Rosemary Bowler of Boca Grande has already attained legendary island status with her involvement in maintaining and enhancing the quality of life in Boca Grande. She will never retire, she says, because she loves what she does too much.
Education has been the main theme of her varied and immensely productive professional career so it's not hard to understand why the Friends of Boca Grande chose Bowler to handle the education segment of the Lifelong Learning Film Forum. Here's what she has to say on what to expect, where the problems and solutions will be found regarding education and why this series is beginning to blossom into a huge hit among islanders:
QUESTION: Why come out with the Film Forum as a companion series to the popular Literature Forum?
ANSWER: The Film Forum selects various hot-button issues, shows various documentaries and gets experts to comment on the issue. For example, "Gaslands" dealt with the whole issue of fracking and natural gas. The one I'm doing involves education.
Q: The unique aspect of this film series is the incredible panel discussions that follow the airing of the show. The Gaslands panel had an amazing blend of energy industry experts, consumer advocates and environmentalists. The level of information and discussion was world-class. Was that the idea?
A: The purpose of the panel is not to dissect the film, but to use the film as a catalyst to engage people in discussion on the issues with which the film deals.
Rosemary Bowler at a glance
Residence: Boca Grande, 22-year homeowner
Hometown: New Bedford, Mass.
Occupation: "I've had a series of careers." Secondary school teacher, textbook editor, elementary school teacher, master's degree in curriculum and supervision, principal of three different communities in Massachusetts, educational consulting, executive director International Dyslexia Association (formerly Orton Dyslexia Society), not-for-profit board member, Gulf Coast Community Foundation consultant.
Discovered Boca Grande: "This is too funny." I bought a $25 T-shirt and a $25 lottery ticket at a fund-raiser and won a weekend at Will Baker's home (in Boca Grande), which was immediately to the north of the range light. Florida was the last place I ever thought I'd move to but when I was here, before I left, I was running around with a real estate agent.
Q: Who will be on your education panel?
A: Bayne Stevenson, chairman of The Island School Foundation; Carolyn Cowen, executive director of Carroll School's Center for Innovative Education; Marcia Louden, principal of L.A. Ainger Middle School; Mark Pritchett, senior vice president for community investment at Gulf Coast Community Foundation; Chuck Richards, executive director of the Charlotte County School Employee Unions; and Emily Steffan, Renew Schools, a charter management organization.
Q: How did you pull such an impressive, multi-faceted panel together?
A: I wanted to have people who represented different points of view and who had credibility in the world of education locally and broadly. It's a very strong panel and I'm very excited.
Q: What was your impression of the "Waiting for Superman" documentary?
A: I think the value of the film lies in its ability to get people excited. They are certainly some very polarizing elements in it.
Q: Are polarizing elements always balanced with Film Forum speakers coming from both sides of the agenda?
A: In order to get a discussion you have to have polarizing elements going. The movie Gaslands was strongly environmentally focused and pro-regulation and anti-corporation, yet the panel was able to sort through that and give a more balanced picture of what the issues were.
Q: What is your biggest concern about the state of education today?
A: I have for some time had real concern about the unintended, I hope, unintended consequences of the education reform movement in that it has become extremely demoralizing for the vast majority of teachers who are doing a good job. That I find real disturbing.
Q: Does the Film Forum intend only to sharpen the focus on the issues surrounding education or is it a call to action?
A: That's a really good question. I think you will find some members of my panel probably will be saying we could use it as a jumping-off point for coming to a solution. Others will say the problem is so complex. These people, with their range of experiences in different arenas in the field of education, will be asked what they might select as a way to move ahead if they had the authority and resources.
Q: So this Film Forum panel discussion won't simply devolve into a gripe session about all the things wrong with the U.S. educational system today?
A: No. Pointing out all the things that are wrong simply generates a defensive reaction.
Q: Ideally, what will the panel discussion achieve?
A: It will outline here's where we are today. Here's what the facts are. There are lots of myths as well as facts. And what do we need to do? What one thing might be the first step we could get sufficient agreement upon to be able to do it?
Q: Is technology being used well in schools today or has it replaced the building blocks of education in arithmetic and other subjects?
A: There isn't a simple answer to that. There's no question technology can add tremendous dimensions. It can make teaching and learning more challenging and exciting. But the flip side of that is the danger of removing completely the personal connection and building the expectation that everything should be fun, or at least interesting. A certain amount of learning is pretty boring (laughs). It's work! So I think that's the danger.
Q: Why do you think Waiting for Superman and the panel discussion will have a wide range of appeal?
A: Because everybody has been to school, everybody has an answer.