Officials to new Hillsborough teachers: Join the union
Hillsborough school district officials gave a lot of good advice to the new teachers who gathered Wednesday morning at Strawberry Crest High School. Never stop learning. Always leave your door open when you meet with a student. Don't Facebook with your students.
And, as much as anything: Join the Classroom Teachers Association.
In a program that lasted a little over an hour, the union was mentioned at 9:16 a.m. (by training and staff development director Jamalya Jackson), at 9:29 (by superintendent MaryEllen Elia), again at 9:34 (also by Elia, who introduced union president Jean Clements), at 9:50 (by school board member Carol Kurdell), and at 9:53 (by deputy superintendent for human resources Dan Valdez).
At 9:56 Clements took the podium and spoke for 12 minutes about the many benefits of joining, and of the unusually cordial, yet effective relationship the union enjoys with the administration.
"Your voice through our union is strong," Clements said. "It's credible. It is focused on solutions and listened to.
"Your working environment is our kids' environment and we care deeply about that environment... In these challeging times, we all need our union more than ever."
And, she added, the law does not allow the union to represent you if you are not a member.
A short video followed.
It is, Elia acknowledged, the kind of relationship you might not see in, say, New York. Clements has long contended that, by cultivating a relationship of mutual respect, she gets more concessions from the administration than she would if she spoke with them only during collective bargaining sessions. Certainly, district officials have said in the past, they would not have been a contender for the Gates-funded Empowering Effective Teachers program if they had not shown they could collaborate on the project.
But Clements wasn't just trying to sign teachers up for their own good.
Membership generally hovers between 52 and 54 percent. Sometimes, for brief periods after people retire and temporary teachers are taken off the payroll, it dips below 50. Current state law does not require a 50 percent membership, she said. But that could change, making the numbers an important cushion.