By Tena Lee
Quoting author Alex Haley, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander challenged those who attended a fundraising breakfast for COMPASS on Monday to "find the good and praise it."
And, according to the former Tennessee governor and former U.S. Education Secretary, there's plenty to praise about the local nonprofit group Community Outreach Making Partnerships at Sumner Schools, whose mission it is to get the private sector more involved in local educational efforts.
Alexander pointed to the group's Educate & Grow Scholarship program with Volunteer State Community College as a success others have picked up on, including Gov. Bill Haslam.
The program offers a two-year scholarship to qualified students wishing to attend community college. Haslam recently signed into law Tennessee Promise, a program offering scholarships for two-year degrees or certificates from the state's 13 community colleges and 27 technical schools.
Alexander, who is seeking re-election this year, also told the crowd of more than 400 business and community leaders that local input is necessary to make sure the county has an educated workforce.
"The truth is, when you come to the big challenges we face today you're going to have to fix it in Sumner County the way COMPASS has been working on it for a number of years," he said.
Alexander said he and colleagues in Washington have taken steps to making the application process for federal grants and loans for college easier.
However, he said he would still like to see many decisions, like how teachers are evaluated, made on a local level.
"My view, which hasn't prevailed yet, is that we're going to send most of those decisions back to you," he said.
COMPASS is celebrating its 10th year. This is the fifth year the group has invited prominent figures to speak during its fundraising event. Other speakers have included Haslam and Michelle Rhee, a national figure in education reform.