New Mexico Trip Includes Stop at Middle School Changed Through Collaboration
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.—During a visit here Monday, AFT President Randi Weingarten addressed the concerns of teachers and school staff about two of the major issues facing the education and public service communities: jobs and the reauthorization of the federal law that sets national education policy.
“Preserving teaching jobs this year preserved opportunities for our nation’s youth, including students here in New Mexico,” Weingarten said. “A child’s life moves forward, no matter what the circumstances. The second grade does not stop because of a budget crisis.”
Educators from across New Mexico gathered for a town hall-style meeting at the AFT New Mexico state federation headquarters. With Weingarten were state federation President Christine Trujillo and Albuquerque Teachers Federation President Ellen Bernstein.
With school systems and state and local governments in budget crisis across the nation, the AFT is working hard to secure congressional passage of an extension of federal funding that preserved or created 250,000 education jobs during the current school year. The trip to New Mexico was the first of several Weingarten plans to press that message across the nation. The proposed Local Jobs for America Act includes $23 billion for the upcoming school year to help districts avoid layoffs of teachers and other educators.
During the nearly two-hour session, she also addressed the Obama administration proposal for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which guides federal education policy. This law will replace and update the No Child Left Behind legislation passed under former President George W. Bush.
“The Obama administration blueprint places 100 percent of the responsibility on teachers, but it doesn’t give them the support and resources they need to get the job done,” Weingarten said. “The AFT will continue to work hard as the legislation moves forward in Congress to make sure that it addresses our priorities for providing American children the highest quality education.”
Also on Monday, Weingarten visited Albuquerque’s Ernie Pyle Middle School and praised it as an example of how collaboration between teachers and administrators works for the benefit of students.
Weingarten and Albuquerque Public Schools Superintendent Winston Brooks were at Ernie Pyle together to talk about the successful efforts to transform what had been a low-performing school. Joining them were school Principal James Lujan and Bernstein.
“By treating teachers as partners in the changes here—partners with a real voice—Superintendent Brooks and Principal Lujan are building a trusting relationship with the teachers and staff at Ernie Pyle,” Weingarten said. She drew a sharp contrast between the approach at Ernie Pyle and that followed in other cities where administrators blame teachers, fire the faculty and accomplish little but disruption to students. “Commitment, collaboration and shared responsibility are what make this school work,” Weingarten said.
In 2009, at Bernstein’s urging, Brooks agreed to work with teachers and staff to come up with a new plan for change at Ernie Pyle. The New Mexico Public Education Department now points to the transformation approach followed at Ernie Pyle as a model for other schools in the state.