Educating the next generation of nuclear professionals begins early. How early? According to North American Young Generation in Nuclear (NA-YGN) member and fellow Mother in Nuclear Ginger Jones it begins in kindergarten. Jones, a chemist by training, full time nuclear utility employee and mother of three, is volunteering her time to serve on her local school board.
"I had always been a really active volunteer especially at my oldest son’s school," Jones said. "I had been the president of the Parent Teacher Organization at Saratoga School [Morris, IL.] for nearly three years when four school board seats came up for election."
The Saratoga school board has a strong track record for attracting Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) professionals, but this is not a normal occurrence across the United States. According to the National School Boards Association, 27.1 percent of school board members are fellow educators and STEM professionals are so rare they aren’t even tracked in the national survey.
“This is disappointing”, Jones said. “School boards need to be comprised of a diverse committee of professionals to ensure students are being provided a well-rounded education. We need to see more engineers, technicians and scientists participating in these important community activities.”
Jones was elected to the Saratoga school board District 60c in April of 2009 and has served as the chair of the Education and Curriculum Committee of the school board for the past two years. In her role as chair, she has been focusing much of her time on the Common Core Initiative, a state-led initiative to standardize curriculum for K-12 students nationwide.
“In recent years, we have seen the United States fall further and further behind other countries in the areas of mathematics and science,” Jones said. “We had not adapted our curriculum to fit in to our current technology-filled world. I think that the Common Core Initiative is trying to fill in those existing gaps.”
Advocates of the Common Core Initiative will provide students with a robust and relevant education that will help prepare them to compete in the global economy. “As a mother, I think the Common Core Initiative is a good step in the right direction to better prepare children for college and for entering the workforce,” Jones said. “But as a board member, it has been a bit of a struggle this year because some of the curriculum is significantly more challenging that it was last year and funding is scarce to support improvements.”
Jones is helping her district stretch itself by implementing the new curricula an entire year earlier than their state’s 2014-2015 mandate.
“We have ordered new reading and math texts that align with the standards and have provided extensive training for teachers on the implementation of these standards,” Jones said “We did this to allow students and teachers a period of adjustment as we want them to be successful.”
Jones believes she has derived a great deal of satisfaction as a result of volunteering for this position. “I would highly recommend getting involved in your school board. This is a position where you can directly see the impact that you’re making,” Jones said. And it has helped me with my responsibilities at the nuclear power plant because it has provided me opportunities to help plan, negotiate and budget.”
Resource on the Common Core Initiative
With 46 states having adopted the Common Core Standards, many have questions about this initiative. You can learn more about the Common Core Initiative by visiting these resources:
Proponents of the Common Core
• Common Core State Standards Initiative: http://www.corestandards.org/
• National Governors Association: http://www.nga.org/cms/home/nga-center-for-best-practices/center-issues/page-edu-issues/col2-content/main-content-list/common-core-state-standards.html
Opponents of the Common Core
• Heritage Foundation: http://blog.heritage.org/2012/04/23/why-states-should-hop-off-the-national-standards-bandwagon/
• Home School League Defense Council: http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/hslda-speaks-out-against-common-core/