School & District Management

Reporter’s Notebook

November 07, 2001 | Corrected: February 23, 2019 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Corrected: We misspelled the name and city of the national rural teacher of the year. Lois Eve Rodgers teaches in Patagonia, Ariz.

Rural Educators Await Choice Of New Leader

The face of rural education in America looked a lot like Joseph Newlin’s.

When the longtime director of the National Rural Education Association died in May, he left the organization to find new footing.

“He was one of those who had really worked hard behind the scenes and gave everybody else credit,” Al Eads Jr., the NREA’S interim director, said of Mr. Newlin.

Mr. Eads, the chairman of the group’s legislative committee and the head of the South Carolina Association of Rural Education, took over the interim post after Mr. Newlin’s sudden death from a heart attack.

The NREA’s annual conference, held here Oct. 24-28 in sun-soaked New Mexico, was just the chance for the 325 rural leaders here to discuss the group’s future.

Two weeks before Mr. Newlin’s death at the age of 70, he told the NREA board he intended to retire fully.

He had worked as the 1,400-member group’s part-time executive director for almost 20 years, many of those while teaching at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, where the group was based.

“Basically, he worked full time for part-time pay,” said Mr. Eads, who lives in Summerville, S.C., and is the president-elect of the organization. The NREA board hopes to select and announce its new executive director soon, as well as another university to call home. It also wants to elevate the position to full-time status within the next few years.

Mr. Eads said the group needs a full-time director to amplify the voices in rural education, and to lobby in Washington and state capitals for the financial help and recognition that rural schools need.

Rural schools face other challenges, no matter the place or circumstance: Native Alaska, the Mississippi Delta, the Dakota plains, or the Navajo Nation.

While longtime struggles over funding and teacher shortages were addressed here, the group turned to a new problem.

Mr. Eads pointed to an alarming drop-off in research centers and studies that focus on rural schooling. Regional education laboratories run by the federal government have met that need for two decades, but legislation and other factors have cut into what was once a thriving research field.

The federal law that guides the work of the laboratories currently gives little direction for the labs to work on rural issues, and some retirements at universities over the years have left a hole in the field. Reversing that trend will be a goal of the group’s new leader, he said.

Local leadership was another major topic. Nick Pace, a former high school principal who now runs the student-teacher program at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, talked of leadership during a sensitive experience of his own.

He told an attentive audience how, while he was still a principal in Traer, Iowa—population 1,500—a young man had “come out” at school, and how the small, conservative community reacted to the student’s refusal to hide that he is gay. He even brought his boyfriend to the prom.

The advice from Mr. Pace: Treat everyone with respect, listen to all sides, don’t allow heated talks in a large forum, and keep in contact with students who might incite violence or threats.

It worked in his school. “I wouldn’t sell any of this as the right thing to do,” he said. “It’s simply what happened in our case, and it’s what we thought about.” The rural educators seemed to treasure the camaraderie of the conference, which came six weeks after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

Lois Rogers, who was named this year’s “Rural Teacher of the Year” during the conference, captured the event’s spirit in a patriotic speech she gave at a banquet where she was honored.

“I’m never giving up on public education,” said Ms. Rogers, a high school English teacher in Padagonia, Ariz. “It is democracy—American democracy at work.”

—Alan Richard

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the November 07, 2001 edition of Education Week as Reporter’s Notebook

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
IT Infrastructure Webinar
A New Era In Connected Learning: Security, Accessibility and Affordability for a Future-Ready Classroom
Learn about Windows 11 SE and Surface Laptop SE. Enable students to unlock learning and develop new skills.
Content provided by Microsoft Surface
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum Making Technology Work Better in Schools
Join experts for a look at the steps schools are taking (or should take) to improve the use of technology in schools.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Budget & Finance Webinar
The ABCs of ESSER: How to Make the Most of Relief Funds Before They Expire
Join a diverse group of K-12 experts to learn how to leverage federal funds before they expire and improve student learning environments.
Content provided by Johnson Controls

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management 'It Has to Be a Priority': Why Schools Can't Ignore the Climate Crisis
Schools have a part to play in combating climate change, but they don't always know how.
16 min read
Composite image of school building and climate change protestors.
Illustration by F. Sheehan/Education Week (Images: iStock/Getty and E+)
School & District Management Some Districts Return to Mask Mandates as COVID Cases Spike
Mask requirements remain the exception nationally and still sensitive in places that have reimposed them.
4 min read
Students are reminded to wear a mask amidst other chalk drawings on the sidewalk as they arrive for the first day of school at Union High School in Tulsa, Okla., Monday, Aug. 24, 2020.
Chalk drawings from last August remind students to wear masks as they arrive at school.
Mike Simons/Tulsa World via AP
School & District Management Women Get Overlooked for the Superintendent's Job. How That Can Change
Three female superintendents spell out concrete solutions from their own experience.
4 min read
Susana Cordova, former superintendent for Denver Public Schools.
Susana Cordova is deputy superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District and former superintendent for Denver Public Schools.
Allison V. Smith for Education Week
School & District Management Opinion You Can't Change Schools Without Changing Yourself First
Education leaders have been under too much stress keeping up with day-to-day crises to make the sweeping changes schools really need.
Renee Owen
5 min read
conceptual illustration of a paper boat transforming into an origami bird before falling off a cliff
wildpixel/iStock/Getty