Broadening and Deepening the Work

Boston, MA (Feb 3, 2012) ~ It was the largest turnout ever for Northeast TURN, as 85 participants focused on three areas of high interest to the region: teacher evaluation, labor-management relationships, and transforming teaching.

"The connection of the state and national leadership of the unions to the work of powerful reform in locals and stAtes was profound," observed Dr. Patrick Dolan, who serves as a consultant to the TURN regions under a grant recently awarded to the Consortium for Educational Change [link]. According to Dolan, "the tenor of the linkage was one of listening and learning…and a self scrutiny and humility [that] was equally profound…"
 
Attendance at this meeting was nearly three times larger the last two meetings. Eight states were represented - over 50% first-time participants. There were four state presidents (MA. VT, DEL, and RI) and 17 Local union presidents and-or vice presidents (Portland, ME; Cambridge, Revere, Chelsea, Lowell, Boston, Andover, and Everett, MA; Providence and Portsmouth, RI; Rochester, Syracuse, and Albany, NY). State NEA and AFT union staff attended from Del, MA, RI, VT, ME, NH, and NY.  
 
Why the dramatic increase in participation? 
 
NE TURN Coordinator Maureen Logan attributes the increased participation to the focus on areas of high interest. Race To The Top and SIG grants have impacted every state in the region. Massachusetts is in the first year of implementing their new teacher evaluation process and Delaware is working on eval criteria for all teachers in non-tested areas. The Rhode Island Federation and NYSUT both received federal grants to work on evaluation (this is the first time either group has attended NE TURN meeting). Says Ms Logan, "We have much to learn from each other." 
 
Steve Owens concluded that putting the meeting on the first day of the NEA Northeast Region Leadership Conference was "a huge factor in attendance," whereas last year's meeting was scheduled the day before.  "It helped in recruiting some of the Vermont leadership who were going to NERLC anyway," Steve reported, "Also, having Becky Pringle on the agenda was huge." 
 
Framing the Conversation: 
 
Pat Dolan (quoted above & pictured at right) provided an update on the "Ever-Changing Landscape of Public Education."  With the help of his familiar flip chart, he illustrates the rapid upward shift in the locus of policy-making to the state and federal levels, and the corresponding downward shift in focus of policy - it's on schools and teachers. Taken together these trends require increasing levels of sophistication on the part of unions to "play strong, risky offense while playing tough defense."
 
The "offence/defence" metaphor appears to have resonated with the group.  It helped to reframe the role of the contract and to explain how union leaders often feel limited to applying the brakes, or "throwing a monkey wrench into the gears" when they would much prefer to take positive action.  
 
 
High-interest topics and positive actions were address in three panel discussions: 
 
  • How to Build Collaborative Labor Management Partnerships: A Panel Discussion with Superintendents and Union Presidents from Lowell, Massachusetts;  Revere, Massachusetts; and Portland, Maine. 
  • Transforming Teaching: Connecting Professional Responsibility with Student Learning - A conversation about the NEA CETT Report with an NEA Executive Committee Member; Kathie Skinner, Commission Member; MTA Director of Policy and Practice; and Jo Anderson, Sr. Policy Advisor US Department of Education.  
  • Race to the Top and its Impact on Teacher Evaluation: Adam Urbanski, President, Rochester Teachers Association; Paul Toner, President, Massachusetts Teachers Association; Steve Smith, President, Providence Teachers Union; Howard Weinberg, Executive Director, Delaware Education Association -- Moderated by Dr. Patrick Dolan (photo below)
 

Continuing the Conversations:
 
A steering committee was organized at the Boston meeting.  Representives from each of the 8 states will have ongoing responsibilities "to broaden the network and deepen the work."  
 
With funding provided through a grant to the CEC, social media and networking will play a larger role in the ongoing work.  Mary McDonald, Regional TURN Program Director, and Steve Owens, a local president and member of the Vermont-NEA Executive Board appealed to group to share the work and maintain connections via social media and TURNexchange.Net. They also introduced Zack Wiseman, the newly-designated social networker for Northeast TURN.
 
Note: artifacts and background documents for this meeting can be found on the NE TURN Meeting Notes page

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