Arizona ranks near the bottom of US states in areas, such as K–12 achievement, opportunities for success based on family income and school enrollment, school finance, education alignment standards, teacher quality, overall education spending, postsecondary education and efforts to improve teaching. Fourteen people from throughout the US gathered from June 9-10, 2014 in a small conference room at the Talking Stick Resort to start a grassroots effort to go where legislators have feared to tread.
The National Tri-Caucus Board Development Association (NTCBDA) was created in 2000 to help the national school board association address the continuing needs of students in K-20. Its mission is “to provide united and sustained support of policy initiatives by school board members and others, within and without the constituent cultural entities (African American, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native) to ensure that all minority school children receive an equal educational opportunity for maximum high student achievement in the nation’s public schools.” The meeting held in Arizona launched the initiation of local efforts with the establishment of the Maricopa County affiliate.
The attendees at the Arizona meeting represented experts from the four “pillars”—education, economic development, environment, and cultural spirituality—upon which the NTCBDA is built.
Ernest White, a co-founder of NTCBDA from South Carolina, said, “The connections and relationships formed are very important to our growth and development. Words cannot express the joy and happiness that I experienced during our first NTCBDA Maricopa Steering Committee. It was not a dream deferred, but a dream come true.”
In an intense, two-day, facilitated session, the group identified expectations, objectives, potential attendees, and success matrices for a September conference, where a larger group will forge specific steps, which would allow the Maricopa affiliate to tackle five goals: focus on educational development; build a sustainable and accountable community; increase environmental education & awareness; enhance cultural & civic engagement; and develop strategic funding initiatives. Without significant improvements in these areas, Arizona will not be competitive with other states for growth, trade, and business development, much less globally.
“We certainly had the right set of skills, talent, experience, knowledge and faith in the room with us to put together this fabulous plan,” said Harry Garewal, CEO of Trin & Associates and other co-founder of NTCBDA. “I now hope people in Maricopa County and elsewhere join the Tri-Caucus initiative in helping us develop innovative solutions for the challenges we face in Arizona.”