Posted by Pamela Wong
With all the negative press these days about the problems between public agencies and unions, I was encouraged to learn recently about what has been described as “the first-ever national summit between union leaders and administrators.”
Education Secretary Arne Duncan spoke at the event in Denver. He emphasized the importance of collaboration during these difficult economic times for school districts. “Progress more often requires tough-minded collaboration, rather than tough-minded confrontation,” he said.
The president of the National Education Association seemed to agree. “It’s about collaboration,” said Dennis Van Roekel, “about a belief that if you want to make changes for students, you need to find a way to talk to each other.”
Also giving presentations were some 12 school districts that have successfully carried out “school overhauls” that were agreed to by their teachers, administrators, and school board members.
One of those school districts was Montgomery County (Maryland) Public Schools (MCPS), a winner of the 2010 Baldrige Award. In an online article published recently on the Web site of the American Association of School Administrators, MCPS superintendent Jerry Weast gave some insight into the district’s partnership with its unions. “We have built a trusting, respectful relationship with our employee associations, and they are at the table as we are building our budgets and making difficult decisions,” he said.
Weast said that the unions are partners in the district’s teacher evaluation system, attend Executive Leadership Team meetings, and participate in helping him develop his initial budget recommendation. He pointed out that the unions have been involved in making tough cuts. They’ve voted to give up cost of living increases for the last three years, for example.
How about union partnerships in your school districts; do you have any examples of collaboration to share?