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State of theUnion

November/December 2011

A tale of two schools White House proposes NCLB waiver plan


n the absence of congressional action on reauthorizing No Child Left Behind, the White House has announced that all states can apply to the U.S. Department of Education for waivers from some of the law's current requirements. While there are some positive elements in the White House proposal, AFT president Randi Weingarten says congressional reauthorization is still the appropriate avenue for fixing NCLB. Weingarten praised Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) for their efforts to move the process forward in Congress. "We share their frustration that reauthorization is long overdue," she says. "We understand why the Obama administration is taking this action; we are keenly aware of the calls from parents, teachers and administrators for change—sooner rather than later. Waivers are an imperfect answer to the stalemate in Congress and, at best, can provide only a temporary salve." "Some of what the administration proposes is promising, some is cause for concern, and there are missed opportunities that could Continued on Page 7

U.S. Reps DeLauro, Murphy visit West Haven, New Britain schools in need of repair


ongressma n Chr is Murphy (CT-5) was joined by AFT President Ra ndi Weinga r ten, a s t hey v i sited t he decrepit mobile classrooms at Cha mberla i n Pr i mary School in New Britain, on Oct. 21, both called on Congress to pass President Obama's job bill to help modernize Chamberlain and 35,000 other schools in desperate need of repairs. “The jobs bil l would provide funds to modernize Congressman Chris Murphy speaks in favor of American and repair 35,000 schools, Jobs Act. a nd prevent more t ha n 280,000 teacher layoffs,” consideration. said Murphy. The portable classroom modules at However, the U.S. Senate blocked Chamberlain were installed more than a vote on the bill, and the U.S. House 20 years ago to address a growing stuleadership has refused to consider it. dent population and accommodate the A truncated Senate version that would needs of school staff. have prov ided $35 billion to rehire "The 'portable classrooms' were teachers, cops and firefighters was desupposed to be temporary, but they've feated in a 50-50 vote on Oct. 20. The been there as long as I have," said DiFix Our Schools Today Act, along with anne Brylle, who has taught at Chamother parts of the Jobs Act, is still up for berlain Elementary for 27 years. "Now Continued on Page 5

New Haven community education forum turns out parents, teachers


Middletown locals host Board of Ed candidates forum


Backus management shortchanges patient care


Parents, teachers turn out for New Haven community education forum


ozens of New Haven parents, teachers and community leaders came together at the New Haven Federation of Teachers’ office to discuss community involvement in education. Ocynthia Williams from New York’s Coalition for Educational Justice (CEJ) and Leigh Dingerson from the Annenburg Institute on School Reform helped facilitate the discussion which included a viewing of the short film featuring Ms. Williams, called “Parent Power.” Also present for the forum were Aldermen Brenda Jones Barnes, Ward 13 and Jessica Holmes, Ward 9, State Representative Roland Lemar and Jason Hayes of LEAP. The discussion was lively and covered topics such as Parent/Teacher collaboration, the inclusion of disenfranchised voices in discussions on school reform and what a true partnership with administration might look like. A list of issues was created with the expectation that a working committee would lead the charge to organize around these issues.

The event was co-sponsored by the New Haven Federation of Teachers, Local 933, Teach Our Children and Youth UnleashED. This was the second of many cosponsored events with these parent and youth groups that AFT Connecticut intends to have in the future as part of their community engagement plan.

Join us for a special screening of “The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman” This movie was produced by the Grassroots Education Movement as a response to the documentary “Waiting for Superman.” The screening will be held December 8 at Wilbur Cross High School in New Haven.

Work that matters Joshua Blanchfield took his experience from the Connecticut Historical Society and put it into practice teaching social studies in Hartford. As a Hartford native and resident, Joshua makes a point of teaching Hartford’s history in the classroom. “Hartford has a rich history and our neighborhood schools are a big part of that,” says Joshua. “We’re recapturing the spirit of community in our schools and showing students how to build relationships that translate into our community.” Public employees like Joshua Blanchfield make a difference in students lives every day. We’re asking policy makers to provide the education funding necessary to keep Joshua, and other public employees, doing work that matters. Learn more about Joshua at

Sharon Palmer President STATE OF THE UNION is published on an irregular basis up to six times a year by AFT Connecticut, 35 Marshall Road, Rocky Hill, CT 06067. Phone: 860/257-9782 Third class postage paid at Hartford, CT

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Middletown locals host candidates forum Both locals hope to see an impact from the forum in the upcoming election. "I hope that the community continues to educate themselves and ask questions of the candidates," added McKeever. "As a result of this forum, I am optimistic that we will see immediate, positive change in Middletown."

Photo by Sandy Aldieri, Perceptions Photography


he Middletown Federation of Teachers and the Middletown Federation of Paraprofessionals hosted a local Board of Education candidates forum on Oct. 12. "We wanted to make the public more aware of the issues surrounding education and wanted to give them an opportunity to elect officials who would be best suited to handle those issues," said Steven McKeever, president of the Middletown Federation of Teachers. "We felt that hosting an event like this would also show the public that MFT is not a bunch of people worried about a paycheck, but rather as a collection of educators who are passionate about teaching and want to be involved in finding solutions to today's problems." The event was open to the public and had close to 200 people in the audience, some current BOE members, others from the Common Council, and the rest from the community. Questions were submitted prior to the event. "I felt the questions asked by the public really got to the center of many of the issues here in Middletown," said McKeever. "It showed the candidates that our community cares about what is happening and they are tired of current way of doing business."

Steven McKeever, president of Middletown Federation of Teachers introduces candidates for public office.

New Haven teacher panelist at teacher town hall


n September 25, 2011, NBC News brought together teachers from across the country for the secondannual nationally televised "Teacher Town Hall." Matt Presser, a 7th and 8th grade language arts teacher in New Haven, was selected as a panelist for the Town Hall when he won the Education Nation Teacher Essay Contest. Wrote Presser: “To everyone out there waiting for Superman to save education, some good news: I’ve found him. Wonder Woman too... Superman gets distracted sometimes, especially on Mondays, after a weekend during which he didn’t get his two free meals a day from school. Wonder Woman sometimes puts her head on the desk because she’s tired from taking care of her younger siblings while her mom

works a second job. They’re growing up in one of America’s toughest cities, where murders are so common they sometimes don’t make the front page of the newspaper. Despite this, they come to school. They dream.“

Backus nurses volunteer in Lisbon

Members of the Backus Federation of Nurses volunteered at the Lisbon Firefighters Public Safety Fair on October 15. Nurses Lisa Currier and Donna Grabowski handed out public safety info magnets. STATE OF THE UNION


FAST Act could provide up to $233 million for school modernization in Connecticut


ongresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro (CT-3) visited the West Haven High School Oct. 19 to discuss the Fix America’s Schools Today (FAST) Act, which would modernize America’s schools, improving the quality of education, helping schools to save money through energy efficiency upgrades, and creating jobs. Included by President Obama in the American Jobs Act, the FAST Act would invest $30 billion in American K-12 schools and community colleges. With so many school districts facing budget cuts, these funds would enable schools to ma ke needed renovations improving the learning environment for our kids and putting people to work on labor-intensive jobs. Experts estimate that for every billion dollars invested in school construction and building repair, up to 10,000 jobs could be created. $25 billion would be quickly distributed to K-12 schools around the country using formulas already in place, with 40 percent going to the top 100 neediest school districts, and 60 percent to be split equally among the states to be distributed to local education agencies through competitive grants. The remaining $5 billion would be made available to community colleges. Under this proposal, Connecticut would be eligible for $185 million in grants

for K-12 schools, and $38 million for community colleges. Totaling up to $223 million in funding for the state, Connecticut could see up to 2,400 local jobs created. Congresswoman DeLauro was joined by West Haven Mayor John Picard and West Haven Federation of Teachers President Patti Fusco. “Nothing is more important to our economy right now than creating jobs—and not just in Connecticut, but all across America. And construction jobs have been particularly hard hit recently. That is why I am glad to see the Fix American Schools Today Act included as part of the President’s American Jobs Act. It meets two critical needs – improving the infrastructure of our schools and putting Americans back to work,” sa id Cong resswoma n DeL au ro. “The FAST Act will help modernize

our schools and make sure all can provide kids with the educational setting they need to succeed—and I hope to see it work here in West Haven and across the country.” “The city of West Haven is excited about having Congresswoman DeLauro here and about the prospects of being able to renovate some of our schools,” said Mayor Picard. “A direct result of these renovations will be to help us save energy and create numerous jobs, and this is something that I support completely. "The FAST Act and the American Jobs Act are about reinvesting in our public education systems and restoring strength to our economy," said Patti Fusco, president of the West Haven Federation of Teachers. "Children everywhere deserve a quality education that includes up-to-date, modern schools."

Teachers' Pre-Retirement Seminar Join us for the teachers' pre-retirement seminar. November 19, 2011 9am-12pm Washington Middle School, Meriden, CT Retirement specialist Michael Cooper will help you make sure you're making the right choices and understand your retirement plan from A to Z. Call 860/257-9782 to register today. RSVP by November 15th. There is a $10 charge in advance. 4 STATE OF THE UNION

U.S. Rep Murphy visits New Britain school, continued the pipes have burst, and the classes have been moved into the main building. One of the classes now must use the library... therefore, the library is not available for the students until the piping in the portables are fixed." "These units are well past their expiration date. Giving kids a high-quality education also includes educating them in safe, healthy, decent learning conditions. The mobile classrooms we saw don't meet that standard," Weingarten said. U.S. Rep. Murphy was joined by New Britain Superintendent Ron Jakubowski, AFT Connecticut President Sharon Palmer, New Britain Federation of Teachers Vice President Sue Schmidt, and Connecticut State Building and Construction Trades Council President David Roche. "Public schools are suffering because of drastic budget cuts over the last three years. The American Jobs Act can do double duty by repairing schools like Chamberlain and putting Americans back to work," said Palmer. Weingarten said that the senators who have been voting against this legislation are out of touch with the 75 percent of Americans who support the act, according to a recent CNN/Gallup Poll. “The American Jobs Act will put more money in the pockets of working Americans, help small businesses expand and grow, and rebuild our nation’s infrastructure, including our public schools,” said Sue Schmidt, vice president of the New Britain Federation of Teachers.

Teacher Diane Bryll talks about the mobile classrooms at Chamberlain.

NBFT Vice Pres. Sue Schmidt calls on Congress to pass the FAST Act.

Paraprofessional and Para/Teacher Team Workshops AFT Connecticut is offering a series of upcoming workshops for Paraprofessionals or Para/Teacher Teams. Location: AFT Connecticut 2nd Floor 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Presenter: Iris White, Associate Education Consultant, Connecticut State Department of Education. January 24, 2012 Instructional Strategies – Part 1 February 7, 2012 Instructional Strategies – Part 2

April 24, 2012 Supporting Math Instruction TBD Teaching English Language Learners

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Weingarten visits A.I. Prince Technical High School

Photos by John Muldoon


FT President Randi Weingarten visited A.I. Prince Technical High School in Hartford on Sept. 1 as part of a coast-to-coast back-to-school tour of schools that are making a difference in the lives of students despite drastic education budget cuts and other challenges. "Times might be tough, but teachers will not let kids down, and A.I. Prince Technical High is an example of that," said Weingarten. "A.I. Prince is a school that prepares students well for life, work and college." A.I. Prince shapes classes around the economic needs of the community and funnels students directly into businesses. Students take a rigorous curriculum of academic classes as well as classes in specific technical fields ranging from automotive technology to culinary arts. Graduates receive both a high school diploma and certification in a trade. After the school visit, Weingarten met with parent leaders to explore ways that Connecticut's new School Governance Councils can strengthen parent involvement in education and improve teaching and learning. The AFT's "Making a Difference Every Day" backto-school tour includes pre-K to higher education stops

AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten listens to teachers and students at A.I. Prince Technical High School. from coast to coast, highlighting approaches that are sustainable, are scalable and will help all kids succeed even in these tough economic times.

Holding the State accountable over unilateral and unfair retirement offers


eaders of the unions in the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC) filed a State Prohibitive Practice (SPP) charge with the Connecticut Board of Labor Relations. At issue is the State's offer to certain employees the ability to retire with 25 years of service regardless of age. The State made that offer without notice to or bargaining with SEBAC -- and without making it available to the vast majority of the state's workforce. Employees taking the offer accepted a substantial reduction in their pensions in return for leaving state service below the age of 55. They were also required to sign agreements making their retirement irrevocable and waiving any rights to reemployment. Additionally, they had to make the decision with less than a week's -sometimes less than a day's -- notice. These conditions were unilaterally set by management. The offer was first made on or around August 15, just three days before the members of the unions in the coalition ratified the SEBAC 2011 agreement. While objecting to these offers -- and their conditions being unilaterally set by management -- Union leaders specifically challenged them as: (1) Unfair to employees who learned about them, because it forced those employees to make a critical life-changing decision without full information or the


opportunity to change their minds; and (2) Unfair to the vast majority of employees, who management never informed about the offer at all and thus were never given any opportunity to decide. Union leaders expressed willingness at the time to allow the process to proceed unchallenged on the condition that any such offer be made available to all eligible state employees. They also insisted that employees be given adequate time to consider the offer or be afforded the opportunity to rescind their retirements within 30 days. The Malloy Administration refused to modify any terms of their unilateral offer. Union leaders had no choice but to file the SPP and demand an immediate stop to the administration's violation of its obligation to bargain, and the unfair treatment of employees. We are confident that the State will be compelled to begin discussions over the matter and hope to reach agreement on a resolution that is acceptable to the members of our unions.

Backus Hospital management shortchanges patient care


he management of Backus Hospital dismissed all of the Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) the morning of Sept. 30. The nurses were informed that they would be paid until the end of the year. “We are stunned that management would do something that will negatively impact patient care,” said Sharon Palmer, president of AFT Connecticut, the union that represents the RNs at Backus Hospital. “It doesn’t make sense.” Ten LPNs work the four week schedule at the hospital. Eliminating the LPNs left the current month schedule with more than 180 empty shifts, or 15,000 patient care hours, with no plan to replace them. “We work side by side with these nurses every day,” said Carol Adams, an RN on E4. “Their experience is invaluable and we don’t understand how cutting nurses helps patient care when there is no economic savings.” “There is already a long wait time for nurses and now we will be even more short handed,” said Donna Callicutt, an RN on A3. “This is going to be a tough month for our hospital.” The patient load within the hospital is already very high, and reducing the number of nurses for an already strained workforce, highlights our concern about patient

White House proposes NCLB waiver, continued have enhanced both teaching and learning," Weingarten adds. "We are pleased that the administration's proposal includes more options prospectively for improving lowperforming schools, recognizing that many of the remedies prescribed in NCLB were not flexible enough. The proposal also acknowledges the importance of adopting higher college- and career-ready standards, which could include the Common Core State Standards, to prepare kids for a 21st-century knowledge economy.” "However, after all we've learned about how to construct and implement meaningful teacher evaluation and development systems since Race to the Top was announced two years ago, we're disappointed that the lessons learned are not evident in this package. Evaluation needs to be more teaching-focused, not more testing-focused. Successful school districts in the United States and in the top-performing nations understand that teacher evaluation systems should be based on continuous improvement and support, not on simply sorting, and it's a missed opportunity not to follow their lead."

safety. Management puts forth staffing guidelines to the state that don’t specify clear nurse-to-patients ratios. Numerous studies prove that a better staffing ratio saves lives. “The nurses we represent work with management to ensure that patient care comes first,” said Palmer. “If these LPNs had a union this wouldn’t have happened this way.”

EPI 201™ - Beyond the fundamentals: Enhancing practice using epidemiologic principles This intermediate level course will be held on December 5 – 8, 2011 at the Hartford/ Windsor Marriott in Windsor, Connecticut. EPI 201™ course designed for those who have worked in infection prevention and control for 6 to 18 months, as well as those who are ready to move to the next level of critical thinking regarding the best practice and outcomes of an infection prevention and control program. The course is FREE to 100 participants and does not require APIC membership! Please register for the conference on TrainConnecticut ( as soon as possible as seats will fill quickly. STATE OF THE UNION


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America needs jobs Sharon Palmer, AFT Connecticut President


onnecticut and our nation have been struggling Right now, people nationwide have set up Occupy under an economy that has been all too slow Wall Street protests. They are gathered in cities like to recover. Despite efforts at the federal level, Hartford, New Haven and more because they are angry states and municipalities have been forced to make and disappointed with the direction we are headed as devastating cuts, and, as we’ve seen time and again, a nation. They have seen firsthand the kinds of coreducation has taken the biggest hit. porate greed and political corruption that have mired For three years, we have watched and waited for our country in a weakened economy where the rich President Obama and Congress to take the steps neccontinue to get richer. essary to turn things around for America. President It is time for public officials to step up and do the Oba ma ha s ta ken job people elected that step with the ”It is time for public officials to step up and them to do. Here in American Jobs Act. do the job people elected them to do” Connecticut we are Included in this critfor t u nate to have ically important piece of legislation is the Fix America’s U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, as well as five conSchools Today Act. gresspeople, who support the American Jobs Act. I The American Jobs Act is about reinvesting in our especially want to thank Congresswoman DeLauro public education systems and restoring strength to who introduced the Fix America’s Schools Today Act. our economy. Children everywhere deserve a quality She truly understands that this is the kind of action education that includes up-to-date, modern schools. we need from Congress to put America back to work. Throughout the school districts represented by our The American Jobs Act will put more money in the union, students, teachers, staff and administration pockets of working Americans, help small businesses have had to learn to do more with less year-after-year. expand and grow, and rebuild our nation’s infrastrucIt’s time for that to stop. But clearly, there are many in ture, including our public schools. Congress who just don’t get it. Last month, Republicans in the Senate blocked the American Jobs Act. I understand first hand the power of words, and even more than that, the power of actions. By blocking this legislation, republican Senators have demonstrated to America that they do not believe jobs and education are a priority for our country. I believe they are wrong.


State of the Union Nov/Dec 2011  
State of the Union Nov/Dec 2011  

Newsletter of AFT Connecticut