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Burbank parents “on cloud nine” after daughter is mentioned in President Obama’s speech

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Photo: FLLewis/Media City G -- Sam and Millie Engel at a Burbank City Council meeting in June 2010

Photo: FLLewis/Media City G -- Sam and Millie Engel at a Burbank City Council meeting in June 2010

I got an early morning e-mail from my Burbank neighbor, Sam Engel, gushing about last night’s State of the Union Address by President Obama. The economy and jobs were big topics in the president’s speech, but what thrilled Sam and his wife Millie the most  is when Obama pointed to a Denver middle school as an example of innovation and educational reform.

Photo: Pete Souza/White House --  President Obama delivered the State of the Union Address to the nation  January 25, 2011

Photo: Pete Souza/White House -- President Obama delivered the State of the Union Address to the nation January 25, 2011

The reason, Sam and Millie’s daughter, Kristin Waters, is the former principal of  Bruce Randolph school. Here’s what President Obama had to say about that school’s success story: 

“You see, we know what’s possible from our children when reform isn’t just a top-down mandate, but the work of local teachers and principals, school boards and communities. Take a school like Bruce Randolph in Denver. Three years ago, it was rated one of the worst schools in Colorado — located on turf between two rival gangs. But last May, 97 percent of the seniors received their diploma. Most will be the first in their families to go to college. And after the first year of the school’s transformation, the principal who made it possible wiped away tears when a student said, “Thank you, Ms. Waters, for showing that we are smart and we can make it.” (Applause.) That’s what good schools can do, and we want good schools all across the country.”

Sam says he and Millie get emotional every time they watch that segment of the president’s speech: “Our eyes tear up and our throats choke each time we replay the portions of the speech that reference Kristin’s achievements.” The Engels raised four children in Burbank. Millie once taught in the Burbank Unified School District. A son, Dave, has been teaching fifth grade in the BUSD for over twenty years.

A local newspaper reporter phoned the Engels before the president finished speaking last night. Dr. Kristin Waters, who is now the instructional superintendent for high schools in Denver, is getting a lot of media attention as well. In an interview with the Denver Post, Dr. Waters said, “it feels awesome,” for the president to spotlight that Denver middle school.  Also, she said, “It is an inspiring story and shows that with the focus in the right places, kids can be successful.”

The full text of President Obama’s State of the Union Address here on the White House website.

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