There are many opinions as to the state of public education in our nation and within the Tucson community.

In this politically charged time leading up to the Presidential election, you will be hearing more and more from each candidate about their plan for providing a quality, world-class education to our young people. We have also heard each candidate discuss the importance of reaching beyond party lines in an effort to solve many of the challenges that our nation faces, certainly public education being a very important and often divisive challenge.

As well-informed citizens, we can make up our own minds about what’s right and wrong with public education, as well as what needs to change and stay the same. But the bottom line is that what is vitally necessary is that we agree on the strengths of our educational systems and then move beyond the political rhetoric in building upon those strengths to provide our students with a great educational experience.

In the spring of 2007, the Tucson Regional Town Hall recognized education as a top priority among specific recommendations on other important regional issues. I believe it is time for the entire Tucson community to come together in fulfilling our educational promise to our children by getting involved and voicing our opinions on how we can make a difference in K-12 education.

The school districts in Pima County, together with the Tucson Regional Town Hall in connection with the Tucson Metro Chamber of Commerce and many local non-profit organizations, have agreed that creating a culture which places education at the top of our regional priorities is job one.  These organizations will hold the State of Education, “A Community Conversation on K-12 Education” on Oct. 1 at the Tucson Convention Center. This is a great opportunity for all of us to join in an interactive discussion about ways to improve the state of education in our community.

As a former superintendent, I can think of nothing more important than to find a way for us to attract, support and retain the very best teachers for all Tucson’s children. As stated in a recent McKinsey and Company report, “The quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers.”

I believe that recruiting and retaining high quality teachers is essential to improving the quality of education in Southern Arizona, but other aspects such as creating professional development opportunities for educators and finding ways to build quality schools and providing more educational resources are also essential.

I trust that you agree that the quality of the classroom teacher has a tremendous impact on student success. But, we need your ideas, along with mine, so please join me on October 1, and let’s commit to a plan.

This is a call to action for all in our region to work together. The Tucson community has a unique opportunity to change the regional conversation on K-12 education to one that is positive and supportive, and prove that we can work together to provide a world-class education for our children.  We must find a way to make education a top priority in our region. Our children deserve no less.

Dennis Dearden is the past superintendent for the Marana Unified School District and the current senior vice president for Partnership for Excellence, a national organization that strives to help schools and school districts achieve high performance for all learners.

State of Education: A community conversation on K-12 education

Wednesday, Oct. 1

Registration at 7:30 a.m., conversation concludes by 1:30 p.m.

Tucson Convention Center

520-792-2250, ext. 135

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