Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity: Michigan School Board Member Attends State of the Union

Stacy Bogard

By Stacy Bogard, CAE, MASB Assistant Director of Communications & PR

DashBoard, Feb. 5, 2020

Richard “Rick” Burmeister Jr., President of the Saginaw Intermediate School District Board of Education, never thought to add attending the State of the Union address to his bucket list since it seemed to be such an unattainable goal. But he was able to check that box last night when he was selected as the guest of U.S. Sen. Gary Peters.

Each member of Congress is allowed to bring one guest with them to the address. As Sen. Peters has been advocating for closing the skills gap by expanding career and technical education and apprenticeship opportunities in order for student to get good-paying, in-demand jobs, he chose someone who represents a district where CTE has become a cornerstone of its programming.

Sen. Gary Peters and Rick Burmeister
Sen. Gary Peters (left) and Saginaw ISD Board President Rick Burmeister (right).

“We’re seeing in Saginaw County how there’s a major need for CTE programming,” noted Burmeister. “By expanding CTE options, we’re giving employers in the area a better opportunity to fill jobs locally, while preparing students for available jobs and enabling them to develop the skills needed for good-paying jobs and successful careers. Sen. Peters has been a leader on this issue and I thank him for all he’s done to support students in Saginaw County and across our state.”

“I’m proud to have [had] Rick as my guest and expanding CTE and apprenticeship opportunities will continue to be one of my top focuses in the Senate,” said Sen. Peters.

Burmeister spent the majority of the afternoon and evening with Sen. Peters starting with recording a social media video and news interviews in the Senate Media Room, followed by dinner with all Senators, their spouses/significant others and guests in the Lyndon Baines Johnson Room at the U.S. Capitol. Burmeister had the opportunity to meet with a number of other guests and even joked with former Ohio State University football coach Urban Meyer about if he was interested in the recently available Michigan State University head football coach position (he said “no”).

“After dinner, we made our way to the House of Representatives through the rotunda and the gauntlet of reporters,” Burmeister shared.

Once he reached where he would be sitting, Sen. Peters left to go down to his place on the floor and good-naturedly told him “good luck” for getting out after the speech concluded (which was a true statement). Burmeister was sitting behind the Republican section that was in the front row, next to the wife of a Kansas senator.

“We hoped that we would not experience numerous ups and downs [when everyone applauds and stands],” he shared. “By the end of the speech we both felt we just completed a yoga class!”

Additionally, he said that “the partisanship was more than noticeable, which was very disheartening for me in that setting.”

Burmeister, of Freeland, was first elected to the Saginaw ISD board in 1992 after serving on the Freeland Community School District Board of Education. Saginaw ISD offers CTE programs in careers ranging from health care, criminal justice, information technology to automotive collision and welding. Most recently, they were able to pass a millage with the support of local voters to expand their programming into new fields.

“The whole experience was very historic and I can’t say enough about the Senator and his staff,” Burmeister said. “It was not on my bucket list as I never thought it possible, but I am grateful to have had this life experience.”

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