A community forum on education organized by the Pima County Interfaith Council will be held from 10 a.m. to noon, next Saturday, Sept. 8, at St. Odilia Catholic Community, 7570 N. Paseo del Norte. Marjie Hrabe, a deaconess at St. Mark's United Methodist Church and a council leader, said the program is nonpartisan and nonsectarian. Panelists include Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett; Alberto Siqueiros, superintendent of the Indian Oasis-Baboquivari Unified School District; and David K. Crowe, CEO and president of Tucson Embedded Systems. The audience will have the opportunity to voice opinions, ask questions and offer suggestions. For more information, visit the Council's website.
How long have you lived in Tucson?
I moved to Tucson 12 years ago and got involved with St. Mark's. As a deaconess, I am commissioned by the church to go out and work on these issues. I actually got married and moved out here and got involved with the (interfaith council) when I became a deaconess ... and found that's where my heart lies.
What's the overall goal of the council's forums, like the education academy?
I think the general message is that all of us need to find out what we're passionate about and find a group that can help create the change we need in our community.
What's the strategy behind the forums?
We go out and educate people on what the issues are, and hopefully find people who have the energy to learn and want to create change. We want to inform people of things they may not be aware of.
How do you figure out what the issues are?
We have a statewide agency, and all of us go out and listen to people in our institutions, asking people, "What keeps you up at night?" or, "What concerns your family, and what would you like to see change?"
How will you look at education?
What we are presenting is the state budget, and how it affects the school system. We are nonpartisan and recognize that both parties and even the independents have played into this structural deficit we have. We want to look at what that means, and how we can create change that is going to help kids, because that's what it's all about.
What do you think is helpful about this kind of forum?
We are so busy these days, and there are so many issues out there. The economy is bad, and we are working to pay the bills. (People) don't have time to do the research on these issues. We get to do that for you, and then we learn together and work together on this to create change.
What have you learned putting this together?
I got to meet with a (school) principal, and the most-interesting thing he was telling me was that studies of technology used in schools show that what really matters is meeting face to face and having that teacher experience. It's where kids learn the best. Here, we are asking people to come together face to face. We think that's important, and I think it was kind of interesting that science was backing up what we were already doing.
The economic problems have brought forward a lot of issues, so families are under stress financially. How much more do parents have to buy for the classroom? (We are) also concerned how much more education is going to be under-funded.
What do you hope people get out of the forum?
I hope to see people who are willing to discuss the issues and set aside party politics and talk about the kids, and what we want to do for these kids. Testing at the third-grade level shows how many of our kids are going to end up in the prison system.
Do you think some people in the community don't really care about education?
No, I don't think that whatsoever. I have not gotten an inkling of that. I think people truly feel overwhelmed and don't know where to start. We've taken that first step: Let us show you what we are offering, and if you want, you can engage. Truthfully, I think people don't get engaged in something unless it involves them. I love children, and I love for them to have the best. ... I've always said I'd go to Washington to fight for them, because that's our future, literally.