Saturday, May 14, 2016

My response to Kerrie Dallman, CEA President, re: the union & the approval of Relay by CCHE

Yesterday morning I wrote a quick note on Facebook about Relay receiving approval as a "graduate" school which can now certify teachers in Colorado. I wrote on Facebook about the silence that has accompanied Relay's journey into Colorado and Relay's final approval one week ago, at the Colorado Commission of Higher Education - where Relay received  a unanimous vote of approval. Tim Slekar, also on the UOO board of directors, as am I, picked up my note and posted it on BustEDPencils for which I am grateful. Ms. Dallman responded in the comments and I'd like to respond to her here, after giving a quick thanks to some folks and a quick summary for those who are unfamiliar with the CCHE event.

First, I want to send out a big thanks to the people who did speak out against Relay at the CCHE meeting - members of the Cherry Creek Education Association and my dear friend and colleague, Amy Achtermann, board member of the Aurora Education Association. Amy and I have been to hell and back this year under the militant guidance of Relay (read Amy's speech here). Our principal attended the Relay Principal Academy all year long, and quite honestly, I no longer recognize our school or our principal. I wrote about it numerous times on my blog over the year.  The staff and students of Jewell Elementary have endured a difficult and honestly, mentally abusive year. Also -  a big thank you to the RAVE caucus for spreading the word about Relay at all of our community opt out meetings this year.

But let's back track a bit......

I planned to attend the CCHE meeting myself so I could share my concerns about Relay, and my local union president had already given me union business leave to go. The district attempted to thwart that visit to the CCHE by stating that my leave, and Amy Achtermann's leave, needed to be unpaid or personal leave. Clearly, my district, Aurora Public Schools, supports Relay. However, life happens, and I suddenly found myself in Missouri at my parents' house dealing with a family emergency. I am still in Missouri.  I wish I could have been at the CCHE meeting. I needed to be there. But again, life happens.

Please read my short note here on BustEDPencils re: the final unanimous approval of Relay.

Here is the first response by Kerrie Dallman (see photo of Ms. Dallman with Hillary Clinton) that can be found in the comments:

Peggy- your characterization that the Union remained silent is inaccurate. Both the CEA and local associations testified against the Relay Graduate School approval.

First, the only reason the local associations were there (as I shared above) is a result of the Cherry Creek Union president, Sheryl  Cunningham, submitting an NBI at the delegate assembly this spring in which she requested that members be educated about Relay Graduate School.  Sheryl and I have been in touch all year regarding Relay and I am so grateful to her for submitting the NBI.  Randall Peterson, CEA spokesperson, attended the CCHE meeting and spoke on behalf of CEA members.  I am grateful to Randall for representing us and I heard he did an excellent job. Thank you Randall!  I am grateful to the delegates for voting in support of this NBI. And yes, CEA followed through with the NBI. That is all wonderful. But I'm not inaccurate.

This is the deal.

It's not enough. And it's too late. It was simply a dog and pony show. An attempt to appear proactive.

The handling of Relay, by our state union, is a symptom of business model or "service" model unionism. There was no rank and file involved, minus the six  teachers who spoke (five from CCEA and one from AEA).  Those teachers were there because Sheryl Cunningham mobilized CCEA  and then asked my AEA president if Amy Achtermann and I could attend and speak.  If Sheryl had not mobilized her local and contacted my local, Randall would have been the only person present from our union. CEA sent out a memo April 27th to alert locals regarding the meeting at CCHE, but let's face facts - again, a little too late - a Wednesday, April 27th memo gives locals 6 working days to mobilize for a Friday, May 6th meeting.  

Mobilization should have occurred in the summer of 2015 when principals and educational leaders in Colorado were already attending the Relay National Principal Academy Fellowship and when Relay filed with the state. Sheryl planned to mobilize with or without the memo to be completely frank. CCEA and AEA were the only locals presence - and understandably so. We were two of the few locals who even knew about Relay previous to Sheryl's NBI. Every local should have know about Relay in August of 2015.

What's truly fascinating about all of this is that the state union has been monitoring this Relay "situation" all along. And ultimately, the union should have been educating the teachers and the parents about the perils of Relay - ALL ALONG.  The union should have informed the deans of the colleges of education in Colorado. The union should have visited the public schools inflicted by Relay to hear from the teachers. The union should have mobilized rank and file to attend every state board of education meeting and CCHE meeting during which Relay continued to get passed on through - we should have packed the house. The union should have mobilized and canvassed the neighborhoods of Relay Leadership Schools, such as Jewell Elementary where Amy and I teach.

To show up, at the end, the final vote, where it was crystal clear that CCHE already planned to support Relay, was quite honestly, a little too late. I did my research prior to the CCHE meeting, and I knew that CCHE was going to support Relay, just as the CO State Board of Education had done. I knew it was a lost cause, because this fight to take down Relay should have started a long time ago. Instead, there was silence.

CEA did nothing really. They whipped out a quick memo with a few national links to Relay info. and then sent out a representative to attend the meeting. I know what it looks like to mobilize rank and file. It requires planning and educating. There was no mobilization. Honestly, to explain Relay in a memo is laughable to those of us who have lived it. An April 27th memo to locals before a May 6th vote is really, well, pathetic. However, as I look at the entire situation I just see it as another symptom of business unionism.

Business, or service, unionism is ultimately destroying our state union. And Relay, now able to certify teachers in Colorado, will assist in dismantling CEA as the Relay teachers will have no need for a union  - they will work for a  couple of years , burn out, and head out. The colleges of education will find their enrollment declining even more - eventually they will be obsolete. The parents will wonder why their children are unhappy and why their child's education is no longer filled with engaging and joyful, authentic learning. Experienced teachers and principals will no longer be needed because they cost too much money and they actually have the memory of pedagogy and child development that must be erased if Relay and other teacher "academies" are to take hold and demolish the profession of teaching. Read my blog. See what happened to my school.  Relay won.

Ms. Dallman commented again on the Busted Pencils blog stating:
The Union sent information to all members. The union led testimony at the CHE. The union researched, informed, and helped members organize and testify.

Sure.  Ms. Dallman sent out an email on April 27th and the CCHE meeting was May 6th.  Got it. The union sent info, as they should have, after the delegate assembly this spring, all as a result of Sheryl Cunningham's NBI and as a result of delegate support. Got that too. Truly, the fact that it took this NBI to get this ball rolling is, again, A LITTLE TOO LATE. CEA is not stupid. They know Relay has been in the works for months. And what's even more fascinating about the April 27th memo is that it has no links to local information about Relay in Colorado's public schools - no mention of CO districts it has infiltrated - members won't have a clue where Relay has taken hold. Lynn Kalinauskas wrote about it in Denver here and here.  Mobilizing in one week to take down a fake graduate school that has been making slick and silent headway ALL YEAR LONG at public meetings via CCHE and the Colorado SBOE? Mobilizing in one week? Dog and pony show. Nothing more.  And believe me, I know all about dog and pony shows. Relay requires these, as will #teachstrong which our national unions support; Relay is a member of #teachstrong of course. Relay is the role model for charter chains who operate using militant, racist models of discipline and teaching designed to condition teachers and children to comply. It's ugly. Very very ugly. 

So, a CEA shout out against Relay at the final vote? Really?  After teachers and children have endured the wrath of Relay all year? Sorry, a little too late.

Business unionism is slimy politics. Let's hope this is a wakeup call for Colorado teachers to mobilize their locals and demand a new president and a social movement union model.  With ESSA in tow to create more teacher academies similar to Relay, as well as funneling millions to charters (who support these fake teachers), I can assure you, we have our work cut out for us. While the unions applaud ESSA,  ESSA will take down our profession and destroy our public schools. I read the whole damn thing. All 1061 pages. ESSA is slick and slimy politics - much like business unionism.

As it stands in Colorado, teachers, children, and parents will lose under this model of unionism. The passage of Relay is an unfortunate example of what lies ahead of us, unless, local unionism rises up.

Solidarity to the rank and file.

May the wind be at your back.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Amy Achtermann, Jewell Elementary School Teacher, Speaks in Opposition of Relay Graduate School

On May 6th, the Colorado Commission of Higher Education gathered to take a vote on the proposed certification of Relay Graduate School. Here is Amy's testimony in opposition to Relay:

My name is Amy Achtermann.  I am a 4th grade teacher at Jewell Elementary in Aurora, Colorado and I am speaking in opposition to Relay Graduate School of Education and my opposition to its damaging practices, programs, and philosophies regarding teacher training.

Disappointing, stressful, unhealthy, demeaning, unsuccessful, frustrating, and not appropriate for educating children.  These are all comments that were made by my coworkers when describing this past year.  I ask myself why a dedicated staff who gives their heart and soul to our Jewell Community would say the same things that I personally have been feeling throughout the year.  My answer is that our Principal was implementing the things that she learned in Relay Graduate School Principal Training that she has been attending since last summer. 

No more do we hear things like let’s do what is best for children or how can we make our teaching more engaging or how can we provide the services needed to help these students be successful.  Gone were the years we dedicated to inquiry and deeper thinking.  These were all replaced by thinking about test scores and drill and practice.  We lost weeks of instruction time this year to giving online tests so we could have lots of data.  Most of that data was never used to guide instruction because we needed to move on to another set of assessments.  You know there is a problem when you have to suspend reading groups and authentic teaching to teach to and give tests.  My students routinely are asking me when we can get back to learning about history or completing science projects.  I feel like I am committing educational malpractice.

I am also disheartened that my amazing coworkers are told continually that we can’t be successful educators, if we do not have the test scores to back up our teaching practices.  When you are constantly told that you are a failure it breaks you down and erodes your self-confidence.  Teachers can only maintain this level of unwarranted criticism for a short time before they either give up and choose a new profession or break down.  How can this help students?  How do we improve test scores when our teaching time is severely reduced and replaced by testing?

These are my concerns and why I feel so strongly that Relay is not a solution for struggling students.  My students are not just a test score or a set of data to collect.  They are human beings who have differing needs and abilities.  The educators I work with are also outstanding people who dedicate every day to building up children and creating responsible and productive members of society despite the harsh treatment they receive.  I know that I am just one person but I speak for many. 

Relay passed with a unanimous vote of support by the CCHE. The only people in attendance to speak out in opposition of Relay were Cherry Creek School District Association members, Amy Achtermann from Aurora Public Schools and Aurora Education Association Board Member; and Randall Peterson, spokeperson for CEA.

While the masses slept the Colorado Commission of Higher Education voted in a fake graduate program that will certify teachers. This so-called graduate program has a dean who appears to be all of 31 years old, based on the research I have done. She is a former TFA. She has two years teaching experience. She has a bachelor's in sociology and a M.S.T. from PACE where it appears you become a teacher by interacting with videos of robotic students who respond to you. 

I have no words for the devastation that just befell the children of Colorado and our teaching profession. As Relay teachers take hold, via a 2 yr. program tied to raising student test scores, hired at a cheaper salary than experienced teachers such as myself, anticipate the further destruction of any democratic thinking. There is no pedagogy here - there is simply a no-excuse model of discipline paired with non-educators whose harm to our community will be nothing short of educational malpractice. Many thanks to those who attended the CCHE meeting. My attendance and participation came to a complete halt due to a family emergency. 

Shame on the Colorado Commission of Higher Education, shame on the Aurora Public Schools, shame on the Colorado State Board of Education, shame on any other entity that would even entertain the idea of placing non-educators trained by non-educators in our public schools as so-called "certified" teachers. Shame on those who did not come forward to support teachers, such as myself and Amy, who have been speaking about the abuse and malpractice Relay has inflicted on our profession and our children ALL YEAR. Shame on all of you - and this vote - it is on your shoulders. 

Amy Achtermann, you have my greatest respect and gratitude for representing Jewell's teachers and children. Solidarity.