Sep 14, 2010 7:02 PM by Erin Yeyak (KBZK)
Wrapping up the second day at the Montana Economic Development Summit in Butte, Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau encouraged business leaders to return to the classroom.
Her challenge did not involve their continuing education, but their influence on Montana's children who will become the business leaders of tomorrow. Juneau told attendees, "You must never underestimate the power you have in a child's life. Partnerships between schools and businesses help students find paths to prosperity."
The importance of education was a recurring theme throughout the conference, Juneau reminded the crowd. She noted several speakers who talked about over the course of the two days - CEO of General Electric Jeff Immelt, who said "schools count," Barry Diller of Expedia who spoke of a teacher who encouraged him to believe he could do something, and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer who described the type of world our children will live in and work in the future.
Juneau stated, "And I'm here to tell you as your Superintendent of Public Instruction, investing in our children is as important as investing in the infrastructure, communications, technology and research."
In Montana, math scores are exceeding the national averages, reading scores are among the top five states and last year's graduating class outpaced the nation in ACT scores, she said.
During her travels across Montana, Juneau said she has encountered students that are putting up windmills, raising chickens and selling eggs, running eBay marketing sites, making short films about historic sites in their communities and planting community gardens and selling the crops at farmers market.
"Building an entrepreneurial spirit helps build communities from the ground up," she said. "We need your help business to create positive public relations that promote these types of programs."
Juneau described the public school system as the "last public endeavor," open and available to all.
About 2,500 people from across the country attended the two-day summit on the campus of Montana Tech in Butte.