Press Release

White House Selects New Haven Federation of Teachers President Cicarella As a ‘School Turnaround Champion of Change’

For Release: 

Monday, August 20, 2012


Janet Bass


WASHINGTON—David Cicarella, president of the New Haven Federation of Teachers and the driving force behind groundbreaking, collaborative education reform in the New Haven (Conn.) Public Schools, will be honored as a "School Turnaround Champion of Change" at a White House event on Tuesday.

  • The White House event is on Tuesday, Aug. 21, from 2-3:30 pm. If you would like to interview Cicarella, he will be available after 4 p.m. today or before or after the Tuesday event. Contact Janet Bass at 202-879-4554 to make arrangements.

The White House is recognizing several leaders who have helped implement dramatic changes in some of the country's lowest-performing schools to improve student outcomes and close achievement gaps. Cicarella was one of only two labor leaders selected for this honor.

To improve student and teacher performance and reverse a confrontational labor-management relationship, the Cicarella-led New Haven Federation of Teachers initiated a national model for school improvement. Through a highly collaborative process between the union, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and Superintendent Reginald Mayo, a reform initiative was negotiated at the bargaining table in October 2009. It includes a progressive teacher evaluation system that provides continuous assistance to struggling teachers and removes chronically ineffective teachers. It also includes wraparound services for turnaround schools as well as increased teacher input and flexibility at the school level to adopt changes that school staff and the principal believe are necessary to help kids.

Cicarella said, "While I'm thrilled to receive this high honor, I prefer to accept it as a group award for the collaborative efforts we made to improve teaching and learning."

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said collaboration was key to developing and implementing the initiative, which other school districts are using as a model. "New Haven's success is based on shared responsibility—with the union, city and school leaders acknowledging that collaboration, not top-down dictatorial mandates, yields the best solutions."

Mayor DeStefano said, "Teachers are absolutely critical to accomplishing our mission of turning around schools and ensuring all our kids have access to the best education possible. Dave understands that and has been a guiding force in bringing teachers into the process of school reform. This award is a testament to his commitment and the hard work of our talented teachers."

Superintendent Mayo lauded the efforts of teachers and Cicarella: "Great teachers are the key to success when it comes to improving schools. Dave Cicarella has worked from the beginning to empower teachers and have their voices be heard," Mayo said. "We couldn't have come as far as we have in turning around schools and advancing academic achievement without Dave's determination and the hard work of our teachers."

And kudos also came from Stefan Pryor, Commissioner of the Connecticut State Department of Education: "New Haven has become a powerful model of change—a school district where innovative reforms are directly benefitting schoolchildren and inspiring professionals statewide.  I salute David for his solutions-oriented approach and his significant accomplishments to date."

Analysts have hailed the first-year teacher evaluation results, in which teachers identified as needing improvement received beneficial assistance, and those who were chronically under-performing either retired or resigned. Student achievement results released in July showed incremental gains. 

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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.