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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/ANDY SHUPE Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., speaks Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016, during the Republican Party of Arkansas convention in the John Q. Hammons Center in Rogers.

SPRINGDALE -- U.S. Sen. John Boozman told students from the Don Tyson School of Innovation they're an example of the nontraditional choices school districts are offering to students.

"Your school district is allowing you to innovate," the Rogers Republican said. "They're going to look at the results of how you perform."

Principals, superintendents and policymakers are watching to see the impact the School of Innovation has on students and whether it's an effective model, Boozman said.

Boozman's staff invited the School of Innovation to participate in a Skype call as part of promoting National School Choice Week, said Megan Slocum, associate superintendent for the school district.

National School Choice Week is a nonpartisan, nonpolitical series of more than 21,000 events across the country focusing on choice in kindergarten through 12th grade education, according to the organization promoting the independently organized events. Most activities take place this week.

After the call, Boozman wrote a tweet he appreciated the questions.

A group of nearly 20 eighth-, ninth- and 10th-graders were invited by teachers to participate. Students had to write three question reviewed by school officials to make sure they were politically correct and appropriate, eighth-grader Brayden Hartwig, 13, said. The questions couldn't be vague, he said.

"This was a very special opportunity we get to have," he said.

The discussion made Hartwig more aware of the impact he and his peers at the School of Innovation are having on the future of education in the country, he said.

Hartwig wasn't able to ask his question, but heard Boozman answer a similar question from a classmate about Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of education. He thought Boozman's answer was insightful, he said.

Miguel Hernandez, a sophomore at the School of Innovation, asked about DeVos. He's concerned about her qualifications because of published reports she and her children attended private schools.

"It just struck me as very odd how somebody with no experience could be in charge of something," Hernandez said. "She doesn't know what it's like."

Boozman told Hernandez and his peers he thinks DeVos is qualified. He told students he thinks the president has chosen nominees with past success in business. He thinks DeVos will "change things up" and will promote policies giving school districts the ability to offer students different experiences, he said.

"We're going to hold her feet to the fire," Boozman said.

Boozman said his job is to make sure Arkansas schools, students and parents are protected, he said.

The Skype visit provided a powerful opportunity for students to learn about government operations and let them know others are watching the School of Innovation, Principal Joe Rollins said.

"The questions came from our kids," Rollins said. "We certainly are proud of them and their efforts."

NW News on 01/25/2017

Print Headline: Boozman hears from School of Innovation students via Skype


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