
  • By Col. Michael S. Woolley
  • 95th Mission Support Group commander
As you can tell, we're focusing on education this week, and I have asked Chief Master Sgt. Eric Jaren, the MSG superintendent, and 2nd Lt. Nick Butler, MSG executive officer, to author articles on education along with myself -- three different generations, three different views.

I think each perspective is captured in the comments of Andrew Liveris, Chairman and CEO of The Dow Chemical Company, who says it best, "Our destiny is ... solving the world's most pressing problems with a spirit of fearless accountability, not just for our own footprint on the planet, but the collective footprint we make as part of the human family."

You may already be familiar with a Dow commercial, which states, "There is a moment of discovery. We understand all of life is elemental as we marvel at element bonding with element. We soon realize that when you add the human element to the equation everything changes ... We learn that life is elemental and this knowledge changes everything ... The human element is the element of change. The human element, nothing is more fundamental, nothing more elemental."

Knowledge requires education, and military drawdowns are having an extreme financial impact on local independent school districts. With the loss of each military child, the Muroc Joint Unified School District suffers the loss of $10,190 per student annually. In the 2007-2008 school year, the district witnessed an enrollment reduction of 18.2 percent. The total aid received has decreased by 67 percent over the last eight years. Assuming Air Force drawdowns will continue, if something is not done at the local level, then the effects will have a drastic impact on our local school district's quality of education. 

The solution is simple: create an educational Center of Excellence -- a capability that supplements the efforts of our local school district. Why? Because we have realized that increasing our quality of education requires us to partner with the local school district on common visions and objectives. We drafted a team of recognized experts to tackle this endeavor. They include Carla Kabaneic, Cathi Cleveland, Sue Jacobsen, Mary Acklin, Michelle Huck and Sharon McLain. Our vision was to create a capability founded on the marriage of two recognized principles: "no child left behind" and "it takes a village to raise a child." It's an undertaking that consolidates the required educational programs into a single "facility" based on three pillars: school programs, continued education and child care. 

The school programs pillar is dedicated to grades 7 to 12 and focuses on tutoring, advanced skills, and mentoring. We are in the midst of having our tutors certified, and they will take on before- and after-school tutoring for middle school and high school students. Judy Austin has volunteered as the lead for this endeavor, and it will begin in the October timeframe. We are also partnering with the local Cerro Coso Community College to offer advanced courses for high school students to better prepare them for college. This will begin in the spring semester. Mentoring will focus on life skills and will also start with the spring semester. 

The child care pillar relocates the Family Child Care from an old deteriorating facility and places them at the Center of Excellence as the focal point, realizing that all things begin with the care of our children. And, the village must have a mayor, so Mary Acklin graciously accepted the role. 

Finally, the continued education pillar relocates the majority of our Community College of the Air Force degree-granting institutions at the Center of Excellence, allowing us to utilize the classroom space and save $75,000 of tuition assistance annually to lease classroom space. 

Our metrics for the center will be marked grade point average and standardized testing improvements, increased graduation rates and pass rate statistics. So, why did we take this on? Mr. Liveris said it best. "Our destiny is ... solving the pressing problems with a spirit of fearless accountability, not just for our own footprint, but the collective footprint we make as part of the human family."