Arizona Giving & Leading: Uniting Education and Business

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The Arizona Educational Foundation is launching the “UnitED” program to establish beneficial partnerships between public schools and businesses. Learn more about the program from Bobbie O’Boyle, Executive Director of the Arizona Educational Foundation, and Alicia Mandel, VP for Organization Effectiveness and Inclusion at the Apollo Group.

Ted Simons: Tonight's focus on Arizona giving and leading looks at the Arizona educational foundation's launch of a program called "united" which attempts to unite education officials and business leaders for the benefit of public education and business concerns. Here to tell us more are Bobbie O'Boyle, executive director of the Arizona educational association, and Alicia Mandel, vice-president for an organization effectiveness and inclusion at the Apollo group. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Bobbie O'Boyle Thanks for having us.

Ted Simons: Is that what the united program is?

Bobbie O'Boyle: You've got it right. Exactly. It's a takeoff on the old principal for a day program the city of Phoenix ran for years, but what we want to do with it is extend it beyond that one day of shadowing, where a business partner shadows a principal for a day, and gets an idea of what a day in the life of a principal is like. What we want them to do is form a partnership that can last beyond that one visit and lead to benefits for the school.

Ted Simons: How can you make it last beyond one visit? Give us an example. You were involved as well, how does a business leader not only shadow, but get more of an idea of what goes on in public schools?

Alicia Mandel: I think what's really important is getting involved in the first place. When I first got involved with the program, I thought it was going to be the principal was going to say he need add donation from me, or money from my company. But what we really did was spent a lot of time working together, over the course of the whole year, to figure out how we can best partner for the long term. And we did tons of stuff together. We're still really in touch.

Ted Simons: Is it a win-win situation, where both the business leader and the education leader, they both get something out of this?

Alicia Mandel: You know, Apollo group is about education. We're an education company. We're the leading employer of -- in Arizona. And we care about our community, and we care about public education. I got lucky, my company allowed me to go and spend the day and the year, and continue to stay involved with my organization. It's a great thing for companies to do.

Ted Simons: How does it exactly work? There's got to be mentoring, coaching, but other than shadowing, other than looking at them and going, I had no idea, maybe more informational than anything else, how do the benefits come out?

Bobbie O'Boyle: The benefits are determined by the needs of a school, and the resources that the business partner can bring to the table. It doesn't have to be cash. That's not what schools are looking for necessarily. Sometimes the relationships can develop in the form of a mentor-mentee relationship, or possibly a playground structure, or a support for an after-school program, support employees of the corporation going in and reading to the children on a regular basis, whether it be monthly, weekly, quarterly. But there are just myriad ways businesses can get involved in schools and really become aware of what's going on, rather than depending just on news -- press release and so forth.

Ted Simons: It sounds like the idea has helped business leaders understand the nature of public education and vice versa. What do they need to know?

Bobbie O'Boyle: I think they need to just have a better understanding and appreciation for what educators are faced with on a daily basis. And I also think it's important for them to get in and see the successes that are happening in the schools every day. We often hear the negative things in the media about education. And we hear about the budget cuts, and everything else. But the fact is, those kids are going to walk through that school door every day, and want to know what their spelling word list is, or what they're going to have for lunch, what they're going to learn in history class. And I think the business folks need to appreciate that educators are doing everything they can and doing an excellent job meeting the needs of their students.

Ted Simons: What do business leaders need to know, accenting what was said, what information are they not getting, and education leaders, what do they need to know about business and business concerns.

Alicia Mandel: One of the things that was so striking to me is at the beginning of this program we spent a half day learning about how the education system in Arizona gets funded. And I was shocked. I had no idea. I think people spend a lot of time reading the newspaper and complaining about the public education system. And they have no idea about the heroes that are at the school every day. The principals, the teachers, the superintendents, that are doing -- they're pulling off miracles every day without having the money, and so people can complain a lot, but they really need to go out and get involved. What companies can do is help to support that. And help to promote it. It's only going to make for a better community.

Ted Simons: Are you seeing light bulbs go off over business leaders' heads once they follow these people around?

Alicia Mandel: Absolutely.

Bobbie O'Boyle: Absolutely. You betcha. That hands-on approach, being in the classrooms, in the office, at the school, and seeing what's going on helps them to realize what the challenges are.

Ted Simons: Direct benefit to the student. People are watching right now, they're saying, this is fine and dandy, what about my kid? How are they helped?

Bobbie O'Boyle: If they have a business partner like Apollo, like Alicia at Apollo group, or we have the musical instrument museum, for example, in partnership with the Arizona school for the arts. Every partnership we hope will benefit the children at the school where the business happens to have that partnership. And we, the Arizona educational foundation, will do everything that we can to make sure that that partnership is successful, beneficial, and sustainable.

Ted Simons: And last question, how long after commitment are we talking about here in terms of this partnership?

Alicia Mandel: You know, it's really on your own terms. I created a great partnership with Mario, who is the principal where I partnered, and we met when our time allowed. Probably monthly, maybe quarterly. But I brought other resources from Apollo group in with me to supplement. So we had a communications club. We had mentoring program that started up. I've had them come and meet with the dean of the school of education. So we've really expanded. Not just on me, but it's gotten a life of its own inside of Apollo group.

Ted Simons: It sounds encouraging. Thank you both for joining us and telling us more about it. We appreciate it.

Both: Thanks for having us.

Bobbie O'Boyle:Executive Director, Arizona Educational Foundation; Alicia Mandel:VP, Organization Effectiveness and Inclusion at the Apollo Group;

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