01/22/2010

Moving Forward: This Week at the AFT

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It's been a busy week for the union and our affiliates since AFT president Randi Weingarten delivered her major speech on education  Jan. 12 at the National Press Club. In addition to extensive media coverage and debate on countless blogs, elements of the speech have been highlighted in events and agreements from Colorado to Montana to Ohio. All five AFT divisions had major accomplishments that affect their members and the people they serve—and some dedicated members have gone way beyond their regular duties to volunteer to help people in need.

AFT's Own Bus Driver Hero: Jan. 13

Safety was the first thing on Cindy Fulwood's mind when a man ran toward her bus full of middle-schoolers and demanded to be let in. He tried to stick his hand through the window before she slammed it shut. Then he jumped on the hood, climbed to the roof, opened the hatch and dropped into the bus. Although scared, Fulwood, a veteran school bus driver and AFT member, remained calm; her 44 students left from the rear exit while she kept the intruder's attention. Read more.

Promoting Cooperation in Cleveland: Jan. 15

Three days after her National Press Club speech, Weingarten headed to Cleveland for a visit that included school tours; meetings with members, leaders and the district's superintendent; and a press conference. Her main message—delivered in a city where the superintendent has imposed a reform plan with little input from educators—drew on one of the key points from her speech: labor-management cooperation is the glue that links all the other strategies we pursue to improve schools. Read more and watch video.

Teacher Development and Evaluation in Colorado: Jan. 19

In Douglas County, the local union, the school board and the district have signed an agreement that incorporates not only labor-management cooperation but also another key piece of the agenda Weingarten put forth in last week's speech: better systems for teacher development and evaluation. The parties will work together to develop a model that will include multiple measures to judge teacher performance and student learning; that, in turn, will be used to revise the district's long-standing differentiated-pay program, inform future tenure decisions and develop teacher leaders. Read more.

Race to the Top Extension—A Mixed Bag: Jan. 19

President Obama's announcement that he intends to extend the federal Race to the Top program shows his commitment to making public education a national priority, but we need to learn from the process that led up to the first set of grant applications, Weingarten says. The applications were a mixed bag, with the most successful proposals coming from states that had consulted with teachers and their unions. That kind of cooperation is key in creating an environment where the adults work together on behalf of the students. Read more.

Help for Haiti: Jan. 20

Rather than watching helplessly as TV crews document the earthquake devastation in Haiti, a group of AFT Healthcare members from Vermont headed to the island to offer their much-needed medical expertise. The group, which includes a dozen nurses, paramedics and EMTs who are members of the AFT-affiliated Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, will help staff a hospital in Hinche. They have used their own vacation leave time to volunteer in the humanitarian effort. Read more.

Cost-Saving Ideas in Detroit: Jan. 20

With the school district facing some of the most severe budget challenges in the country, the AFT-affiliated Detroit Association of Educational Office Employees released a set of recommendations that could add $130 million to the district's bottom line. The ideas, developed after extensive consultation with members, include union-management collaboration to reduce student absenteeism; centralized record keeping; and other efforts to improve service, lower costs and raise revenue. Read more.

A New Contract in Philadelphia: Jan. 21

Meanwhile in Pennsylvania, members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers voted decisively for a new three-year contract that features a greater voice in improving instruction, big across-the-board raises, and the help and support necessary to develop a highly effective teaching force. The pact also includes a new peer review and assistance program that is designed to provide new and struggling teachers with the mentoring, coaching, professional development and clear expectations they need to succeed. Read more.

Weingarten in Montana: Jan. 21-22

The AFT president ended this week with a two-day trip to highlight the work of AFT public employee and higher education members in Montana. Her visit included meeting with members of AFT affiliates at Montana State University; events to help kick off a "Work That Matters" campaign, which highlights the vital contributions made by state employees; and meeting with Gov. Brian Schweitzer and state superintendent of schools Denise Juneau, herself an AFT member. Watch the AFT Web site for full coverage.