Monthly Archives: May 2011

Summer travels

For a number of years, back into childhood really, I’ve traveled in the summer months to various locations.  As I’ve grown older, that has meant varied locations, further distances from home, and doing a lot of driving on my own or with friends.

Several months ago a long time friend proposed a trip connected to our early summer job grading Advanced Placement US History exams in Louisville, KY.  “Let’s drive,” he suggested, “And if we do, we must go to the Altoona Curve.  No, not that one – this one.  I hemmed and hawed, didn’t fill out my paperwork in time for the grading, finally got it done and here we are having completed phase one of this trip.  We’re resting up just outside of Wheeling, WV and I’m reflecting on yet another roadtrip.

The first trips I remember, I actually don’t remember.  It’s one of those classic examples of misremembered personal history when you’re show pictures of an event enough times and it is described to you so you begin to believe you have a memory of the event itself.  It’s not unlike the concept featured in last year’s film, Inception.  At any rate, one of these first trips was to Canada.  There’s pictures of me in the backseat of a 1970 Plymouth Valiant and apparently I have just painted the driver side passenger window with an ice cream cone.  Ok – I was about one at the time and while my memory is good, it’s not that good.  So maybe we won’t count that fully as a roadtrip memory because most of it was ‘implanted’ later in life.  But – perhaps the experience was an important one as it led to more trips (sometimes called mystery rides in my family) to all kinds of locations including Tanglewood, Mt. Desert Island, Bennington Museum, Fenway Park, grandma and grandpa’s house, etc.

Once I was driving on my own, the trips were usually connected to concerts or sometimes random wanderings up and down streets of summer beach communities with no particular purpose in mind.  We didn’t think much about things like the price of gasoline (generally .87 to .99 a gallon near where I was in school) and we certainly didn’t consider the amount of time/energy used in keeping the cars in working order.  Occasionally, these trips would morph into something bordering on legendary and sometimes it was my car, not me, that was directly involved – see, for example, a trip to Freeport, ME involving a large number of my choir friends, the Maine state police, L.L. Bean’s and a beach in York I believe.

One of my favorite road trips was one that never occurred.  A plan was hatched to travel to Graceland in the spring of 1990.  The only problem was a lack of a car but we believed we had solved that problem by finding a car rental agency that was ok with renting to someone below 25 provided that the car stayed in New England.  That’s a problem because – well, as most of you recall, Graceland is in Memphis.  So we decided we could cover this problem by claiming that we drove to Caribou, ME and back twice during the rental period.  Hmmm…

Then there were some fantastic trips to Canada that I do remember, several long range drives either across the country or across vast portions of the country, and a long move of my entire family and dogs from California to North Dakota to Massachusetts – but I digress and these memories will have to be raised at another time.

Today, my friend and I began the drive to Louisville and as promised visited the famed horseshoe curve at Altoona.  Along the way, we stopped in Scranton and enjoyed some Ocean Water at Sonic.  The curve was designed to help the Pennsylvania Rail Road get trains over the mountains on their way from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh.  Getting to the base of this engineering marvel that opened in the 1850s, is not too far out of the way when traveling to Louisville via car.  Otherwise?  It’s kind of out of the way – though we did see State College prior to arriving.  The football stadium there rises out of the hills and farmland like an Imperial destroyer.

At any rate, the curve is an interesting stop – in the future, I’d definitely check a train schedule to see when an actual train is headed through the curve which causes the vehicle to look like it is looping back on itself.  I should note that the preceding video was taken some time ago – as my friend pointed out, the trees have grown up so high around the curve that it’s hard to see the right of way.  But still, standing at the top of the viewing area, watching a repair truck go around the tracks and looking back over the reservoirs, it was fascinating to think about the imagination that led someone to think about building tracks to hug mountains and fight elevation in a different manner.

This road trip is not over yet and we’ve found out you can buy all sorts of stuff at places called Sheetz and that Hoss’s Steak and Sea in Wheeling isn’t open on a Tuesday after 9:00.  We’ve missed out on Chik-Fil-A thus far which is a disappointment, but we’re hoping to rectify that situation on day two.

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Recently, on an Early American Studies listserv, there was an expression of concern over the creation of a new cartoon series backed by Michael Huckabee called “Learn our History.”  Not unlike “America, The Story of Us” or projects completed and underway from the American Film Company , “Learn our History” is an attempt to create programs that will excite people about the history of the United States through telling the ‘true’ tale.

Now that’s always the rub isn’t it?  The ‘true’ tale.  One of the chief aspects of teaching, learning, and understanding history is that ‘truth’ is a questionable point.  I would urge anyone interested in the question of ‘truth’ in history to read John Arnold’s History: A Very Short Introduction to better understand the slippery nature of such a quest.  The entire book is fantastic and addresses the work of historians and how history is examined, but the last chapter on Sojourner Truth is of particular interest to, you guessed it, the issue of ‘truth.’

In terms of how to deal with concerns over the production of visual media about historical issues, I would suggest that the best way to combat these types of issues is to get involved with the creative process.  Reach out to producers of “Learn Our History” or The American Film Company (recently produced “The Conspirator”).  By becoming involved in the making of these films and series, historians can make more of an impact on the finished product.  Similarly, professional historians should become involved in their local area school boards and statewide departments of education.  For too long, whether in Hollywood or in education, people who are experts in their disciplines have sat on the sidelines and not engaged with what’s being produced except in a reactive manner.  Now, clearly, your suggestions might fall on deaf ears, but I think it’s worth a try.  Failing at that effort, the creation of a company to produce rich historical works that are accurate and truly unbiased, would be in order.  As an aside, I’m fairly certain that America’s youth don’t share an excitement for our nation’s past for an entirely different reason than the one suggested by Mr. Huckabee.  As a secondary education coordinator in Western Massachusetts I’m out in public schools with some degree of frequency.  Unfortunately, I see a lack of excitement borne out of lessons that are not innovative and that do not make connections with students’ interests – not because teachers are, as Huckabee suggests, “focusing on America’s faults.”

One of my recent students has said it best – “Frequently, when asked why American history is important, teachers respond that it is our legacy and we need to know where we have come from. However, teaching solely about the elites in history is hardly representative of the students in our classrooms today and doesn’t actually provide students with a history they can call their own. By addressing these issues in history from the lens of the oppressed, we are empowering students and enabling them to recognize the history they learn in their classrooms as “our history.” This is invaluable to students who have struggled to personalize history and the lessons it can offer them.”  My thanks to William – I couldn’t have said it any more clearly.

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MSCA Annual Delegate Meeting

Every year, the Mass. State College Association has a series of meetings of chapter presidents, statewide leadership and delegates. In the spring, a more open meeting of delegates from all of the state universities occurs. This year’s meeting was held on April 30 at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Buzzard’s Bay. I came in a bit late due to some issues with my vehicle, but caught the tail end of our welcome and introduction to the campus from Rear Admiral Richard Gurnon, USMS, president of the academy.  President/Admiral Gurnon discussed the work of the MMA as well as the facilities.  Students at the academy all end up with 6 months of practical work experience by the time of graduation.  Westfield State Chapter vice president Buzz Hoagland asked the admiral about the turbine on campus.  Gurnon responded that wind power and solar array panels at times can generate 100% of the power for the campus – in recent days, the campus was selling electricity back to the grid.

After our call to order and delegation report, we adopted the agenda and heard reports from the MSCA vice president Amy Everitt and secretary Nancy George (Salem State).  The big report and longest moment of discussion comes, like in the annual MTA meeting, during the budget discussion.  Treasurer Glenn Pavlicek (Bridgewater State) sends out a detailed budget packet ahead of the delegation meeting and members examine the proposed lines as well as the past trends in budget spending.

This year, our membership asked questions about the MSCA investment fund – why do we have it?  Can we use money from it to reduce dues, etc.  Glenn explained that the fund was down to $400,000 as recently as two years ago and that the organization was in the red only ten years ago.  The investment fund is intended to be used  to pay for events like renting space in the event of a lockout, increased negotiation fees, etc.  Vice President Everitt indicated that the money may be necessary in 2012 during our next negotiation session.  There were questions about our current investments in terms of ethics, volatility, etc.   Glenn suggested the need to get a committee together to consider investments (ethics, amount, etc.)

The budget was approved after a number of questions about various line items including the budget for web page maintenance and email, publications, and more thoughts on the investments.  We agreed with Treasurer Pavlicek’s approved reduction of dues for part-time folks.  The new dues structure of part-timers reflects a more fair % of part-timers income.

After a motion to accept the second report of credentials committee, the delegation made a quick set of amendments to the MSCA constitution.  Most of these changes reflected our recent change from state college to state university.  We also changed to the use of the word ‘agreement’ in place of contract.  Whether the MSCA itself will change its name is under discussion.

Another interesting aspect of the annual delegate meeting is hearing the statewide grievance report, this year delivered by Sandra Faiman-Silva, Bridgewater State.  In this report, the membership gains an understanding of some of the issues that the statewide union is dealing with at the various state university campuses.  MSCA and MTA attorney/consultant Donna Sirutis emphasized that we need to fight at the local chapter level with the college presidents on class size issues.  eg, Fitchburg example – they were awarded 7 additional faculty hires by pushing on class size.

Ron Colbert, Fitchburg State, reported as region 45 H director of the MTA – he is also on Higher Education Leadership Council.  Ron pointed out that as in years past, there are issues that we all as MTA members don’t agree on – the community college folks ally with state university campuses, but the k-12 and the university people do not always share the same concerns/etc.  Ron also revealed that it looks like we’re in for some uphill battles k-college – these issues could be budgetary, collective bargaining, etc.

Ron also spoke to us about an issue I addressed in the previous post – this ties to race to the top stuff – the fact that evaluation is different in every community, so the MTA is proposing guidelines on administrator evaluations to ensure that teachers are evaluated well by administrators so that the teachers don’t get tenure and professional status inappropriately.

Ron closed by pointing out that the state universities need to keep an eye on the vision project – we need to start thinking about what happened to our colleagues k-12 regarding linking tests to teacher performance, etc.

Our final report credentials – 32 delegates 6 guest, 38 total.

Again, it’s a bit of a town hall format so if you like that sort of thing, and I do, I encourage MSCA members to attend as delegates.  Westfield State for example, could send as many as 16 delegates to this meeting, but we tend to only send three or four.  I’m hoping that next year I can convince more of our membership to get involved with the meeting.  It’s not incredibly long and it gives chapter members the chance to interact with the state leaders and get a better sense of strategies and ‘mood in the room’ as it were.

We had a lovely lunch afterward on the messdeck featuring a cool device that Buzz and I checked out – the Moobella ice cream machine.  Odd but interesting fun as the machine makes the ice cream in front of you.  You can check out this video made at a different campus showing you how to use a Moobella.  Different – but not bad ice cream.

Check out the Academy on their webcams!

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MTA annual Meeting

I’m opening up this blogging effort with summaries, reactions, and comments on a number of union related issues that came up at the conclusion of the Academic Year 2010-2011.  Although chronologically a bit out of order, I’ll begin with the Massachusetts Teachers Association meeting, held 13 and 14 May 2011 in Boston, Ma.

Day 1 of the Massachusetts Teachers Association annual meeting

You can check out information here at the MTA twitter feed.

Also here for the MTA website.

Democracy in action can be an odd thing to witness.  People like to believe that the group is involved in making decisions, and at times, that can lead to a number of interesting moments.  People meet in large groups, such as the MTA, and attempt to reach a consensus on a number of issues ranging from how to spend a budget for the large union itself to how might we better organize ourselves and work in coalition with other union bodies or parents or the public in general.

That said, for the last three years, attempts have been made to allow charter school teachers to become “active members.”  Our current members are people employed “in work of a professional nature in the field of education.”  Hmmm…don’t charter school teachers work in the field of education?  Would we not benefit from expanding our membership to include people who don’t always have control over their rights in bargaining?  I believe strongly that the union can only benefit from adding these teachers to our ranks.  Is there some level of conflict because we, as MTA members, don’t like how charter schools are funded?  Perhaps – but who is punished by keeping these workers out of our union?  The workers and arguably, the students who appear in their classrooms.  As the amendment to allow charter school teachers to join the MTA came down to failure once more, I have to admit I’m saddened by the short-sightedness of some of my fellow members.  I certainly understand the pain that people feel when a charter school siphons resources and students, only to spit the students back to these now underfunded districts when they don’t ‘measure up’ to expectations.  However, I ask again, who is harmed the most here – it’s the workers, whose lack of ability to join together with a larger force not only impacts their pocketbooks and rights, but also limits our ability as the MTA to intervene in how charter schools run.  Unionize those workers and you can get in management’s face to change conditions in the charter schools.  Let’s talk about this issue again next year!

Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association spoke at 3:00 pm on a number of issues including attacks on public education as well as the way in which the electoral system operates (eg, problems with lobbying, capitalist visions of tax policy, etc.)  He’s a bit on the pessimistic side suggesting that negative campaigning will rule the airwaves for the next 18 months.  He does make a nice reference to the notion that we should focus on positive stories regarding what’s helping people more so than feeding into the vacuum of increased negativity.  I do disagree with several of his contentions that we need to ‘excuse’ the current presidential administration in the United States because they’re ‘better than the alternative.’  I always return to Eugene Debs’ thoughts – “I’d rather vote for something and not get it than vote for something I don’t want, and get it.”

Van Roekel points out that while he agrees with the progressives and their beliefs, he has concerns about their ability to make changes so we might have to depend on established politicians.  Often times, this kind of soft-sell is problematic to me, as is the general ignorance of history and ebbs and flows in union strength as well as how third party or progressive ideas get adopted into the general political conversation.  Like many non-historians, union members often think ‘this current moment’ is the worst in the history of labor issues, etc – or ‘this current moment’ is the worst moment in how our politicians interact with one another.  For educators, our awareness of the past and how issues were discussed, resolved, strategized over, etc. is sorely lacking.  Interesting that Van Roekel points out he doesn’t want us to be viewed as ‘timid and shy’ 20 years from now and hopes that we organize and strengthen ourselves over the next three years rather than ‘give in, give out, or give up.’  Now he ends with a rousing round of applause and people stand, but I’ll tell you what – I think people give out standing ovations way too easily these days.  Van Roekel made some good points, but spoke, in my opinion, 20 minutes too long, and mostly, ironically, too timidly for my taste.

Then Barry Bluestone, on lessons from Detroit, wants to speak to us about going on the offense in relation to union leadership and mobilization.  He points out that Van Roekel was a very strong speech, comparing him to a voice her heard in the 60s at a UAW meeting.  Hmmm…

At any rate, Bluestone points out that the UAW was key in leading the battle to raise national minimum wage, push for debates on civil rights and healthcare, etc.  The reason behind that is the fact that the UAW believes in solidarity among all workers, wherever they are.  If we can help some workers, we can help all workers.  He contends that the union movement created the middle class – well…hmmm…create it?  How about altered it?  Shaped it in new ways?  Took it to new heights?  Middle class folk of the Victorian era might argue with Bluestone’s contention.

Bluestone points out that the unions AND management combined to create a problem in the auto industry.  Management didn’t push high quality, innovative vehicles – workers didn’t pay attention to the fact that certain fights were ill advised.  Concessions, bankruptcy, etc. has all led to an attempt to get UAW back to work and get Americans interested in making purchases of American-made products.  He asks us whether what is happening to UAW could be seen happening in public sector unions?  You see that fiscal deficits are creating problems – kids are not getting educations – progressives and democratic lawmakers are leaders in charter school movement “to free schools from the unions that may be barriers” – see my points above ummm…make charter school employees part of the union and then our “frenemies” the progressives and Democrats can’t ignore union concerns in those schools either.

Some suggestions for solutions:

  • reform inefficient gov’t bureaucracies
  • public sector union reforms – pension reform?
  • raise more tax revenue
  • regionalize public services – how can we do this more efficiently?
  • public sector unions need to find ways to improve productivity and reduce the cost of public services
  • we must make a better case to consumers – those who pay the taxes
  • unions must see taxpayers as allies and work to gain their trust
  • “grand new bargain” – unions play a larger role in improving service, quality, etc. – we should be leaders in boosting productivity, quality, and innovation and we need tell the tax payers that we’re taking these steps
  • we need to play an important role in developing serious social policies
  • reform outmoded work rules and job classifications – I don’t disagree with this point from him on some levels BUT management has to be willing to sit down honestly with unions and unions shouldn’t ALWAYS be asked to make concessions
  • suggests changing from a ‘workplace contract’ to an ‘enterprise contract’
  • borrows some ideas from Illinois Education – ‘to effect excellence and equity in public education’ – ‘appropriate accountability is important’ – money is important when spent properly – mentoring of teachers should be supported – teacher success should be rewarded – etc.  The basic notion is to put this information in the hands of the parents so the parents understand we’re all in the same boat seeking the same things for our children – improvements in public education.
  • We must make it apparent that the union is part of the solution NOT part of the problem.

Now, I had some issues with a private school employee speaking to us about public policy, but I can see some of the points that he made were valid.  I am convinced however, that the MTA might have considered inviting some of our members to speak on the issue!  UMASS-Boston has a program in Public Policy – surely someone from that department could have been asked?

Day 2 of the Massachusetts Teachers Association annual meeting

Day 2 of the MTA opens, for me, with the Massachusetts Higher Education breakfast meeting.  The breakfast meeting is an interesting opportunity for the members of the MTA who are in higher education to discuss issues that may come up on the floor during day two as well as other concerns unique to higher education.

Congressman John Tierney was the recipient of the MTA Friend of Education Award.  He spoke passionately about the importance of labor in terms of their contributions to Massachusetts and the nation as a whole.  Tierney was a public school attendee and Salem State graduate.  You can check out his website for more information and I’ve pilfered this line that is of particular importance: “As the only Massachusetts Member serving on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Congressman Tierney is focused on improving our children’s education at all levels and strengthening the rights and protections of our nation’s workforce.”  Tierney is an interesting person to follow as his political career continues – his beliefs clearly align with interests of those in preK-12 and higher education as well as labor.  I was impressed with his presence as well as what I have found on his site.  MSCA Westfield State Chapter president Ken Haar counts Tierney as a good friend of several efforts circulating in the Massachusetts legislature.

Dr. Floris Wilma Ortiz-Marrero was awarded as the MTA Massachusetts Teacher of the Year.  Dr. Ortiz-Marrero could not attend as her daughter was graduating from UMASS.  You can check out some thoughts from Dr. Ortiz-Marrero at the National Writing Project.  As an aside, I’ll be contacting Dr. Ortiz-Marrero to help me out with integrating some ELL material into my Methods of Teaching History courses.

Robert Haynes, MTA friend of labor award recipient is the President of Massachusetts, AFL-CIO and he spoke briefly on issues that are facing American labor today.  I’ll quote one line of Mr. Haynes regarding the issue of collective bargaining – “Here in the cradle of liberty, the first state with child labor laws, and such a rich tradition of supporting working families, 111 representatives voted to take away collective bargaining rights because the Speaker of the House made them. We deserve better in Massachusetts.”  Haynes made a few similar points in his brief speech and I’ll highlight a few of these observations:

  • 1 out 7 people live in poverty in the United States
  • 1 out of 4 children in preschool and kindergarten in the United States live in poverty – this is a proxy for hunger and homelessness, yet we, as union people, are attacked for trying to be strong for the middle class.  We need to have democracy in the state house and the Congress.  It doesn’t happen unless you express yourself and explain your beliefs and thoughts.  We need to educate people in terms of making them understand that it is the middle class who helped to make life better for the majority of Americans whereas the wealthy have created better lives for, who else?  Themselves.
  • Good statistic offered about the idea that raising the tax rates from 36% to 39% for those highest earners would have closed most budgetary problems for states and federal issues
  • It’s not we, the middle class, who created trillions of dollars of debt in this country – it’s lobbyists, the wealthy, and for profit corporations, and yet we receive the blame.

Harris Gruman, the Executive Director of the Massachusetts State Council as well as Massachusetts Political Director, SEIU, received the MTA President’s Award.  Harris gave a very quick statement using the theme of ‘you’re welcome’ when discussing issues with your local, state, and federal representatives.  ‘You’re welcome,’ to these individuals for all of our work in unions helping build our communities.

A presentation from the Board connected to their handout “Reinventing Educator Evaluation”.  This was a contentious issue for a number of reasons.  Educator evaluation is too complicated to discuss in great detail here, but a lot of the debate was also informed by the Federal government’s “Race to the Top” program, something which Massachusetts educators have gone back and forth on since the race to the top was created.  The idea is that the Federal government would provide states who win this program (Delaware and Tennessee last year) with money provided that the states in questions agree to submit to a number of complicated evaluation systems that tie student achievement to educator evaluation.  At the MTA annual meeting in 2010, New Business Item #9 indicated that the membership would not support the idea of Massachusetts pursuing this program if student learning and educator evaluation were part of the deal.  Well…then, two weeks after the annual meeting, the board decided to IGNORE the vote of the membership on the issue and pursue the program anyway.  The executive board of the MTA used Article VI, Section B, Line 1 to, in my estimation, ignore the will of the delegation.  That line reads “It shall be the duty of the Board to: have entire control of the affairs of the Association, except when the delegates are in session.”  In the Board’s estimation then, despite the will of the delegation, the MTA Board could move forward with the issue because the delegation was no longer in session.  Ugh.  That conversation became unpleasant.  Next year I’m proposing that the MTA membership consider amending the bylaws to BIND the MTA Board to decisions reached by the membership at the annual meeting.

Tim Collins, Springfield – The price we pay for living in a civilized society – taxation.  Tim, as always, puts forth some interesting business items that tend to be progressive in nature and, unfortunately, a bit contentious as well.  The plans Tim put forward that were interesting this time around dealt with pushing questions onto ballots around issues like single payer health care and a referendum on more progressive taxation structure.  It’s interesting to note that in many of the conversations surrounding these issues, proponents and opponents talk about the ‘timing’ of a proposal.  As in – ‘it’s not the right time or is it the right time or when is the right time?  As I sat in the hall this morning as well as yesterday ruminating on these questions I wondered about time in general – in the spring 50 years ago – was it time to push for desegregation of bus stations and buses?  In the spring 60 years ago – was it time to recognize that the People’s Republic of China had a powerful army?  In the spring 70 years ago – was it time to take action against Adolf Hitler?  In the spring 75 years ago – was it time to do something about the remilitarization of the Rhine?  In the spring  150 years ago – was it time to do something about slavery in the United States?  In the summer 163 years ago – was it the time to do something about women’s political rights in the United States?  In the spring 223 years ago – was it time to do something about slavery in the United States?  We often answered these questions in the past with statements like – it’s not the ‘right’ time.  It would be nice to see that ‘now’ could be the ‘right’ time for once.

Finally, we moved on to one of the most fascinating aspects of the annual meeting and that is the budget.  The delegation moves through the line items of the budget literally, line by line.  It’s painstaking to a degree – but interesting nonetheless.  Members are afforded the opportunity to present the treasurer and other officers with questions ranging from “why are we spending so much on postage in two different categories?” to “why do we spend $108,000 annually on computer software licensing!?!?”  For anyone who grew up in Massachusetts with town meetings as I did, this part of the annual meeting most closely resembles memories of those weeks in April when my towns would hold their discussions.

The meeting closed out with a few additional new business items, including the important No. 10, sponsored by members of the Educational Association of Worcester

Moved: Whereas the 2010 Annual Meeting rejected the use of standardized test as a mandatory measure of teacher performance, MTA opposed the current BESE proposal, 603 CMR 35.00 from April 29, 2011.  MTA leadership will oppose the usage of standardized tests in the dismissal of educators.  MTA leadership will oppose the current BESE proposal, 603, CMR 34.00 from April 29, 2011.

The rationale for this item was as follows (and relates to the concerns about race to the top issue and controversy described in the day 1 summary).  Value-added scores are subject to high error rates and a Department of Education study showed that these measures tend to be wrong 35% of the time evaluating a teacher after one year, and 25% of the time after three years.  With such a system, teachers could be mislabeled and stigmatized, and even unfairly terminated.  Use of student’s scores to evaluate teachers could narrow the curriculum even further and negatively impact the quality of education.  Finally – New Business Item No. 9 from 2010 indicated CLEARLY that the will of the delegates was that the results of standardized tests not be a mandatory measure of teacher performance.

I have included the final amended version of this new business item above – prior to the amendment, there were a number of negative statements about the item (and a fair number of positive) but the amended second sentence made all the different – it squared with what the MTA board was already doing, and still got the point across that a large portion of the delegates were still irritated about the board’s ‘end around’ New Business Item No. 9 from 2010.  As a procedural matter, we went to a teller count on this issue and the hall had to be locked down until the count was completed.

I keep saying finally or ‘closed out’ but then I recall one other issue that seems important to bring up.  I’ll explain it in this manner – if you’re a member, whether early childhood development, k-12, or higher education, you should try to go to the meeting at least twice in your career.  Once to get a sense of how things operate and the second time to perhaps participate more actively.  When I taught secondary, I was an advisor for Model United Nations and Youth Legislature and this experience mirrors those conferences in certain ways.  Most important though, is getting to see how the leadership of your union operates – it’s not always pretty (see how the experienced members maneuvered to get New Business Item No. 9 for 2011 ruled out of order, despite the creator’s good faith effort to amend the language of the proposal) and it’s not always efficient, but in the end, if you don’t know what your leaders are doing, you tend to get what you deserve!

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