An elementary school principal from Paulding County is to sit down with President Bush, U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige, and three other educators at the White House this afternoon to talk about education initiatives.
On their agenda are the President's Reading First proposal, the Teacher-to-Teacher initiative for connecting teachers on the Internet to talk about education ideas, and an incentive program to reward teachers for choosing to work in low-income schools.
General school funding issues are certain to come up as well.
When Brian Gerber, principal of Payne Elementary School, took his first call from the White House on Monday afternoon asking him to be at today's meeting with Secretary Paige, he declined to attend - in part because of Wayne Trace Local School District's "dire financial straits," Superintendent Ken Doseck said.
But at the district's school board meeting that night, the board agreed with the superintendent that Mr. Gerber should go, despite complaints to the board at its last meeting about spending.
"You don't turn down a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go to Washington and make an impact on education," the superintendent said.
The next morning, the White House called Mr. Gerber back to say President Bush would be at the round-table discussion and Mr. Gerber said, "I'll be there," according to the superintendent.
So last night, Mr. Gerber, who hadn't been on a plane since he was 8 years old and is "not a traveler," according to his wife, Anne, was flying to Washington.
He had left a note to his staff, telling them whom he left in charge of the school of 296 pupils and his schedule in Washington.
"I am supposed to be at the White House for a private tour Thursday morning. Thursday afternoon I am meeting with President Bush. In the meantime, I will continue to be overwhelmed," he wrote.
Mr. Gerber, 42, who is a Republican, was apparently chosen because of his involvement with the program to connect teachers on the Internet that started at Payne in the fall and his expertise with curriculum, his superintendent said.
In a memo to the superintendent Monday, Mr. Gerber wrote that the U.S. Department of Education had recommended him for the discussion of education initiatives that will be in the President's budget, which is to be released in about two weeks.
Superintendent Doseck gave Mr. Gerber a letter spelling out what he called "the most pressing problems facing educators in Ohio today" to read before talking to President Bush.
But he said that what Mr. Gerber gets to tell the President is not nearly as important to him as the honor of Mr. Gerber being chosen to represent principals in the meeting.
Mr. Gerber, who taught in Leipsic Local and Lima City schools before moving to Payne in 1995, makes encouraging pupils to work hard and refining their curriculum his biggest concerns, his superintendent said.
Pupils who have not done their homework or have failed to show respect for their teacher are assigned to a separate area of the cafeteria at lunch time to wait for Mr. Gerber.
"He talks to every single one of them every single day," Superintendent Doseck said.
Among his suggestions to Mr. Gerber for discussion with President Bush were programs that would provide more federal funding to schools that have high parental involvement.
"We need to do everything we can to encourage parents to be involved," he said.
Superintendent Doseck also urged Mr. Gerber to talk to President Bush about whether the federal government could enforce the Ohio Supreme Court's decisions on school funding inequalities that have not resulted in drastic changes by the state legislature.
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