It was just 24 hours after I sat through Tuesday’s hearing on the RAISE/PREP bill and watched the majority of the senate committee vote against our public schools that I was back in downtown Montgomery.  Same time as day before, but across the street at a luncheon where the Council for Leaders in Alabama School (CLAS) held their annual Banner School recognition luncheon.

I gathered with educators from Mobile to Madison and listened as 14 principals told about some of the amazing things happening in their schools.  Marsha Shelley from tiny Webb in Houston County talked about how Webb elementary, a school were 87 percent of students are on free-reduced lunches, has truly come together as a faculty in the last three years and seen exceptional student growth.

Scott Sutton from Athens Elementary in Limestone County, another high poverty school, talked about changing a school culture by getting students to DREAM BIG.  Tiffany Williams of Tuskegee public school spoke of a large number of school clubs that engage students in  different areas and about engaging many community stakeholders and creating partnerships.  Carmen Buchanan of Madison city’s Mill Creek elementary explained their wonderful STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) program where students are currently designing a bridge and have sent weather balloons up to 20 miles high.

Michelle Mitchell of Albertville high school got emotional as she told about their efforts to engage dropouts and meet their special needs.  Her story about one grandmother saying the school’s efforts had saved the life of her grand daughter kept the audience on the edge of their chairs.  Sean Clark of Carroll high in Ozark told abut six career academies at his school.  David Wiggins from East elementary in Cullman explained their character education program and what it means to students to get a “golden ticket.”

Other schools such as Burleson elementary in Hartselle, Hall-Kent elementary in Homewood, Lincoln high school in Talladega County, Wilkerson middle in Birmingham, Opelika high school, O’Rourke elementary in Mobile and Davidson high in Mobile gave equally inspiring examples of teachers and administrators who pour heart and soul into their work and their students.

As I listened, my mind kept going back to only 24 hours earlier when people who no doubt have never set foot in any of these 14 schools tried to convince nine senators that when it comes to “doing school” the bulk of our educators are woefully inadequate and clueless.

I have news for them, there was a lot more knowledge about the real world of education at the CLAS luncheon than in the committee room.