“Oh My”…Our Stories Make a Difference!

          Thursday, December 11 I was in Washington, DC to speak to the FCC.  This was the meeting where they would be voting on the Erate expansion…some have called it Erate 2.0.  YES, you read right…the ‘powers that be’ decided to let this Sweet Southern Belle step into the Federal Communications Commission open meeting, with a place on the agenda &…a Microphone!!! This proves something I’ve always believed; “Southern Charm” is in fact real and it is also very effective.

         To be completely serious, when I was told about the possibility of being chosen for this opportunity by Tom Murray (The Alliance for Excellence in Education) I don’t think I understood what a “big deal” it was…or maybe I was just really busy just trying to be a Principal (hopefully a GOOD one). When it was a definite I had been chosen…I literally pulled a muscle jumping with excitement! Tom & the team at @All4ed were going to take care of all my travel arrangements and the trip was booked in the blink of an eye!  As I spoke with Patrick Halley from the FCC in the days leading up to the meeting I felt like a student about to do their first class presentation, I got more nervous with every conversation. I was selected to speak about the impact of High Speed Internet accessibility on rural schools & my experiences with that as a Principal in my rural Arkansas school.  So, I get a dream scenario…a national stage in front of decision makers (FCC) and I get to “tell my schools story.” (I told y’all their was something to that ‘Southern Charm’ thing!)

I had a prior commitment so I had to fly in very late the night before. I had over-prepared my 5 minute presentation & over-practiced, because, I’m an educator; and it is our curse to do so. I got the call last minute that the FCC doesn’t want me to use pictures or graphics now because no one else on the panel is- ‘do I mind?’ Being the Southern Belle I am I of course said, “No sir, I’ll be glad to make it work anyway you would like.” (Of course thinking to myself…my pictures & graphics are sooo good…& they took me sooo long.) I was up early the next morning practicing in the mirror and Tom Murray was messaging me great encouragement; I honestly can’t thank Tom enough for his support & belief in me…he is AWESOME! Off I headed to the FCC fashionably representing rural educators in my favorite camouflage skirt. No pictures…no problem!

BEFORE the meeting I actually got to meet with some amazing students, teachers, principals, oh…and the head of the FCC; CHAIRMAN WHEELER! He knew my name and had read my blog I wrote about him & the impact he may have on rural education.  He told me he sent my blog to his wife and they have a copy of it at home! WoW! (If that’s not enough reason for me to keep writing…I probably cannot be motivated.) He is one of the most engaging people I’ve ever been around.

Then it was time for the meeting. All five Commissioners were present and the room was packed. Right when the meeting “tried to start” someone in the back of the packed room started screaming in protest…thankfully Chairman Wheeler had warned us this might happen. The issue of “Net Neutrality” had been removed from the meeting agenda and some people were upset. This protester was removed. As the FCC staff sitting next to me at the front table continued reading the Erate Expansion Order there were other protestors who had to be removed.

After the order was read the Chairman called on me to speak. (I was the first of the school representative speakers.) Before I could say a thing there was more screaming and they removed another protestor. The Chairman motioned for me to start and YOU CANNOT IMAGINE WHAT HAPPENED…….

 

FCC Potesters

I said live on the microphone from shock, “Oh My!” and Chairman Wheeler asked me to wait before speaking because what I had to say was important. Then he handled the situation with such class. He explained to the students present that this was all about 1st Amendment Rights and what made America Great. THEN I GOT TO SPEAK…wow…I didn’t know if I could breathe at that point…but I did!

FCC Daisy

I feel like I told our schools’ story, said at least most of what I wanted to say and represented our students, staff, and community proudly. I am so passionate about rural schools and providing an excellent education for ALL students regardless of their location or socioeconomic situation; High Speed Internet for ALL schools is essential for this.

Following the educators’ panel the Commissioners each spoke, then approved “Erate 2.0” 3-2. It is an exciting moment for the expansion of High Speed Internet service for Rural American Schools!

FCC Daisy2

This was an UNBELIEVABLE experience for me (& our School). Back home in Arkansas they were able to watch the live feed (thanks to connectivity)- it was awesome to get messages of support from PLN near and far! Thank you to all!

I want to give a special thanks again to Tom Murray & the Alliance for Excellence in Education for making this trip possible for me. I am a small town Principal from Arkansas who works hard everyday to do what’s best for my students, staff, and community…WoW…OUR STORY IS MAKING A DIFFERENCE! ;0)

(Pics courtesy of thehill.com, Tom Murray, Amanda Karhuse)

 

*****Just have to share a little of the data I didn’t get to share*** 

Arkansas

 

Pre-Vote E-rate funding falls short in Arkansas:

 

  • In 2012, Arkansas requested $8.6 million in E-rate support for Wi-Fi, but only received $3.3 million due to lack of funding.

 

Inequities in internet access persist in Arkansas:

 

Students in AR

National average

Percent of students in schools in speed tier
10 Mbps or less

38.5%

20.3%

100 Mbps or more

9.9%

34.2%

 

 

 

African American students in AR

White students in AR

Percent of students in schools in speed tier
10 Mbps or less

55.7%

32.2%

100 Mbps or more

4.4%

11.1%

 

 

Since the FCC approved the expansion of E-rate, in Arkansas:

  • 408,286 additional student in
  • 982 additional schools and
  • 221 additional libraries will have access to
  • Over $60 million in E-rate supported Wi-Fi over the next five years.

 

(Alliance for Excellence in Education provided Data) 

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