Charleston, W.Va.—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, a national leader in efforts to improve schools, visited Charleston, W. Va., Wednesday to highlight promising changes at Stonewall Jackson Middle School, a leading candidate to become West Virginia’s first state-funded community school.
Weingarten is an ardent supporter of community schools, a proven model that creates community partnerships, engages parents, and provides social services and other services to students and their families. Weingarten praised the partnership between Stonewall Jackson Middle School and HOPE Community Development Corporation, a community organization that already is working to improve the school.
“I’ve seen successful community schools in other parts of the country,” said Weingarten. “They’re not all the same, but they all have community backing, and that element already is in place at this school.”
Weingarten, who pressed for community schools with wraparound services when she was president of New York City’s United Federation of Teachers, has visited and championed community schools across the country as AFT president.
AFT-West Virginia President Judy Hale and West Virginia School Service Personnel Association Jackee Long, who joined Weingarten in the school visit, were eager to see community schools in Charleston.
“We are at a critical moment when we have to stop wasting time on unproven solutions and turn instead to commonsense approaches that include parental and community involvement, are supported by research, and actually work to improve schools,” Hale said.
Long also was supportive. “This is going to take a team effort—from the parents and community to the support staff to the classroom teachers—and we will be proud to be a part of it.”
After the school visit, Weingarten addressed a meeting of the state board of education, speaking about community schools and teacher evaluations, a subject of current interest in West Virginia, which is undergoing a review of the state’s teacher evaluation system. Under Weingarten’s leadership, the AFT has developed a framework that is being used to overhaul evaluation systems in more than 50 school districts nationwide.
Weingarten urged board members to work closely with West Virginia’s teachers and their unions as the state revamps its teacher evaluations. “If you respect the knowledge that our members bring to education policy, you will find us to be invaluable partners,” Weingarten said.