Education Gala Part of Presidential Inaugural Week

By Christina A. Samuels — January 11, 2005 5 min read

The U.S. military is getting top billing at next week’s presidential Inauguration Day festivities, but educators won’t be left out in the cold.

As it has done for the past two inaugurations, the National Coalition for Technology in Education and Training, a Washington-based group that includes some of the nation’s largest computer and educational technology companies, will be holding a gala on Jan. 20 to celebrate supporters of technology in education, including industry leaders, members of Congress, and educators.

Education Gala

The National Coalition for Technology in Education and Training is hosting an inaugural gala in Washington on Jan. 20. Sponsors of the affair for “industry executives, education leaders, and key decisionmakers in Congress and the White House” are:

  • Apple Computer Inc.
  • Adobe Systems Inc.
  • Atomic Learning Inc.
  • BellSouth Corp.
  • CPSI Inc.
  • Dell Inc.
  • Discovery Education
  • Educational Testing Service
  • Essential Skills Software
  • Ignite! Learning Inc.
  • Inspiration Software Inc.
  • Intel Corp.
  • LeapFrog Schoolhouse
  • Pearson Education
  • Pilot Online Learning
  • Plato Learning Inc.
  • Riverdeep
  • Scantron Corp.
  • Sun Microsystems Inc.
  • Texas Instruments Inc.

SOURCE: National Coalition for Technology in Education and Training

And, while guests at the nine official inaugural balls must contend with security lines and traditionally scanty food for a mere glimpse of President Bush and first lady Laura Bush, “this one is highly civilized,” said Ann Lee Flynn, the director of educational technology for the National School Boards Association and a member of the education gala’s planning committee.

The black-tie gala, along with the official inaugural balls, will cap a day that typically involves schoolchildren and educators, from the marching bands that join the president in person on Pennsylvania Avenue to related classroom lessons around the country.

Inaugural weeks in the recent past have featured special emphases on teachers or young people. At President George H.W. Bush’s inauguration in 1989, 250 teachers were invited from across the country for VIP treatment at the events. At President Clinton’s first inauguration in 1993, numerous special events centered on young people, including a “Salute to Children” at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

This year, with the war in Iraq and the U.S. military’s continuing role in Afghanistan, organizers of George W. Bush’s second inauguration decided to make the armed forces a focus of the week. Under the banner of “Celebrating Freedom and Honoring Service,” the inaugural week will include tributes to those serving in those countries. There is, however, a concert for youth on Jan. 18 with first daughters Barbara and Jenna Bush as hosts.

And, students will play their customary role in the festivities as members of bands marching in the inaugural parade. Seventy-three organizations are participating, representing every state.

Students Take Part

American Fork High School in American Fork, Utah, was working hard to raise the funds to send its 210-member band to the event, said band director John Miller. With about $150,000 needed, the band had $70,000 in hand late last week.

The band got word of its acceptance in early December, leaving barely more than a month to raise the money and handle the logistics. “The hard part is getting everything organized,” Mr. Miller said. “We’re going to have kids on seven different flights” to Washington.

In the meantime, the band is rehearsing new music. Its patriotic medley of military tunes, a local crowd-pleaser, won’t be allowed in the inaugural parade because the official U.S. military bands have first dibs on those songs.

“We’re just scrambling like crazy every day until we leave,” Mr. Miller said.

In North Carolina, West Johnston High School in Benson was also selected to participate. The 128-member band comes from a school that opened in August 2002.

Sasha Fowlkes, a 17-year-old senior who plays the flute and piccolo, admitted to having doubts when the band director, Lance Britt, suggested the band should apply after winning a number of other national honors.

“At first, it was like, OK, do you think we really have a chance?” Ms. Fowlkes said. But then came the phone call last month saying the band had been picked as North Carolina’s sole representative in the inaugural parade. The band was also in fund-raising mode: It needed to come up with about $43,000, and had about $30,000 late last week, Mr. Britt said.

“I think it’s a huge honor, and it’s very exciting,” Ms. Fowlkes said. “And on top of it, I can say that I was in the band that got to march in the inaugural.”

Classroom Attention

Teachers around the country are still coming up with plans to incorporate the inauguration into their lesson plans.

Peggy Altoff, the social studies curriculum supervisor for the 31,000-student Colorado Springs, Colo., school district, said last week that middle school teachers would likely be teaching about the Civil War now. Teachers might choose to wrap the current inauguration into a lesson on President Lincoln’s famed Second Inaugural Address, Ms. Altoff suggested.

“One of the best ways to connect kids to a current topic is to connect it to what they’re studying,” she said.

Debbie Gallagher, the elementary social studies specialist for the 28,000-student Alachua County, Fla. public schools, sent teachers and principals a packet of information on Internet resources about the inauguration. Late last year, Ms. Gallagher held a workshop for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade teachers on ways to incorporate the presidential election and math into their classrooms; for example, through lessons on statistics and polling.

“We try to always link these things,” she said.

The Gala

Meanwhile, about 700 people are invited to the technology coalition’s event, to be held at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington. Nonprofit organizations on the coalition’s invitation list can send two guests for $375; for-profit entities pay $500 for two representatives. The 20 corporate sponsors, such as Dell Inc., the Intel Corp., and the Educational Testing Service, got blocks of tickets to spread around.

The party also serves as the organization’s one and only fund-raiser. Described by its members as strictly nonpartisan, the coalition requires no dues from its members and is run by volunteers. The coalition disseminates information on educational technology policy to its member groups, said David S. Byer, the president of the National Coalition for Technology in Education and Training and the senior manager of education leadership and policy for Apple Computer Inc.

The coalition’s materials describe the event as an opportunity “to show support for the administration.”

Michael R. Sandler, who founded Eduventures Inc., a Boston-based research firm that tracks the education market, said those in the education industry should be pleased with the No Child Left Behind Act, the centerpiece of President Bush’s first-term education agenda.

“The legislation that has passed has resulted in businesses being created to comply with [the law],” said Mr. Sandler, who is not participating in the event. “That has resulted, in my opinion, in [student] performance improvement.”

A version of this article appeared in the January 12, 2005 edition of Education Week as Education Gala Part of Presidential Inaugural Week


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