“You know more of a road by having traveled it than by all the conjectures and descriptions in the world.”—William Hazlitt
On the afternoon of Thursday, April 25, 2013 the recruiting cycle for the EAST Class of 2013 in Arkansas came to a close. Thanks to the hard work, advocacy and commitment of so many people—at the state, local, and Initiative level—I was able to start making the best phone calls I get to make all year. They typically go something like this:
Me: “Good afternoon. This is Matt Dozier from EAST. Is Mr./Ms./Dr. So-and-so available?”
Voice on the other end of the phone (VOTOEOTP): “Hold on please, I’ll check.”
Me: “Thank you.”
New VOTOEOTP: “Good Afternoon, Matt. I hope we have some good news.”
Me: “We do. The Department has informed us that you are among the grant recipients for the next class of EAST schools.”
New VOTOEOTP: [exclamations of joy/huzzahs/general excitement]
From there we go into the boring details that always accompany something that you’ve been waiting for through the long lonely months. My favorite comment so far was from a principal in North-Central Arkansas who asked me if I could hear her smile from where I was. I told her I could…because I did.
There are still some schools in Arkansas and elsewhere that are considering bringing EAST programs to their school, but, by and large, the ADE Grant announcement is the culmination of the EAST recruiting year.
A year that started in some of our schools three or four years ago. A year that we officially kicked off in August of 2012. A year that has taken us to communities big and small: north, east, south, and west. A year of meeting hundreds of people and visiting in dozens of schools. A year of travel and negotiation and hoping and wishing and praying (just like Dusty Springfield).
“There is a road, no simple highway/Between the dawn and the dark of night”—Robert Hunter
This year, we had inquiries from roughly 75 schools, hosted recruiting meetings for both EAST Core and our standard EAST Programs in the Fall and Spring Semesters, collected applications and then hit the road!
“If you come to a fork in the road, take it.”—Yogi Berra
When I say hit the road, I mean it. The nature of the grants for EAST and EAST Core is such that they lend themselves much more to qualitative rather than quantitative evaluations. Simply put, we’ve learned over the years that visiting the prospective schools and their implementation teams is a much better way to assess prospects. The site tours tend to be more conversational and rely on a give-and-take of questions and answers. Visiting with the implementation team on-site is also a much better way to make sure that everyone that needs to be involved can be. But there is another advantage to this model, you learn so much more about a school by being in one than you ever can in reading about one or talking about one. A lesson I would highly recommend to a number of critics of education that I have met over the years.
“O public road, I say back I am not afraid to leave you, yet I love you, you express me better than I can express myself.”—Walt Whitman
This year from that beginning pool, we had 6 schools that wanted to be considered for the STEM Works EAST Core grant and 25 that applied for the ADE/EAST grant. But I’m not talking about how many schools for this blog entry, I’m talking about how far…and the answer is over 4,200 miles. To put that in perspective that’s like driving across the United States (starting at the east coast and travelling to the west coast) and then turning around and driving right back to my office in Little Rock. The funny thing is, of course, we only crossed the state line twice—because to get to Ashdown, Arkansas you have to go through Texas for roughly five minutes; I’m not sure how that happened.
“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”—Lewis Carroll
Along the way, we met so many great people and visited in so many good schools. You could feel the excitement for learning from the parking lot. We saw every geographical area of the state (trivia answer: there are 5) and ate at too many good little local restaurants to do my waistline any good. We even got to spend a few hours in a tornado safe room with half of the sixth graders in Dover, Arkansas.
At the end of our road, as of this writing, there were far more good applicants than there were grant funds to help them get started. We are still talking to a few schools in states neighboring Arkansas, but today we can announce the EAST Class of 2013/2014 as follows:
1. Ashdown Jr. High
2. Bentonville High School
3. Bergman High School
4. Crossett Middle School
5. Dover Middle School
6. Hackett Schools
7. Harrison High School
8. Helen Tyson Middle School (Springdale)
9. Hot Springs Middle School
10. Manila High School
11. Pinkston Middle School (Mtn. Home)
12. Sulphur Rock Magnet Elementary (Batesville)
1. Malvern High School
2. Monticello High School
The staff at EAST, our friends at the Department of Education, the members of our Board of Directors, and a myriad of EAST supporters are very excited to welcome them into our family. Some of these schools represent expansion in districts where EAST programs have proven their ability to bring the best of education to students. Some of these schools are bringing EAST into their districts for the first time. Whatever the situation, I know this much—the road is long and sometimes winding, but when it yields results like this it is worth every mile.
“But each new morning sunrise/Is just as good as gold/And all the hope inside you/Will keep you from the cold/Bare your soul let your spirit burn/Out along the road to no return”—Robert Earl Keen
Until I pass you on the highway again…