Director Emeritus Raymond “Buzz” Bartlett says his path to the Board of IEL was “kind of serendipitous.” Buzz had recently been assigned to Martin Marietta’s (which merged in the late 90’s with Lockheed to become Lockheed Martin) corporate headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland. At that time, Buzz says, most of corporate America did not get involved in public schools.
“The standard was ‘That’s a state and local government issue. We’ve got other things we need to do,’” he remembers. “But in the late eighties, then President Bush started encouraging corporate America to get engaged. So, I came to Martin Marietta to head up corporate-wide community relations and also the corporate foundation. I was new to the Washington area… I really didn’t know who the players were in Washington nor what the issues were in education, nationwide. Serendipitously, Mike Usdan (former IEL President) called me and said, ‘I’d like to come and talk to you.’ He was looking for a contribution, but as the conversation evolved, I realized I had here a resource into what was actually going on in education across the country. So that was the beginning of my engagement in K-12 education issues across the country.”
“I got involved in a lot of things [after that] related to the Standards Reform movement. I was also head of the State Board of Education in Maryland, and it really started with IEL,” Buzz continues. Reflecting back to Martin Marietta’s days, Buzz added that once he got involved with IEL, one of his goals was to help his employer get involved in K-12 education. “We looked both to IEL and to an organization that was extant at the time, the National Alliance of Business, to help educate our community relations people across the country as to what we were doing, and why and how of all the ins and outs of the American K-12 public education system.”
Buzz was also interested in IEL’s Education Policy Fellowship Program (EFPP), which continues today. Before joining the IEL Board, Buzz knew EPFP was “exactly the right thing for us to support.” Because of IEL’s EPFP, says Buzz, “people beyond the edge of the world of education would begin to understand how it worked.”
Later on in his career, Buzz worked as a contractor for the Gates Foundation on STEM. He recalled an anecdote that illustrates the need for school-community partnerships: “We had meetings across the State with people from the community. What appalled me as I kind of grew closer to the issues were the number of people in the community who were unsatisfied with the quality of the graduates of their schools, and never could figure out how to engage the local school system in a conversation, and never realized the influence they could have. All of that I attribute back to way back when I had those initial conversations and engagement with IEL,” says Buzz, noting how IEL is exactly the type of organization that can help bridge those entities to foster collaboration and conversations to build community partnerships that lead to impact for students.
Reflecting on IEL’s contributions to the world of education, Buzz talks about how there is an “extraordinary plethora of organizations…with a variety of goals and objectives, and some that are cross-purpose,” and IEL’s work and purpose is to work with those other organizations and tell them “you’re not alone with your issue.” IEL’s focus over the last decade “towards inclusion and serving the minority community,” as being paramount and a reflection that IEL is headed in the right direction.