Past Positions and Experience with the NEA, MTA and Cambridge Teachers Association
Cambridge Teachers Association (CTA)
Prior to becoming CTA president, I held the offices of vice president, secretary, and building representative. In addition, I was always an elected delegate to the MTA Annual Meeting of Delegates and the Representative Assembly of the NEA.
In 2001, I was elected president of the CTA, a position I held for five years. I represented 1,100 teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals, clerks, and substitutes. The CTA is one of MTA’s largest urban local associations. I ran for president because I felt my local association was failing its members and the children of the city. The local relationships had deteriorated to the point that there were over 170 outstanding grievances, some as old as 10 years. Prior contract negotiations had lasted more than a year and were contentious, and the CTA was not engaging the vast majority of members, only a small group of insiders.
Upon being elected, I immediately set to work with my leadership team to restore CTA credibility among our members and the Cambridge community at large. We had to start from scratch. I visited our 16 schools regularly and had one-on-one conversations with key members and the administration in each building. We recruited new Board members and filled vacancies where there had been no representation for years. We filled committees that had been dormant and scheduled regular meetings. We also “charted” or identified our leaders in each building. We established stronger and more meaningful communications with our members about the work of the Association.
Our first major goal was to resolve favorably those grievances that were legitimate and to sunset those that were not. Once we accomplished this, we created a functioning grievance process. It is still working today even after two changes in local leadership. During my five years as president, I successfully chaired and negotiated 12 multi-year collective bargaining agreements for the five units in the district. Contracts were negotiated and ratified prior to the expiration of the existing collective bargaining agreements.
As president, I instituted a leadership retreat with 40 Board members and reflected on who we were as an association and developed a new mission statement and set goals for how we wanted to move forward. We wanted to be a strong advocate for our members on issues of pay and working conditions, but we also wanted to work with the administration to improve labor-management relations, to focus on professional issues and to improve student achievement. With this in mind, we engaged more members by holding forums on professional topics such as closing achievement gaps and how to recruit and retain a more diverse educator workforce. These forums were better attended than any meetings the CTA had ever held. We reached out to business and community groups to build better relationships to support our students, members and the district. We worked with our members and the administration to develop an alternative high school program, a public Montessori School, two expanded learning time schools and a new educator evaluation system. We introduced Instructional Rounds into the professional culture and redesigned the high school schedule. At the end of my five-year presidency, CTA had no outstanding grievances, it had a strong labor management relationship and it had become a respected partner in the community.
Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA)
In 2003, I was elected to the MTA Board of Directors. In 2006, I was elected MTA Vice President and, since July 2010, I have been MTA President.
The MTA has a large and diverse membership of over 110,000 educators. From the beginning of my educational career, I have been dedicated to working on behalf of students at all levels and to representing the interests of teachers, education support professionals, retirees and higher education faculty and staff. As MTA President and Vice President, I oversee a $40 million budget and 160 full-time and 60 part-time employees. I chair all Executive Committee meetings (11 members), Board meetings (70 members) and Annual Meeting of Delegates (1,200 delegates). I also chair or have chaired additional committees and task forces within MTA: Strategic Action Committee, Advisory Budget Committee, the Public Relations and Organizing Committee and the Leadership Training and Development Committee.
In 2009, the Strategic Action Plan (SAP) Committee completed its work and provided the Association with an action plan that emphasized increasing member engagement, reclaiming our role as the voice of the profession and increasing political activism. Since implementing the plan, we have reorganized our staff and prioritized our budget based on the SAP. During the past seven years, we have been much more proactive in leading change and partnering with other stakeholders to ensure that members and the MTA are involved in decisions concerning education policy, employee benefits and collective bargaining rights. A few of our accomplishments:
- We have been the leaders of the discussion and development of our new teacher evaluation framework.
- We have created a Grassroots Organizing Division in order to increase our involvement and visibility in political and ballot campaigns.
- We have begun partnering with other organizations such as Jobs with Justice and NAACP to reach out to and engage ethnic minority leaders and families in our communities.
- We have created a separate Professional Training and Learning Division to provide our staff and members with greater access to internal and external training opportunities in both traditional union programs and in professional subject areas.
- We have partnered with Teach Plus and UMass Boston to deliver training in developing lessons aligned with the common core state standards and hosting “unconferences” or “edcamps” that have engaged many of our members who have not been involved with the MTA.
Because of these actions, MTA has been recognized by many external organizations as the go-to partner organization regarding elevating the profession and promoting rational education policies. MTA has:
- Used its relationships to help guide reasonable reforms in health insurance and pensions.
- Been credited with playing an essential role in electing pro-public education and public employee candidates like Governor Deval Patrick and a congressional delegation that includes Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey.
- Used its Public Relations and Organizing funds in a much more strategic manner to build support for the MTA among members and the public at large.
- Defeated multiple ballot initiatives, with the assistance of NEA and other partners, which would have devastated our members’ rights and defunded public education and other vital services.
Externally and on behalf of MTA, I have been a member of:
- Mass Partners for Public Schools, a coalition of organizations representing superintendents, principals, teachers’ unions, and parents. I served as its chair from 2010 to 2011.
- The Teacher Union Reform Network, a national group that has sought to develop and share teacher-led school improvement practices at the local level.
- The Massachusetts 2020 Expanded Learning Time Advisory Board.
- The Massachusetts Board of Higher Education, which is the legal employer and overseer of our public state universities and community colleges.
- The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Digital Learning Advisory Council.
- The Education Commission for the States, appointed by Governor Patrick
- The Democratic State Committee (DSC) as an elected labor delegate.
- The DSC Executive Committee.
- Several Board of Elementary and Secondary Education’s task forces: Educator Evaluation Task Force, Task Force on 21st Century Skills, and Task Force on Closing the Proficiency Gap.
- Governor Deval Patrick’s Readiness Project, which developed 54 actionable recommendations for improving public education preschool through higher education.
- The Massachusetts Group Insurance Commission, which oversees and provides health insurance for all state employees, including all our full-time higher education members and many municipalities.
MTA has always been a leader in our state labor coalitions, and in 2012 the MTA entered into the NEA/AFL-CIO partnership by paying for 10,000 MTA/NEA members from our large urban locals to be members of the AFL-CIO. Due to this partnership, I serve as a state vice president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO.
National Education Association (NEA)
While serving as vice president and president of the MTA, I have become more involved with NEA through participation on various commissions and taskforces, and more particularly, through the National Council of State Education Associations (NCSEA).
I am currently the president of NCSEA and serve on the Great Public Schools Oversight Committee, Governance Review Committee, PAC Council Advisory Committee, G27, Ballot Measure/Legislative Crises Oversight Committee, Leadership Summit Planning Committee, Summer Leaders Planning Committee and the NEA Conference Alignment Team.
I served as co-chair of the K-12 Online Learning Workgroup, which developed NEA’s new policy on Distance and Online Learning that was passed at the 2013 NEA-RA. I also served on the Joint Committee on Leading the Profession, which helped develop a new policy statement on teacher evaluation systems and made further recommendations to the NEA Executive Committee and Board on how to play a more proactive role in leading the profession. Finally, I served on the NEA Uniserve Core Competencies Task Force, which provided recommendations to the NEA Executive Committee regarding updating and improving training for uniserve staff. I have helped plan two NCSEA Leadership meetings and two NEA Summer Leadership conferences.