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Inauguration a blueprint for school work

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Mt. Zion High School Social Studies Teacher Xandra Floyd said she will be thinking of her family and her students today as she watches the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama in Washington, D.C.

Floyd, who is the chairwoman of Mt. Zion's Social Studies Department, is one of 40 Clayton County social studies teachers attending the inauguration as part of the school system's Teaching American History grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

She choked back tears as she reflected on the people who are close to her, but will not be at the inauguration themselves. "I feel like I'm going to be standing on so many shoulders - that I'll be on eye level with Obama," said Floyd.

The 56th Presidential Inaugural Ceremony will begin at 11:30 a.m., on the west front of the U.S. Capitol, the Presidential Inauguration Committee said. Obama will be the nation's 44th president, but he will be the first African American elected to the office.

The new president's inauguration will represent a culmination of the subject matter at the heart of the school system's Teaching American History grant, said Michael Powell, the district's coordinator of secondary social studies. The Clayton County program is known as "The Transformation of America, with an Emphasis on the Civil Rights Movement."

The program involves social studies teachers going to important civil rights-related locations, such as the Martin Luther King, Jr., Center in Atlanta, and civil rights museums in several Alabama cities, including Selma, Birmingham, Montgomery and Tuskegee. The teachers learn about the contributions of people involved in the Civil Rights Movement.

Powell said the trip to see Obama's inauguration is key to the program, because "this is civil rights personified."

"Now, they are able to see the results from Rosa Parks not being able to sit where she wanted on a bus, to Barack Obama being sworn in as the president of the United States," said Powell.

Aaron Randall, the district's school improvement specialist for social studies, said the teachers who go on the trip will be required to create lesson plans which incorporate knowledge they gained from attending the inauguration and the civil rights-related sites. The lesson plans will be used for professional development of other social studies teachers in the district, Randall said.

Floyd and Damon Marshall, a U.S. history and government teacher at North Clayton High School, said educators plan to bring back pictures and other items from the inauguration to give their pupils a sense of what it was like to be in Washington, D.C., during the inauguration. The teachers also said the students will benefit from hearing first-hand accounts of what the inauguration was like, rather than reading about it in a book.

"Students get excited when they have a teacher who was actually at an event they are studying," said Marshall. Marshall said the teachers will leave from their Washington-area hotel for the inauguration seven hours before the ceremony begins so they can get as close to the event as possible. The teachers arrived in the nation's capital on Saturday, and have been visiting several sites, including presidential memorials and Arlington National Cemetery.

They have also been witnesses to the pre-inauguration buzz in Washington, D.C., said Marshall.

"It's absolutely amazing to see all of the good will in the city right now," Marshall said Monday in a telephone interview from Arlington, Va. "All of the people are acknowledging each other in passing, and you can feel a real spirit of unity. It's also a melting pot of people. You see people of all different ethnicities on the streets. It's the ideal of what America is."

Locally, the inauguration will be shown on ABC, CBS, NBC, Chicago-based superstation WGN, and cable networks, such as CNN, Fox News Channel, Black Entertainment Television and MTV.

In local inauguration-related events taking place today:

· Morrow Middle School will unveil its "Civic Responsibility Wall" at 10 a.m. The wall will contain photographs of national, state and local elected officials who represent the school's students and include pictures of Obama; Vice President-elect Joe Biden; U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.); U.S. Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.); Gov. Sonny Perdue; State Sen. Gail Buckner (D-Morrow); State Rep. Mike Glanton (D-Ellenwood); Clayton County Board of Commissioners Chairman Eldrin Bell; Commissioner Sonna Singleton; Sheriff Kem Kimbrough, and Clayton County Board of Education member Mary Baker.

· Clayton State University's Student Government Association will host an inauguration viewing party from 10 a.m, to 2 p.m., in the school's Student Activities Center. Events held during the program include a discussion about the inauguration from 11 a.m., to 12 p.m., pictures with a cutout of Obama and a voter registration drive. Call (678) 466-5419 for more information.

· Fourth-graders from E.J. Swint Elementary School will sing John Mayer's "Waiting on the World to Change" and read essays about changing the world during KISS 104.1's Inauguration Celebration at the Atlanta Civic Center, 395 Piedmont Ave., Atlanta. The event begins at 10 a.m., and admission is free, although there will be a $5 parking fee. The E.J. Swint students are scheduled to take the stage around 11 a.m., according to fourth-grade teacher Cathy Dalmida. Call (404) 523-6275 for more information.