By Guy Page
The Vermont Statehouse in January is more than just a legislation factory. It is the People’s House, a gathering place for Vermonters to learn, celebrate, organize and be recognized for their accomplishments. One such event will be held when independent school students, parents and educators gather Thursday, Jan. 24 in observation of National School Choice Week.
The highlight of the event is the presentation of generous, prestigious, cash prize Education Innovator Awards at a free-to-invitees luncheon in the Capitol Plaza Hotel banquet hall. There are award categories open to all independent school students, parents, schools and teachers. The 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. event schedule also includes a group photo, meetings with legislators and other independent/home schoolers, and a Statehouse tour for those who are interested.
Independent schools of all kinds are an important part of a 150-year old tradition in Vermont of school choice. School choice means giving parents access to the best K-12 education options for their children. These options not only include traditional public schools, public charter schools and public magnet schools, but also private schools, online academies and homeschooling.
National School Choice Week believes that every child is unique, and students thrive when they’re matched with learning environments that meet their individual needs.
For interested independent school student, parents and educators, here are the four categories of for the competition:
- Innovative School: Independent Schools show how they are unique and why students want to choose them. This can be done by submitting a short essay, poem, song, video, or work of art. In each case, the submission should not take more than 5 minutes to present and the artwork should fit within a 2ft by 2ft cube and be easily transportable. Art should be photographed for the competition and then, ideally, be placed on display at the National School Choice event on Jan. 24th in Capitol Plaza. Participants bring entry with them and then take it when they leave, unless prior arrangements are made. Grand Prize: $1500 Second: $750 Third: $250
- Innovative Educator: Celebrate the extraordinary efforts of an educator. This can be a teacher, administrator, principal, or coach. Please describe in 500 words or less why they are someone that only your school has and how they uniquely approach education and have gone above and beyond to deliver an exceptional educational experience. Grand Prize: $1500 Second: $750 Third: $250
- Innovative Student: In a personal narrative, express what school choice means to you. Tell your story. If you changed schools, how did this positively affect you? How has your school impacted your education? Can you articulate what is different or special about it? As an individual student, please write a 2-3-minute piece (not more than 500 words) about your learning experience and how it is changed you. If possible, briefly include innovations you would like to see in future education. Grand Prize: $1500 Second: $750 Third: $250
- Innovative Parent/s: This award can go to one or both parents who have been outstanding participants in their children’s educational process and strongly advocated for their children’s personalized educational needs. Tell what school choice and personalizing education for your child means to you. Only parents or guardians with current K-12 aged kids are eligible. Parents can submit together or individually. Send an essay or video that is 2-3 minutes long. Grand Prize: $1500 Second: $750 Third: $250
Each cash prize is awarded to the school or person chosen from each category. The deadline for submission is 8 p.m. on Jan. 21, 2019.
Attendees are urged to contact their local state legislators and notify them that you are participating and would appreciate their attendance as well. This will give students the opportunity to see how state government works and how Vermonters can impact education policy and rule-making.
For additional rules and information on the contest or the event, please contact Vermont’s National School Choice Week coordinator Asher Crispe at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Statehouse Headliners is intended primarily to educate, not advocate. It is e-mailed to an ever-growing list of interested Vermonters, public officials and media. Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership; the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare; and Physicians, Families and Friends for a Better Vermont.