History of NEA-NH
- Women Admitted
- Hard Work, Low Pay
- Better Teachers, Better Schools
- Growth and Change
- Government Relations
- Public Employees Gain the Right to Bargain
- Change is Constant
- New Initiatives
- Structure and Staff
In 1846 the state of New Hampshire passed legislation creating a commissioner of common schools. This legislation marked the beginning of organized public education in the state. Under the guidance of the commissioner, teacher institutes were inaugurated. These institutes brought teachers together over a period of a day or two to discuss common issues and listen to speakers on a variety of educational topics. Since most teachers at the time had very little training, the meetings were valuable because they enabled teachers, usually isolated in single-room schoolhouses, to share their problems and offer one another support.
By 1853 the institutes had become very popular and teachers were beginning to develop a sense of professionalism. At that year's meeting a suggestion was made that a state association for teachers be formed. The next year an invitation was issued to teachers throughout the state. It read in part:
It is hoped and expected to give birth to an association that may exist and do good as long as teachers and taught have one duty left, one bond of interest to unite them . . . In the association no party stripes or sectarian division can enter. Its platform will be as broad as science, humanity, and truth.
One hundred teachers attended the organizational meeting in Concord during two days in June, and on November 27, 1854, the New Hampshire State Teachers Association held its first meeting, electing John S. Woodman of Hanover as president. Its purpose as stated in that first meeting was to "promote sound learning through discipline, the interchange of ideas, and the united efforts of professional teachers."
The association's original constitution addressed membership in the following manner: "Any male teacher of good moral and intellectual character," could become a member by signing the constitution and "paying, in advance, an annual taxation of one dollar." Article III of the constitution however provided that "ladies: could be admitted to membership "by courtesy." Although members only "by courtesy," women, as early as 1860, were presenting lectures to the annual meeting. One of them, Miss M.J. Emerson of New London, spoke on "The Disciplinary and Ornamental in Female Education."
The New Hampshire State Teachers Association was one of the "founding ten" state education associations that formed the National Education Association in 1857.
In 1876 the association's constitution was changed to admit women as full members. They did not have to pay the association's initiation fee, however. This may have been seen as the "gentlemanly" thing to do for the "ladies," or it may have been related to the large disparity in the salaries of male and female teachers. In that same year of gaining membership, two women were elected councilors to serve on the governing body of seven officers. By 1879 three of the vice presidents, one of whom was elected from each county, were female. It was not until 1921, however, that a woman was elected to the presidency.
Hard Work, Low Pay
In 1866 the average weekly teacher's salary in the state was $8.22 for men and $4.41 for women. There was reluctance to hire women for the winter terms because much manual work was required and classrooms were cold. The wood stove that heated the school had to be started up early so that ink frozen in the ink wells would be thawed by the time the students arrived at 8:00 a.m.
The typical schoolhouse of the period had one classroom for all grades, no sanitary facilities, no lights, and no furnace. Pupils sitting close to the fireplace or wood stove used books and handkerchiefs to protect themselves from the intense heat, while those further away wore their heavy winter clothing to try to keep warm.
Better Teachers, Better Schools
One of the first causes the association took up was the need to establish a state normal school for the training of teachers. At its second meeting, in 1855, members called upon the Legislature to take this action. Finally after 16 years of association advocacy, members were able to celebrate the creation of the state normal school at Plymouth.
The next major issue for the association was that of teacher certification. Members believed that without mandatory state certification the public would not look on teaching as a profession. For many years resolutions were passed at each annual meeting and sent to the State Department of Public Instruction urging a certification requirement. A school superintendent wrote, "to those who had incompetent nieces who needed teaching positions such a law seemed arbitrary and undesirable. For many years anyone could teach with no other qualification than being near and dear to some school committee member."
The first New Hampshire teacher examinations were given in 1896 to 39 candidates, 31 of whom passed. Teacher certification did not become a state requirement, however, until 1909.
During its first 75 years, the association was an advocate for many progressive educational changes, including compulsory school attendance, the free tuition law, free textbooks, state supervision of teachers and schools, and a teacher retirement system. These issues were of real importance to members, but some of the associations' most valuable benefits were likely the camaraderie, support and learning that took place at meetings. The titles of some of the lectures given at meetings offer a look at what was pertinent to educators: "The Metaphysics of Thought" (1858), "Best Methods of Teaching Orthography" (1863), "In What is the Common Method of Teaching Reading Most Faulty" (1866), "What Shall Be Done With Pupils Who Do Not Get Their Lessons" (1871), "Alaska" (1883), "Study of the Civil War" (1886), "The Fascination of Greek Inscriptions" (1908).
As the nation prepared for, and entered, the First World War, New Hampshire's teachers took notice of matters beyond the classroom, inviting speakers to address the association meetings on topics such as "The United States and the United World" (1912) and "The Deeper Meaning of National Preparedness" (1915). In 1914 association members passed a resolution calling for "full participation in the electoral franchise" for women.
Growth and Change
Until 1922 its officers ran the association: a president, a vice president from every county and a council of seven members. As membership increased, it was recognized that a more representative form of governance was needed. In 1920 the creation of an assembly of delegates was recommended. It was voted on and passed in 1921, and since its 69th annual meeting in 1922, the assembly has set policy for the association. In 1925 the association hired its first staff person, John W. Condon, to serve as a part-time executive secretary. John H. Starie became its first full-time executive secretary in 1947. In 1945 New Hampshire's teachers elected Daniel MacLean of Berlin to be their first NEA Director, a position that serves as liaison between the state and national organizations.
Mr. MacLean was followed in that position by Mabel McKelvey in 1951, the year she was also elected to the presidency of the state association. Miss McKelvey was later elected to the Executive Committee of the National Education Association. One of the conference rooms at the state headquarters in Concord, referred to by staff as Mabel's Room, is named in her honor.
The association has had a legislative committee, now called government relations, since the 1920s. This committee, along with members and staff, has worked to initiate and pass legislation beneficial to teachers and education and to block legislation deemed unfavorable. Perhaps the most important legislative issues of the last forty years have been the establishment of a sound teacher retirement system, the enactment of the fair hearing bill in 1958, and passage of the public employee bargaining law (RSA 273:A) in 1975.
The association began its efforts to establish a teacher retirement system in 1931. It took 19 years before this objective was realized. In 1950 Governor Sherman Adams signed the teacher retirement bill into law. Since then the association has successfully continued to seek improvements in the system that is so important to the security of retired members.
The fair hearing law (RSA189:14a) provides that teachers who have taught satisfactorily for three years in one school district are entitled to reasons in writing and a hearing if they are to be nonrenewed. Prior to passage of this statute, teachers with any length of service could be let go and never told why. The cloud of questions which surrounded such a nonrenewal often made it difficult to find another teaching position and certainly impossible to improve one's performance if improvement were necessary. Under this legislation, after a hearing before the local school board, the local board's decision may be appealed to the State Board of Education.
Under RSA 273:A local associations and their school boards can negotiate arbitration procedures in their contracts to settle disputes about nonrenewals. However, this right is currently jeopardized by House Bill 341, which would eliminate arbitration rights and substitute an appeal process so narrow that it would make teachers vulnerable once again to the political whims and biases of local school boards.
Public Employees Gain the Right to Bargain
The backdrop for the passage of New Hampshire's public employee bargaining law was the devastating strike in the Timberlane School District. Starting in 1971, teachers sought recognition from the school board to have the association represent them in bargaining. The school board repeatedly rejected proposals for association recognition as the bargaining agent and refused to negotiate working conditions or a grievance procedure.
Eventually, in total frustration, the teachers voted on February 25, 1974, to withhold their services and picket the schools. The school board in retaliation voted to fire the teachers and had this endorsed by the community at the March school district meeting.
The rage and frustration of this strike and the teacher firings was deeply destructive to the community, the schools, and the teaching careers of those who chose to stay out. It paved the way for the enactment of the law that gives public employees the right to organize and bargain with their employers. The publicity surrounding the strike was seen as casting a negative light on New Hampshire and according to John Tucker, executive director of the association during the strike and later speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, caused lawmakers to realize that "New Hampshire could not afford to be a state with repressive, regressive public policy in the area of labor relations." The association, which had been attempting to win passage of a bargaining law for public employees, worked with other public employee unions, progressive citizens, and legislators to gain approval of this legislation, which became law in December, 1975. Since that time, bargaining has become a function of local associations. NEA-NH provides support for this activity through its UniServ program.
Change is Constant
In 1854 dues were set at $1 for male teachers. Now, the annual delegate assembly sets dues. In 1953 there were 1,450 members. Today there are over 15,000 members. A staff of one has become as staff of 34. Offices, originally a single, small rented room on North Main Street in Concord, have expanded to include an association-owned headquarters building on South Spring Street and rented space for regional offices in Manchester, Dover, Gorham and West Lebanon.
The organization has gone through several name changes. Starting as the New Hampshire State Teachers Association, it became the New Hampshire Education Association and in 1982 acquired its current name, the National Education Association-New Hampshire.
In 1981 the association extended full membership rights to employees who offer support services in our public schools. These education support personnel, referred to as ESP, now represent 18 percent of the organization and are beginning to play a larger role in association affairs. In 1990 the Assembly of Delegates instituted an ESP standing committee. The creation of this committee gives a formal place in the organizational structure to this segment of the membership.
Upon its founding in 1854, the association determined to improve education and bring dignity and respect to New Hampshire's teachers. Over its more than 100-year history it has remained constant to those goals while expanding them to include all public school employees.
A Hero for New Hampshire and the Nation
In 1985 NEA-New Hampshire members were overjoyed when association activist Christa McAuliffe, a Concord teacher, was chosen to go into space with U.S. astronauts to teach a lesson from the space shuttle Challenger. Christa exemplified the quality of New Hampshire's public schools. She was extremely proud of her profession and her involvement in the association. When the spacecraft exploded shortly after takeoff on January 28, 1986, the entire nation mourned.
In 1996, the association began an ambitious initiative, the New Hampshire Foundation for Teaching and Learning. Incorporated as a nonprofit foundation with its own board of trustees and officers, the NHFTL will provide a permanent structure for the improvement of New Hampshire public schools, free from the political influences that have plagued previous school improvement initiatives.
A strategic planning process begun in 1995 has yielded a new mission and vision for the association. NEA-NH has adopted three program priorities in which to concentrate its energies: public education and school support, public affairs, and member advocacy.
As NEA-NH moves toward the 21st century, it continues to work for the strengthening of public education and for the benefit of its inspired and inspiring members.
Structure and Staff
NEA-New Hampshire is organized into 10 regions: Amoskeag, Capital, Lakes, Eastern, Monadnock, North Country, Seacoast, Souhegan, Southeast and Upper Valley. Each region has approximately 1,000 to 1,200 members and serves from two to 25 of the 213 local associations affiliated with NEA-NH. The state association provides a director and a part-time secretary for each region. The organizational concept is "unified service," which is shortened in NEA-NH nomenclature to "UniServ."
In addition to the UniServ staff, NEA-NH has administrative, legal, public relations, research, communications, public education and school support, benefits and other staff at its Concord headquarters.
NEA-NH is a state affiliate of the 3.2 million-member National Education Association.
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