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Nashua Teachers Union (AFT) Sends Support To Colleagues In The Wake Of Hurricane Harvey

NASHUA, NH August 31, 2017 – By now, we have all seen the destruction and devastating flooding left by Hurricane Harvey in Texas. As we start another school year here in Nashua, it’s hard not to think about the students, teachers, and school personnel who can’t go to school right now.

“It’s just heart-breaking,” said Adam Marcoux, President of the Nashua Teachers’ Union. “It’s hard to comprehend such destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey and the impact it has had on the communities. Here we are enjoying nice weather, the start of another school year, and they’re all just trying to survive, wondering where they might sleep or eat.”

The Nashua Teachers’ Union Board of Directors met on August 30 for their first meeting of the year. On the agenda was Texas AFT and how they could help their colleagues in Texas. To that end, the Board of Directors unanimously approved donating $2,415.00 to the Texas AFT Disaster Relief Fund. The $2,415.00 is an odd number for a donation, but it has special meaning.

“Members of the Nashua Teachers’ Union have met and become friends with members of the Houston Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 2415, through the AFT Teacher Leaders Program,” Marcoux said. He added, “The devastating event takes on a new meaning when you know people personally impacted by the destruction.” The $2,415.00 is in honor of the friends and colleagues of the Houston Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 2415. “AFT and locals around the country are bonded by our commitment to our profession and to our organization. We’re always going to be here to support each other,” Marcoux said.

The Nashua Teachers’ Union is also planning a school supplies drive for later in the year to help get the students, teachers, and classrooms ready for learning. Marcoux added, “They aren’t at a point yet where they can put these supplies to use so we’ll wait until November or December to collect those basic things like crayons and glue and then send them down.”

All the proceeds collected by Texas AFT will go to direct relief to affected Texas AFT members.

For more information, or to make a donation to Texas AFT, please visit http://www.texasaft.org/help-educators-impacted-hurricane-harvey/.

Nashua Area Union Members Hold In-District Meeting With Legislators

NCC Legislative District Meeting 2-7cLast night members from the Nashua Teachers’ Union (AFT) and the State Employees’ Association (SEIU) hosted an in-district meeting with local Nashua legislators.

Around sixty union members that all work in the Nashua area came to speak directly with the legislators who represent different areas of the city. The legislators in attendance were Martin Jack, David Murotake, Jan Schmidt, Sylvia Gale, Daniel Hansbury, Susan Vale, Efstahia Booras, and Senator Bette Laskey.

The event was emceed by Deb Howes (NTU) a teacher from Nashua, and Magnus Pardoe (SEIU) from the Nashua Community College.

NCC Legislative District Meeting 2-7b“It is great to see so many people here and engaged in the legislative process. We need to keep an open line of communication with our legislators” said Deb Howes in her opening remarks.

The overall tone of the event was much calmer than a similar event held last year. With Right To Work (for less) already voted down by the Labor Committee, the teachers were still very interested in hearing what the legislators had to say on SB 37 (a bill to restrict collective bargaining rights) and HB 142 (a bill surrounding teacher evaluations). Deb Howes wanted legislators to understand that these bills would have significate impacts on the teacher evaluations in the Nashua School District.

Deb Howes said “We have worked very hard to have a say in how teacher evaluations are conducted in Nashua”

Overall all of the legislators in attendance were against SB 37 and HB 142, including David Murotake who was the only Republican to attend the event. Murotake is also a member of the Nashua School Board and does not like HB 142 for the potential impact on teacher evaluations. Murotake said “The Nashua Teacher Union’s involvement in teacher evaluations have really helped Nashua move ahead.”

NCC Legislative District Meeting 2-7aOne of the teachers in attendance wanted to make it very clear that the Department of Education officials are not ‘content experts’, they are more politicians. She said she would welcome anyone with real and practical experience into her classroom to provide feedback, however this bill does not provide for that.

The SEIU Members at the meeting also wanted to bring awareness to a couple of bills they are working on as well. The first is HB 445, a bill to allow all public entities to join in the state’s healthcare plans.

Magnus Pardoe, who is also the President of the Nashua Community College (NCC) chapter of the SEA/SEIU said, “this is a bill to help all public workers in NH. It would open up options for cities, towns and all municipal employees to have a choice in their healthcare options.”

Diana Lacey, President of the State Employees’ Association reminded the legislators that right here at the NCC, full time employees are being replaced with part time employees who have no benefit options. Lacey stated, “80% of the community college instructors are part time with no benefits.” This is a sad trend in many of the state agencies.

The other bill that sparked conversation was HB 591, a bill about ‘bullying’ of public employees. Currently there is no place for workers to report abusive behavior by their supervisors. This bill could be similar to those provided in the federal whistleblowers protections act.

As a former state employee, Rep Sylvia Gale is very much in favor of this bill. She is even a co-sponsor of the bill in the House.

Senator Laskey admitted she was unfamiliar this specific house legislation. She said this is why we need to have more events like this to ensure that legislators know what bills are really important to the people she represents. She encouraged everyone to take the time are reach out to your legislators and tell them how you feel on these bills.

Everyone was deeply interested in the soon to be released budget by Governor Hassan. All of the legislators were in favor of restoring the cuts made to education and especially the university programs.

Rep Gale was completely sincere when she said that the previous legislature “raped” our state budget with their draconian cuts. She said, “there are many people who were hurt by the last budget.”

Everyone agreed that the community college system is a great way for people gain the real world knowledge and experience to find work at a livable wage. Not everyone can afford or even want to attend a major four year university. The community college system is perfect for those people.

Senator Laskey said “NH has always been a frugal state, spend has never been our problem.”

This prompted some discussion on the current tax structure, however the conversation quickly ended when the crowd was reminded that Governor Hassan has already stated she would veto any broad base tax.

Overall the night was a success for the memberships and the legislators. Both gain an awareness and insight into what the people want, and what the legislative process truly entails.

Nashua Teachers Union and Nashua School District Show That Working Together, Works Better

This year, the Nashua School District is one of 61 finalists for federal funding under President Obama’s ‘Race to the Top’ program.  The program promotes “Innovation, Reform, and Excellence in America’s Public Schools.”

“America will not succeed in the 21st century unless we do a far better job of educating our sons and daughters… And the race starts today.  I am issuing a challenge to our nation’s governors and school boards, principals and teachers, businesses and non-profits, parents and students: if you set and enforce rigorous and challenging standards and assessments; if you put outstanding teachers at the front of the classroom; if you turn around failing schools – your state can win a Race to the Top grant that will not only help students outcompete workers around the world, but let them fulfill their God-given potential.”
– President Barack Obama July 24, 2009

When this year’s grant program was announced, about 900 school districts from around the country planned to apply.  How did Nashua end up as a finalist?  Support from the Nashua Teachers’ Union made all the difference.

Read about it in yesterday’s Nashua Telegraph.

NTU President Robert Sherman
Speaking at the Solid As Granite Rally (5/12)

Nashua Superintendent Mark Conrad said union support was more than just a requirement – it’s a necessity to make transformative change.

“I think the intent of the grant, and the direction that we want to go … we really need to have a partnership of all of the important stakeholders in the process,” he said. “Just like we can’t move forward with school reform without the Board of Education’s support, we have to work in partnership with the local union if we’re going to be able to focus on change.”

Working Together For Change

The ‘Race to the Top’ program is more than money: the program is a way to ensure collaboration between school districts and unions.   This year’s grant application process has been very beneficial for both sides.  As Conrad told the Nashua Telegraph:

“Even if the district does not receive Race to the Top funding, the application process has been a powerful planning exercise, and helped strengthen the relationship between the district and the union.

For Nashua schools, this new partnership is also a chance for the administrators and the union to work together to revamp teacher evaluations – one of the toughest issues in  public education in the last few years.

Financial Impact

I want to emphasize that if the Nashua School District wins the $26.9 million grant, the money it is not going to teachers’ pay.  Instead, the money will be used for initiatives such as technology updates, stipends, peer coaching positions, training sessions and other types of professional development for teachers – things that will to improve education, without creating unsustainable costs.

I am hopeful for the City of Nashua, the administrators of the Nashua School District, and the dedicated members of the Nashua Teachers Union – and particularly, I am hopeful for all of Nashua’s schoolchildren.

This collaboration between the union and the School District is very exciting.  Collaboration is the key to providing the best possible education – and futures – for our children.

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