by Mike Myslinski
George Sheridan (as John Swett), Dean Vogel
“This is our time!” declared President Dean E. Vogel at the October State Council meeting, setting the tone for celebrating CTA’s 150 years of advocacy and seizing the opportunity to help transform student learning and California’s future.
He stressed the “tremendous opportunity” for educators to engage their local communities offered by the state’s new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), designed to help students of greatest need succeed, and by the Common Core State Standards rolling out in classrooms. Local school district conversations and collective bargaining sessions are deciding how to spend additional LCFF money.
“The LCFF gives us an opportunity to be right in the middle of that conversation to engage parents and to serve our communities,” Vogel said. “The Common Core State Standards are refocusing what is happening in schools.”
The new standards “allow critical thinking skills to once again be part of our students’ educational foundation — and we decide how to best teach that, not some district-level administrator who hasn’t been in a classroom for 15 years, and certainly not some bureaucrat from Washington, D.C.”
Vogel noted that the governor recently signed CTA-backed AB 484 to overhaul the state’s student assessment system and suspend most standardized testing while the new standards are being put in place. He said this law “means educators and school districts have time to concentrate on implementing the standards without a hammer coming down on their heads.”
Nuñez outlines goals
In his first State Council speech as CTA’s new executive director, Joe Nuñez introduced himself as the union’s “organizer in chief” and talked about wanting to be the kind of organizer that Fred Ross Sr. — a mentor to César Chávez — aspired to be.
He quoted Ross: “A good organizer is a social arsonist who goes around setting people on fire.”
Nuñez outlined several goals that will better help CTA serve its members: creating a working culture of collaboration among departments, building an organizing culture, implementing the LCFF and Common Core, supporting charter school organizing, and putting into place the union’s new Strategic Plan once Council adopts it.
While other states are still in the dark about Common Core, he noted, CTA has held numerous trainings and developed “Common Core Spirals” to help teachers better understand how the standards are related across grade levels. Other resources and toolkits are available online for easy access (see www.cta.org/commoncore).
Gov. Brown keynotes gala dinner
A highlight of the weekend was the CTA 150th anniversary gala dinner, featuring a keynote speech by Gov. Jerry Brown and a multimedia presentation about CTA’s history. Five past CTA presidents — Marilyn Russell Bittle, Ed Foglia, Wayne Johnson, Barbara E. Kerr and David A. Sanchez — joined Vogel to narrate the presentation, along with Secretary-Treasurer Mikki Cichocki-Semo, current and former Executive Directors Joe Nuñez and Carolyn Doggett, and NEA Secretary-Treasurer Becky Pringle.
After the CTA history presentation, Gov. Brown took the stage and quipped, “I feel right at home with all those historical artifacts.” He saluted CTA’s contributions to the teaching profession and the labor movement. “We stand on the shoulders of a lot of people, that’s the whole message today.”
Visit www.cta.org/ctahistory to view and listen to some of the items on display at the gala, including an interactive collage, a new and growing oral history archive featuring interviews with CTA leaders, and a commemorative publication about CTA’s history.
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