Friday, September 12, 2008

Great Read: Rick Green's Spot On Analysis

Today's Courant features a Rick Green column, West Hartford Teachers: Be Open To Change, that is must reading for educators everywhere.

It's about the knee-jerk hubris that too many local teachers unions suffer from. i urge you to read the entire piece.
Barbara Carpenter, the now former president of the 900-member West Hartford Education Association, walked out the other day, blasting her union's commitment to the future of education in town.


"We really need to change the culture," Carpenter said when we met to talk one afternoon a few days after she quit. For the union, she says, this means less arguing about workplace rules and more involvement in actually running schools.

Right now, Carpenter said, "it's all about salary and benefits and prep time. The 'same old, same old' is not working."


"The old model is broken," she said, referring to school districts where unions too often behave as if they are workers on the assembly line on the factory floor.

"We have to be able to sit down collaboratively. Both sides have to be open."

Carpenter told me she worries as she sees classroom size climb ever larger. She sees more schools adding homework centers to help students who can't keep up in the classroom.

She thinks schools ought to be redesigned to allow for longer school days, perhaps with teachers working different, non-traditional shifts. She thinks teachers and administrators and board of education members ought to be working together more — instead of fighting over trade-union issues, like who has bus duty.

I called John Yrchik, executive director of the Connecticut Education Association, to ask whether it troubled him that the president of the West Hartford local had walked out with a broadside against the teachers' union.

"A complete shocker," he replied.

Yrchik was quick to note that my call had "ironic" timing because the union is aggressively moving in new, progressive directions and pointed to a new collaboration with the University of Connecticut that aims to redesign schools in Hartford and other cities.

"This is an extraordinary coming together of major education stakeholders," he told me, that utilizes "the best ideas of everyone."

"Collaboration is always the goal to be sought after, when it's possible," he said.

Carpenter, ironically, wasn't finding much of this within the ranks of her hometown union local. Within hours of her quitting, the union changed the locks, seized her computer and shut off her cellphone.

"I didn't want it to go under the carpet," she said of her profound disagreement with fellow union members. "Let's get it out. Let's put everyone's feet to the fire here."

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