President's perspective

Challenges we’ll face in the school year ahead

Welcome back from what I hope was a restful and enjoyable summer break!

After more than a decade of the Bloomberg administration and its anti-teacher policies, this is the last year that we will begin school under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. In just four months, the Bloomberg years will be a part of the past. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have many challenges ahead of us in the year to come.

With so little time left at City Hall, the mayor is pushing his failed policies more aggressively than ever and is trying to extend his control over our city’s school system into the next term. Fights over school closings, co-locations and other issues will continue until the new mayor is seated, and we will need to stick together as we weather this last assault on our schools and our profession.

We know that implementation of the new teacher evaluation system under this administration will be a mess. Mayor Bloomberg and the Department of Education believe that teacher evaluation is about going after and punishing teachers, and they intend to try to use the new evaluation system to do just that. But we won’t let them. In order for our school system to move forward, we have to make teacher evaluation about supporting the work we do in the classroom every day, not a gotcha system — and we will work with the new administration to see that it does just that.

You should by now have received our quick-start guide to the new system [see pages 6 and 7], which I hope will help you get off to a good start with the system despite the obstacles we know the mayor and the DOE will throw in your way. It includes all of the information you need at this point. We will keep you informed throughout the year.

We’ll also be faced this year with rebuilding and restructuring our school system under the next administration so that it works for our students and schools and not for the mayor and his friends. That means reforming school governance to give parents a meaningful voice in the decisions that affect their children, bringing the community back into the schools at the grassroots level and improving our own working conditions so that we can provide our students with the best possible education.

The end of the Bloomberg era makes all of this possible: It offers us the chance to get our school system back on track in a positive direction, and we will seize it. Indeed, we’re already hard at work laying the foundations of a post-Bloomberg school system, working to develop community schools and encouraging teachers to share resources through Share My Lesson (www.sharemylesson.com).

Our community schools project continues to grow and move forward, improving our students’ lives and their educational outcomes. Why community schools? Because what happens outside the classroom has just as great an impact on our children’s learning as what happens inside it. Poverty matters. We can’t solve all of the social and economic problems our students face, but we must do what we can to support them and their families.

Finally, we now have the chance to elect a new mayor. Bill Thompson is our candidate, and he will be a genuine partner and work with us to make our school system the best it can be.

We endorsed Thompson, a former city comptroller and past head of the old Board of Education, at our Delegate Assembly in June because when it comes to education he is the best candidate in this race. He is the person with whom we want to rebuild our school system.

That’s why we have been working all summer long to support him, and I want to thank the thousands of volunteers who have contributed their time and energy to our campaign. When you receive this newspaper, we’ll be in the last week before the primary on Sept. 10. We need to do everything we can to get out our vote and see that our voice matters — and that means not only making sure you vote, but making sure your family votes, your neighbors vote and everybody else you know votes.

As I’ve said, we will be confronted with many challenges in the year ahead, but united we will face and overcome them. And despite these challenges, the 2013-2014 school year will be a good one because Michael Bloomberg will leave office during it.

We have stayed strong over the years by always helping each other. In that spirit, I am asking you all to support your new colleagues. As we all know, that first year of teaching can be tough, and they will need your help and advice. Your support can turn a potentially discouraging first year into a great one.

And new teachers: Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Your colleagues, chapter leader and all of us here at the union are there for you. All you need to do is reach out. We’ve all been there.

There is no more important work than teaching and guiding our youth. You hold their futures in your hands. Each of you is changing lives every day that you set foot in the classroom. That’s why we entered this profession — to help children.

I wish you all a great school year and thank you for all that you do for our union, our students and our schools.

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