Vice President Joe Biden and Education Secretary Arne Duncan visited Jackson Middle School in Orlando this morning. Know why? Because Jackson is an outstanding school. And know why it’s an outstanding school? Because my sister Marilee works there.
If you read this blog, you probably recognize Marilee’s name. She practically raised me, taking care of the house and making dinner for us every night when she was in middle school and high school; that’s when Flo had to start working full-time, our father had died and we were a single-parent household.
Lately Marilee has been accompanying me during book events at Printers Row Lit Fest and the American Library Association convention. She helps guide Hanni and me safely to our destinations, then makes sure everything is set when it comes time to sign, Braille and pawprint books.
Jackson Middle School is a school where most students are minorities and more than 80 percent receive free or reduced lunch, a measure of poverty. It has seen improvements in the percentage of students meeting high standards in reading, writing and math in recent years.
The VP and Education Secretary were at Jackson today to talk about the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The vice president made his remarks at Jackson Middle School in Orlando, where he and Education Secretary Arne Duncan discussed the recovery act’s impact on education and the economy with a group of parents, teachers, students and administrators. Biden credited the stimulus plan with saving 26,000 school jobs in Florida, including 16 teaching jobs at the school he was visiting.
Hanni and I are going to be visiting that same school, Marilee’s school, and giving some presentations to students there at the end of September. It’s always a thrill to visit Marilee at work – she is highly regarded by teachers and students alike. I feel proud just holding her elbow as she guides me through the school hallways. She has always taken her role as an educator very seriously, going out of her way to attend conferences and take workshops and courses in order to learn all she can about education. She has heard Arne Duncan give the keynote at more than one of those events she goes to, so I know she was especially tickled to have him visit her school.
More from the AP story:
“What we tried to do is stave off an education catastrophe,” Duncan said. He called for raising expectations, including state standards that in some places are so low that even those who meet them are unprepared for college; encouraging the best teachers to go where they are most needed – including inner city and rural areas; tracking students and turning around failing schools.
In this instance, Arne was preaching to the choir. My sister Marilee is one of those “best teachers” he is talking about, and she already opted to work where she was most needed: at “a school where most students are minorities and more than 80 percent receive free or reduced lunch, a measure of poverty.” Marilee has been an integral part of turning Jackson Middle School around. I sure am proud of her.