Rhonda Wesolowski discusses the No Child Left Behind Act
On August 16, NEA-NH President Rhonda Wesolowski discussed the No Child Left Behind Act on New Hampshire Public Radio's the Exchange. Listen http://www.nhpr.org/new-approach-no-child-left-behind.
August 16, 2011
NEA-NH Honors Friend of Education, Champion of Human and Civil Rights, Editor, Local Associations and Leaders
At a celebration on Tuesday, August 2, in conjunction with its Summer Learning and Leadership Conference, the National Education Association - New Hampshire presented its annual awards to education and union leaders, a journalist and a human rights volunteer.
NEA-NH President Rhonda Wesolowski presented the Friend of Education Award to David Lang, president of the New Hampshire Professional Firefighters Association. Wesolowski praised Lang's leadership within the New Hampshire union movement, noting that he speaks out to counter misleading information about unions in the State House, on camera and on radio. She praised him for always including teachers when he speaks about public employees. When the state refused to extend a medical subsidy for retirees, she pointed out, Lang led an initiative for unions to establish their own trust so retirees will be able to pay for health care.
Carol Croteau of Kingston was named the 2011 Champion of Human and Civil Rights. When her daughter was bullied in school, Croteau co-founded Bully Free NH, a grassroots organization that raises awareness about bullying in schools and communities. Croteau also advocated for passage of anti-bullying legislation that became law in 2010. She led the effort against weakening the law in the 2011 session of the Legislature.
Ralph Jimenez, editorial page editor of the Concord Monitor, won the association's News Media Award. Wesolowski cited his coverage as a reporter of the space shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986, but emphasized that the award was given because Jimenez stands for fairness, justice and good government. His editorial attention to "the great and unfulfilled need in New Hampshire for a fair and progressive system of financing public education" is a service to the state, Wesolowski noted.
NEA-NH also honored two local associations and several of its members.
The Amherst Education Association received the Large Local Association Award (given to a local association of 126 or more members), as well as the Communications Award. The Amherst EA's achievements include 95 percent membership, an innovative and successful contract campaign, participation in an NEA-NH campaign to defeat legislation considered harmful to public education, and community projects such as a scholarship awarded to a high school senior and sponsorship of a Little League team. The Amherst local's communications team, led by President Larry Ballard, Vice President Tracey Gagne and past president Peter Desnoyers, employed modern 'new media' strategies, but did not neglect tried and true methods such as face-to-face contact and public rallies. Communications were positive and consistent throughout a campaign for contract approval and later as part of the state association's legislative initiative.
Sam Giarrusso, an Amherst EA member and leader at the local and state levels during his entire career, won the state association's top award for advocacy, the Timberlane Regional Education Association Award. The TREA Award honors the teachers who engaged in the Timberlane Strike of 1974, which led to the passage in 1975 of the New Hampshire Public Employee Collective Bargaining Law. Giarrusso was credited with negotiating what became over the years a model contract. For the past eight years he has served all New Hampshire public employees as a member of the Board of Trustees of the New Hampshire Retirement System.
The Christa McAuliffe Leadership Award honors Christa's dedication to public education. The 2011 award went to Kim Houghtaling, president of the Exeter Education Association. While negotiating difficult contractual issues, Houghtaling worked to build cohesion within her local association, which includes five school buildings and two contracts. She also assisted the paraprofessionals in her school district when their union underwent a leadership transition. Her genuine dedication to public education is reflected in the admiration she receives from students. While leading her local association, Houghtaling also completed her master's degree.
The Jo Campbell Education Support Personnel Award was presented to Susan Maher, president of the Concord Education Assistants Association. Under her leadership, an increase in membership made the 193-member CEAA one of the largest associations of education support professionals in the state. Maher led her association through a period of funding cuts that prompted layoffs. She met with administrators to make sure the contract was followed during the reduction-in-force process, and she personally assisted 30 members during a difficult time.
The Small Local Association Award (given to a local of 50 or fewer members) went to the Brentwood Teachers Association. Led by newly elected co-presidents Amy Wilson and Lisa Zack-Swasey, and negotiators Sheila Lane and Scott Fowler, this local is known for involving all its members in its activities. Membership has increased to 84 percent. Members used training from America Votes to implement a campaign for passage of their negotiated contract. When it was defeated, instead of voicing discouragement, they immediately focused on organizing for the next round of negotiations. During contract negotiations the Brentwood EA also became involved in the election of state senators and representatives. This small association hosted a meeting on legislative issues with Sen. Jack Barnes, inviting members from larger local associations in surrounding towns as well as local education leaders.
Vice President Megan Tuttle and Secretary-Treasurer Debra Hackett assisted President Wesolowski in presenting the NEA-NH awards. No award was given this year in the medium local (51-125 members) category.
The New Hampshire Education Staff Organization, the union representing the NEA-NH staff, presented its Guberman Award to Melissa Alexander of the Monadnock District Support Staff Association.
The NEA-NH Summer Learning and Leadership Conference was held at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester August 2-3. The conference offers an opportunity for members to learn new classroom skills and receive training in union representation. In the keynote address, Dr. Robert Brooks, a member of the Harvard Medical School faculty, described the mindset of educators who are effective in touching both the minds and hearts of students. He highlighted the lifelong impact that educators have on students, the assumptions and expectations that contribute to a more positive learning environment, the key components of intrinsic motivation, and specific strategies for nurturing motivation, learning, responsibility, self-discipline, and resilience in students.
The Jim Sweeney Presidents' Academy, an invitational event, offered training to new presidents of local associations. Workshops of varying length covered a wide variety of education and union topics such as A Taste of the Courage to Teach; Effects of Poverty on Children's Education; How'm I doing? Assessment and Grading Strategies; Engaging People in Our Cause; How to Enforce Your Collective Bargaining Agreement; Principles of Team Building; and Create Your Own Association Web Site.
NEA-New Hampshire, with 17,000 members, is the largest professional organization and the largest union in the state.
August 3, 2011
NEA-NH Executive Board member George Strout and Executive Director Arthur Pippo discuss "what it's like to be under attack" with with Jeff Santos on AM 1510.
July 19, 2011
House and Senate Pass State Budget
Today the House and Senate passed House Bills 1 and 2, which, taken together, form the state budget. By passing these bills the New Hampshire Legislature has given us a flawed budget.
A state budget is more than a balance sheet: columns of figures, dollars in and dollars out. A state budget is a blueprint for the future. It is a statement of our goals for our children as well as for ourselves. This budget does not offer a blueprint that we can be proud of.
What kind of future does our Legislature envision when it inserts in the budget at the last minute a ten-cent-a-pack reduction in the cigarette tax? That act alone eliminates over $16 million in revenue and removes a cost barrier that helps keep children from taking up smoking. Cutting smoking prevention is not only cruel, but will be costly in the end as more people need health care for smoking-related disease.
In House Bill 2, there are additional attacks on the interests of our children.
- This budget slashes funding for special education. If we do not appropriately support schools in providing special education, the entire school community will be affected.
- Cutting the Children in Need of Services Program puts our most vulnerable students at risk - students whom we deal with every day in our classrooms.
- Cuts to domestic violence and alcohol abuse programs also impact our students. Making the classroom the primary refuge for children victimized by violence and alcohol abuse affects the education of the individual child and impacts the whole classroom.
- The unprecedented cuts to higher education put college education out of reach for thousands of New Hampshire students from middle class working families, including teachers who instilled that goal in their own children at an early age.
This Legislature promised jobs and economic growth. The blueprint laid out in this budget does not support that promise. The damage it does will affect New Hampshire for decades to come.
June 22, 2011
Senate Bill 196 will not improve education
By Rhonda Wesolowski
On June 22, the New Hampshire Legislature passed Senate Bill 196, which will not, as intended, make it easier to remove non-performing teachers from the classroom. Instead, it creates a process that can subject even the best teachers in the state to unfair terminations.
Like all citizens, well-performing teachers do not want non-performing teachers in the classrooms of our schools. This is because of teachers' concern for their students' learning, as well as their own working conditions. When students are exposed to teachers who are non-performing, good teachers who have to teach these students later feel the negative effects. It makes it more difficult for them to educate these children because they have to spend time bringing them up to speed - time that could have been spent helping them excel. Despite what some believe, teachers do not support a long, drawn-out process that results in non-performing teachers remaining in the classroom.
How did this bill stray so far from its stated intent? One provision of the bill increases the probationary period for new teachers from three to five years. Supporters of this change say it is needed because some administrators just can't decide from time to time whether a teacher is worth retaining or letting go. During this probationary period new teachers can be terminated for no reason.
NEA-NH opposes this "wait and see" attitude. Three years (540 school days) is plenty of time for an administrator to evaluate the performance of a teacher and determine whether he or she should remain in the classroom or be counseled into another profession. If the law required administrators to give these struggling teachers resources such as mentoring to improve, an additional two years of support and evaluation might be a good idea. But that is not what this bill does.
Instead, SB 196 removes the obligation of administrators to notify a teacher that he or she is not meeting the district's performance standards. It also removes the opportunity for a non-performing teacher to improve performance to benefit students. Why would the Legislature do this? Instead of working with an educator to improve performance, administrators will spend their time gathering evidence against a teacher without the teacher's knowledge. Instead of having the opportunity to improve performance, a teacher's first notice of non-performance often will be a termination letter.
Finally, after being non-renewed, teachers will be told they have the right to appeal their nonrenewal to the local school board. But another change to current law states that the local school board will be the sole authority to determine the grounds for the nonrenewal. So a teacher could be non-renewed, present persuasive evidence at a school board hearing that the nonrenewal was unjustified, but then be fired for completely different reasons, because the school board can make any decision it wants.
While a House and Senate Conference Committee on SB 196 did add language that says school districts must develop a teacher evaluation policy, that requirement is already in New Hampshire Department of Education rules. It is an addition that makes no difference, and it contributes nothing toward improving the quality of education for our students.
If legislators believed that they were making it easier to remove non-performing teachers from the classroom by voting for this bill, they were misled. Instead, they voted to allow non-performing teachers in the classroom for two additional years. In reaching this result they also removed legal protections for excellent teachers, who can now be subjected to unfair terminations for reasons that have nothing to do with their teaching skills.
June 22, 2011
NEA-NH Executive Director Arthur Pippo discusses the New Hampshire Legislature with Jeff Santos on AM 1510.
June 14, 2011
Newly-returned House member Jennifer Daler joined us along with a number of her colleagues and Leader Norelli for a terrific end of session reception.
May 19, 2011
NEA-New Hampshire separates fact from fiction with "Just the Facts."
2010 - 2011 Legislative Session:
Legislature passes flawed budget (6-22-11)
Senate Bill 3 changes for Group I (NEA-NH members) updated (6-21-11)
Senate Bill 196 and an update (5-24-11)
House Bill 474 "Right to Work" (2-15-11)