Director Emeritus Buzz Bartlett says his path to the 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 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, even though I lived in Columbia, Maryland – which as the time was New Baltimore, [because] 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.’ Really, he was looking for a 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 before it merged with 35 other defense companies to become Lockheed Martin, Buzz added that once he got involved with IEL, one of his goals to help resolve issues at the company were to advance their corporate goal by getting them all 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 by IEL’s Education Policy Fellowship Program (EFPP), which still runs today. Before joining the IEL Board, Buzz saw a lot of buzz about the group, and knew it 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.”
Sharing an anecdote from after Buzz left Lockheed Martin, he says “I did a lot of work with an education organization that I was under contract with at the Gates foundation. We did a lot of STEM work, and one of my areas that I worked in was STEM education in New York, and we had meetings across the 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.” In addition to EPFP, he also mentions IEL’s focus over the last decade “towards inclusion and serving the minority community,” as being paramount.
“There’s so many ways that bureaucracies manage to find for not serving the minority community that any organization that advocates for that is headed in the right direction, and I would say, doing the Lord’s work.