In California’s West Contra Costa Unified School District, the head of the teacher’s union and the superintendent are collaborating to show the community what the district has to offer, EdSource reports. The duo are working together with the intention of attracting students and their families back to traditional schools after the district lost 11.5% of its student population to charter schools this year.
Superintendent Matthew Duffy and Demetrio Gonzalez, president of the United Teachers of Richmond, also joined forces to successfully negotiate a labor contract that included raises for teachers.
Both men began working at the district three years ago after the former superintendent retired due to construction bond spending controversies. Duffy and Gonzalez are also producing videos to counteract negative perceptions about the district.
Public schools face several challenges, such as tight budgets, growing competition from charter schools and community scrutiny on how funds are spent. Teaming up is a wise choice since maintaining a good public image can be an uphill battle.
This type of collaboration is taking place in other parts of the country, including New Jersey, where educators, union officials and administrators from 13 districts are participating in the New Jersey Public School Labor Management Collaborative Conference. The organization sets a framework for how groups can work together to solve problems, rather than battle on the picket lines. The conference gives teachers a voice, which increases overall job satisfaction and replaces the traditional top-down management style.
Collaboration between administrators and teachers is institutionalized at California’s ABC Unified School District, which enjoys at least a decade-old partnership that has outlasted multiple superintendents. It cultivates a sense of shared responsibility through planning and fosters an environment of respect across job titles.
For those educators working in a district that has yet to reach a cordial note between labor and management, it’s never too late to start. Even without a formalized partnership, individuals can reach out to find ways to work together, as Precious Crabtree, an elementary art educator and lead mentor teacher in the Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, describes in a blog post. She makes an effort to create relationships with the principal and superintendent. She attends board meetings and shares the needs of the staff and students, even though the input isn’t always popular. She persists because she believes that healthy relationships are at the heart of all good school districts.