For the past 16 years, there has been a consistent face on the Kent ISD School Board. With quiet confidence and humility, those who know Andrea Haidle say she continuously works to make a difference in the lives of children.
Whether the topic is providing adequate resources for schools, making early education accessible to all families or improving equity in public education, Haidle absorbs the facts, researches to learn more and then takes action, say fellow public education advocates.
Her steadfast commitment to children is the reason Haidle is the recipient of a YWCA Tribute Award in the area of community service. She will be honored Nov. 17 at DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids.
“Andrea stands out among her peers as someone who is articulate, passionate and tireless, said Ron Koehler, Kent ISD assistant superintendent for Organizational & Community Initiatives.
Since 1977, the awards have honored more than 175 women representing a distinguished sorority of leaders and trail-blazers, selected within a number of areas for their extraordinary efforts to strengthen the community.
“More than anything else, what impresses me is Andrea does her homework,” said Kent ISD Superintendent Ron Caniff. “She comes to meetings prepared and asks the right questions. She’s detail-oriented, but respects the role of administrators to carry out their work.”
Steadfast Commitment to Education
Haidle writes legislators regularly about the need for improved equity in schools, putting more resources in areas of need, providing accessible preschool and implementing good education policy. She never quits advocating.
The reason? It’s the right thing to do for everyone, she said.
“In a democracy, we need to have everyone educated,” she said. “Even with all the shouting going on (about education policy), in the end it’s about all of us. It has to function well for all of us, and if we leave children not being able to compete successfully, we are doing ourselves a disservice.”
Haidle has served since 1999 on Kent ISD School Board, and plans to seek another term in 2017. She served on the East Grand Rapids Public Schools Board of Education from 1992 to 2000. She was also active for many years on the Citizens Advisory Council of Juvenile Court for the Kent County Medical Society Alliance.
Haidle raised two sons, Andrew and Noah, with her husband, Marc, a retired doctor. During the 1980s she did a lot of volunteer work in East Grand Rapids schools.
She said she’s “delightfully honored” to receive the award, but credits the many people around her. During her years on the board at Kent ISD, programs that help thousands of children of all ages have been established and flourished, she pointed out. Professional development programs for teachers have helped shape good curriculum county-wide.
The new high school program, Kent Innovation High, on the Kent ISD campus, is giving students new opportunities in a project-based learning, collaborative environment. Kent Career Technical Center is offering cutting-edge programs for students who know what career they want to pursue.
Development of the data warehouse at Kent ISD is another huge positive that has happened in recent years. Having information on hand helps schools stay on track in meeting student’s individual needs, Haidle said
Helping Students from Day One
One area Haidle is very passionate about is early education. The effect of poverty on education is huge, with a child’s background too often predicting future success. It’s a fact that everyone must acknowledge no matter what district you live in, she said, and curbing the effects of poverty must start in infancy.
“Developmental differences in the frontal and temporal lobes (of the brain) may explain 15- 20 percent of low-income children’s academic deficits,” she said, citing research by a researcher from the University of Michigan School of Public Health and colleagues from Duke University and the University of Wisconsin.
Kent ISD operates the Great Start School Readiness free preschool program; Bright Beginnings, which empowers parents with resources to be their children’s first teachers; and Early On, which serves children from ages 0-3 who have developmental delays and medical conditions with interventions.
Heidel motivates others to keep pushing for change, for what schools and, ultimately children need, Koehler said.
“It has been her strong support for early childhood and new ways to educate young people and help them accomplish the rigor that is expected today that has inspired us to go further than we otherwise might have,” Koehler said.
YWCA Tribute Awards