2009 REWG: Make Your Plans

Last Updated: November 06, 2008

This article appeared in the November 2008 Rural Policy Matters.

Mark your calendars and plan to participate in the 2009 national Rural Education Working Group (REWG) meeting April 19–21 at the Kanuga Conference Center near Hendersonville, North Carolina.

"The main attribute of our REWG meeting is that practitioners — grassroots citizens, community leaders, people who care about education in small communities — are the ones who participate. They tell their own success stories and describe why they're not as successful as they want to be. We don't bring in a lot of outside consultants. It's the people in communities doing the work who share and learn from each other."

That is Frank Hendrick, a participant in the Connecting School and Community project in Warren County, North Carolina and in the North Carolina REWG state group. He's been active in efforts to provide tutoring and social and academic enrichment programs for local children and to find solutions to the challenge of high teacher turnover in the district. Read more here.

The REWG meeting is an annual gathering of people from around the country who are advocates for their rural communities and schools. The REWG has been sponsored since 2002 by the Rural Trust and hosted, in recent years, by a state group of rural advocates. The 2009 REWG will be hosted by the North Carolina REWG state group.

Marvis Henderson-Daye of Vance County, North Carolina is also a member of the North Carolina REWG state group who has attended several national REWG meetings. She is part of the team helping to plan the April national meeting. "Although we enjoy traveling to other states, we are excited and honored to host REWG in April 2009. We will work diligently to continue the traditions of great conferences that provide insight and networking for those of us concerned with rural education."

Much of the emphasis at REWG is on citizens' efforts to address policy issues that affect rural children. In recent years, REWG has included sessions on school funding, unproductive or unfair school disciplinary practices, state and local community organizing, school and district consolidation, teacher recruitment, No Child Left Behind, and place-based curriculum and learning opportunities.

"There is congruence between poverty levels and the number of rural schools. Rural schools are way behind in receiving the resources they need," Hendrick says. "REWG helps strengthen linkages between community people working on these issues and public policy leaders."

In response to a shared interest in improving public policy, 2008 REWG participants are helping to lead the formation of a National Rural Education Policy Agenda. "We need to put more emphasis on public policy," says Hendrick. "There needs to be an effort equivalent to that in urban settings so that rural schools get the attention and resources they need."

During the 2008 REWG meeting, participants identified five big issues in rural communities and schools and formed working communities to develop policy recommendations related to these issues. The Committees are Community Revitalization, Student Success, School Finance, Curriculum, and Environment. As a result of working in "virtual" meetings, each committee will bring a report with perspective and recommendations to the 2009 REWG meeting. Participants will finalize the reports and Rural Trust will publicize them.

Hendrick is on the Community Revitalization Committee. "We are working to identify the issues in our communities that relate to policy that we need to monitor, examine, and push forward to state and national leaders."

Many past REWG participants say the meeting is one of the most inspiring and useful they have ever attended. The North Carolina state group is looking forward to hosting the 2009 meeting and welcomes individuals and groups who are working on rural education issues in their rural communities.

The 2009 REWG national meeting is sponsored by the Rural Trust and will be held at the Kanuga Conference Center (www.kanuga.org) located just off I-26 near Hendersonville in the mountains of western North Carolina. It is a convenient drive from airports in Asheville, North Carolina and Greenville, South Carolina.

Read more from the November 2008 Rural Policy Matters.