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VEA Members Mobilize for Action at Reggie Smith Organizing School


“Tell your story—it’s powerful and it’s the truth,” VEA President Meg Gruber urged Association members as she wrapped up the 2014 Reggie Smith Organizing School (RSOS). “No one can take the truth away from you. Be proud of who you are and what you do.”

Gruber also asked attendees to put what they’d learned during the three-day training into practice when they returned to their schools and communities. “Use your skills to engage members and not-yet members,” she said. “We need to be strong advocates for public education and we must speak with a unified and persistent voice.”

RSOS participants do indeed now have new skills in their portfolios. They were able to choose among several strands to focus on during the School, which was held at the University of Richmond: political action, organizing, compensation, and teacher evaluation.

     • In political action, members learned the ins and outs of campaigns and heard from several guest speakers, including Delegates Jackson Miller and Ken Plum.

     • In organizing, participants practiced creating and thinking through collective action strategies for local Associations.

     • In compensation, members focused on how the process of school finance works and some ways they might influence it.

     • In teacher evaluation, participants learned how the evaluation process has changed, ways it might be used effectively, and how local Associations might play a role.

Bob Peterson, president of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association and founding editor of Rethinking Schools, an education reform journal, opened RSOS with a keynote address emphasizing social justice in education.

He told VEA members, “We must exercise civic courage” to defend both public education and democracy, and that education associations must adapt to a changing environment by transforming from a staff-driven, service model to a member-driven, organizing one.

"We must develop strong ties with our communities," he said. "Public education is under attack, and we can't just be against things."

He drew his loudest applause when he bristled as he described all the "data"-related meetings he must attend as a teacher in Milwaukee, declaring, "We are child-driven and data-informed. We are not data-driven. We don't deliver curriculum, we inspire children."

 


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