Thursday, February 22, 2007

More from Team ISEA's Lobby Day

More photos from Team ISEA's Lobby Day on February 20th!

Representative Eric Palmer from Oskaloosa takes time to visit with me over lunch. Representative Palmer shared some of the opportunities he's had as a new member of the Iowa General Assembly.

Gary Anhalt (on the left), president of the Cedar Rapids EA and Executive Board rep from CWUU; visits with state Represenative Art Staed, a Middle School Government teacher and member of ISEA over lunch.

Kathy Williams (on the left), Davenport EA and Chair of ISEA's Multicultural Committee and colleage, visits with state Representative Cindy Winckler (center), chair of the Education Appropriations Budget Sub-Committee.

The Davenport EA gathered at the Speaker's Chair in the House chamber for a photo with state Representative Elesha Gayman (2nd from right-front row) and Representative Cindy Winckler (front row on right).

Team ISEA members were treated to a visit by Governor Chet Culver on Tuesday. Here Governor Culver greets Team ISEA leader Rachella Dravis, leader in the Fort Madison EA (center) and a colleague.

Kevin Ericson, Nevada EA leader, has a chance to visit with Governor Culver.

And Kevin's daughter, Abbie, has the opportunity to pose for a photo with Governor Culver too!

Truly one of the highlights of the day was to hear from the nation's only Governor to have been a classroom teacher in the last 20 years, Iowa's Governor Chet Culver!

It was a great day for Team ISEA to meet with state policy makers and share the issues important to our profession and to the students we teach.

Senator Obama Hosts Labor Reception in Des Moines

Team ISEA had 75 of the 200 labor members from central Iowa in attendance at a Labor Reception hosted by Democratic candidate for president Barack Obama, U.S. Senator from Illinois on Wednesday evening, February 21st. Waiting patiently for the event to begin are Team ISEA members (from left to right) Oscar Ortiz, Chariton EA and SCUU rep to the ISEA Executive Board; Chris Bern, Knoxville EA and ISEA Vice President; and Vicki Westerly, I-35EA president.

Other Team ISEA members at our table were (from left to right) Kate Ortiz, Chariton EA; Betsy Armstrong-Jayne, DMEA; and Dave O'Connor, DMEA and DMEA rep to the ISEA Executive Board.

Prior to the start of the event, a dozen or so labor leaders met privately with Senator Obama. Here I am visiting with the Senator about attracting the best and the brightest into the profession as the "Baby Boomers" retire.

Adel-DeSoto-Minburn EA members Connie Hefner (on the left) and Rhonda Hopewell pose for a photo with Senator Obama following his brief remarks and a few questions from the labor members gathered.

Interstate 35 EA president Vicki Westerly poses (at left) with Senator Obama. Vicki was so tickled to be a part of the evening festivities, she really was even more "bubbly" then usual (if that is possible)! She is a dynamic leader and it was fun to reconnect with her!

Team ISEA Vice President Chris Bern was able to get his photo with Senator Obama too! It was another great opporutnity to share with a presidential candidate the issues important to Iowa educators.

The last of Team ISEA members I was able to capture a picture of is long-time EA leader (now in Johnston) Joanna Reno and her husband Steve with Senator Obama.

Wednesday evening was just one more great opportunity for Team ISEA members to share with presidential candidates their concerns for making significant changes to the No Child Left Behind Law.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Team ISEA Hosts Lobby Day at the State Capitol

On Tuesday, February 20th, Team ISEA hosted a Lobby Day at the state Capitol for the first time in a number of years. Over 100 ISEA members from across the state gathered in Des Moines to meet with their state legislators under the golden dome of the state Captiol.

A briefing was held at the Wallace state office building prior to our visit to the Capitol where we heard from ISEA lobbyist Brad Hudson and Jon Studer, then from legislative leaders state Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and Speaker of the House Pat Murphy.

Majority Leader Gronstal (pictured at left) shared with Team ISEA members his goals for moving Iowa education forward. The goals included moving Iowa teacher's salaries from 41st in the nation to 25th; providing a living wage for Education Support Professionals; increasing salaries for Community College instructors; including AEA professionals in the Teacher Quaility Law; and making tuition at our Regent's institutions more affordable.

Speaker of the Iowa House Pat Murphy (pictured at right) shared his vision for the session next with Team ISEA. Speaker Murphy not only repeated the priorities Senator Gronstal set forth, but gave all the credit to Senator Gronstal for adding additional dollars to last year's Community College budget increase.

When our legislative briefing finished, Team ISEA members had a short walk to the state Captiol where we had lunch with our state legislators. One of the first people I ran into was state Representative Phil Wise, a retired teacher and a member of ISEA-R, from Keokuk. When I served in the Iowa House ('93-96), Representative Wise (pictured at left with me) was one of my best pals.

Sharing lunch and conversation with state Representative Ro Foege, a retired AEA professional and ISEA member, are Suzette Kragenbrink (center) president of the Mount Vernon EA and Kristi Keast (at right) Mount Vernon EA and chair of ISEA's Building Support for Public Education committee.

Senator Dennis Black (on the left) of Grinnell visits with Team ISEA leader Bill Perrenoud, president of the Newton EA and Mayor of Lambs Grove over lunch.

Siouxland UniServ Unit members had a chance to visit with state Senator Steve Warnstadt. Pictured here (from left to right) Vince Cox, Sioux City EA; Leslie Dake, Sioux City ESPA; Senator Warnstadt; Donna Walsh, Sioux City EA president; and Gayle Jeffers, Sioux City EA and NEA Board of Directors.

Rich Feilmeier, Prairie Valley AEA EA, gave me one of the badges his daughter had made for their EA membership drive. The badge says, "Have a Say....join ISEA!" Thanks, Rich for your leadership on Team ISEA!

Following lunch, Team ISEA members had the opportunity to visit with their own legislators before gathering in the Legislative Dining Room to hear from legislative leaders. Representative Cindy Winckler, co-chair of the joint House-Senate Budget Sub-Committee on Education Appropriations was first to address our group. Representative Winckler is a former teacher, now on the professional staff of AEA 9 (and a member of ISEA!) is pictured at the right.

ISEA Lobbyist Brad Hudson thanks Team ISEA members for their effort in electing "Friends of Education" in the fall election, but reminds them it is our responsibility to continually stay in touch with our legislators.

Next on our afternoon's agenda was a meeting with Governor Chet Culver. Team ISEA members gathered in the Kennedy Conference Center in anticipation of hearing from one of our own, a former High School Government teacher, Governor Chet Culver.

Governor Culver spoke briefly to Team ISEA members and staff gathered about his commitment to bring Iowa's teacher's salaries to at least 25th in the nation. Governor Culver said we need to pay Iowa educators for the work they are already doing. He acknowledged that Iowa's students rank in the top 10 in all measures of educational assessments. He was able to greet many of our members with a handshake or pose for a photo before taking off for his daughter's parent-teacher conference.

The last group of legislative leaders that we heard from were state Senator Frank Wood (seated on left), a principal at North Scott High School and co-chair of the Education Appropriations Budget Sub-Committee; and state Representative Roger Wendt, a retired Middle School principal in Sioux City and chair of the House Education Committee. How lucky Iowa is to have such capable legislative leaders!

Team ISEA leaders represented us well in their Lobby Day on Tuesday. As they are the professionals in their classrooms and workplace, they too were most professional in representing our membership as they visited with state legislators. They spoke with passion about the issues that mean the most to us--those impacting our profession and the students we work with every day!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Another Attack on Teacher Quality

On Tuesday , the Aspen Institute's NCLB Commission issued its report proposing changes to the so-called No Child Left Behind Act. The Commission, co-chaired by former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson and former Georgia Governor Roy Barnes, has spent the past year gathering information about NCLB and preparing a detailed series of recommendations for changes to the law.

The Commission would add on top of the current requirements a new Highly Qualified Effective Teacher” (HQET) requirement. This new mandate would apply to all reading, math, and science teachers. These teachers would be evaluated in large part based on student learning gains as measured by standardized test scores. Another part of the rating would be based on a principal’s evaluation. It is only a matter of time before this could be imposed on all teachers. Teachers in each state would be ranked and those in the top 75 percent each year would be considered a "highly qualified effective teacher.” This guarantees that 25% of all teachers would fail the mandate.

Enough is enough. How many more hoops are teachers going to have to jump through? We need you to email your Congressional Representatives and let them know this is a total lack of respect for our profession and that you don't want them to support it. Go to ISEA's web page at or to send your message.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Senator Obama Visits Iowa After Entering the Race for U.S. President

United States Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) officially entered the race for president on Saturday, February 10th with his announcement rally at the old Capitol in Springfield, IL. Immediately following the campaign rally, Senator Obama was off to Iowa! On Saturday his stops in Iowa included Cedar Rapids and Waterloo.

On Sunday, February 11th, Senator Obama began his day in Iowa Falls (which I believe resembles Bedford Falls--from the movie "It's a Wonderful Life"), then to Ames where over 5,000 gathered at Hilton Coliseum on the campus of Iowa State University to hear from the Senator. My niece, Jennie (pictured in the center) and her girlfriend, Leria (pictured on the left), drove in from Council Bluffs early Sunday morning to meet up with Aunt Linda and participate in the rally.

Prior to the start of the rally at Hilton, I was a part of a VIP Reception held backstage of the event. Here (on left) U.S. Senator Barack Obama is autographing my copy of the children's book Duck for President. As he autographed the book, I had a chance to share with the Senator concerns from Team NEA with the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind. Senator Obama interjected his concern for tracking progress of students (which is NEA's concern too!)--looking at the 'growth' of students from one school year to the next. In addition I shared our concern for the ability to use multiple measures to check for understanding rather than a "one size fits all test". And the Senator agreed that funding has been lacking.

After introductions were made, Senator Obama and his wife Michelle entered the arena to a crowd that greeted them as rock stars! Here (on the right) Michelle Obama greets people as the Obamas move down the stairs towards the stage.

Senator Obama (on left) was pumped up with energy as he worked his way down the stairs towards the stage with the warm Iowa welcome the crowd had given him.

I do enjoy the opportunity to meet all the candidates that are entering the race for president. It is a great chance to share the concerns of Iowa educators that I've heard as I've visited our members in their classrooms, work place, community colleges and AEA's.

I would challenge all Team ISEA to participate in candidate forums as those running for office visit your communities. Here is your chance to share your own story of how federal laws impact your ability to do your job and the students you teach.

Friday, February 09, 2007

The NEA Foundation's 12th Annual Salute to Excellence in Education Gala!

The NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala is the culmination of the Foundation’s annual fundraising efforts for public education, which is expected to total approximately $1.4 million. This year, part of the gala’s proceeds will be used to restock hurricane ravaged public school libraries in the Gulf Coast states. More than 800 education and corporate leaders and government officials attended this Mardi Gras themed event on Thursday evening, February 8th.

The first friends that I met up with were colleagues from the Midwest Region. Pictured here (at left) are state presidents Donna DeKraai, South Dakota Education Association (SDEA) and Stan Johnson, Wisconsin Education Assoication Council (WEAC).

The "masked" guests are all members of Team ISEA getting into the spirit of the Mardi Gras theme! Pictured (from left to right) here are Jan Reinicke, Executive Director; me; Jackie Warnstadt, 2006 Iowa Teacher of the Year; Gayle Jeffers, NEA Director and Jim Young, NEA Director.

This year's Salute to Excellence in Education featured:

The NEA Foundation for the Improvement of Education inspires public education employees to ensure that all students succeed. As the Foundation of the National Education Association, we believe that:

*public education excellence is vital for our democracy and should be attainable for all;
*education employees determine the quality of public education;
*students should actively pursue their education;
*education employees should embrace diversity and act accordingly;
*effective education employees should continually learn, apply their knowledge, share their expertise, and lead their profession; and
*education employees should partner with their peers, researchers, policymakers, and communities to make public schools great for every child.

This year, Avery Brooks served as Celebrity Host. He is an accomplished actor, director, musician, and tenured professor at Rutgers University. Credits include Captain Benjamin Sisko on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Hawk on Spenser: For Hire (television); Othello in Shakespeare's Othello and Phillip Hayes Dean in Paul Robeson (stage); and Dr. Bob Sweeney in American History X and Paris in The Big Hit (feature films).

The NEA Foundation Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education
Billie Jean King Recipient

Tennis legend and lifelong activist for equality and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which banned sex discrimination in federally funded academic and athletic programs.

Eric Carle Recipient
Acclaimed creator of brilliantly illustrated and innovatively designed picture books for very young children. His best-known work, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, has been translated into more than 30 languages and sold over 22 million copies.
The NEA Foundation would like to thank Eric's publisher, Penguin Young Readers Group, for donating 5,000 assorted children and youth titles to NEA's Books Across America, a nationwide program aimed at providing books to public school libraries and students in need.

In this first year, the program will focus on getting books to more than 40 public school libraries damaged by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma. The NEA Foundation is pleased to partner with NEA on this program and thanks Penguin Young Readers Group for this significant contribution.
2007 Recipients of The I CAN Learn®–NEA Foundation
Awards for Teaching Excellence

Forty states nominated educators for the I CAN LEARN-NEA Foundation Award. Team ISEA was proud to partner with the Sioux City Education Assocation in nominating Jacke Rae Warnstadt, Iowa's 2006 Teacher of the Year and 4th grade teacher at Leeds Elementary in Sioux City. Jackie is pictured (on right) with her Award from the NEA Foundation.

2007 Recipients of The Horace Mann-NEA Foundation

Awards for Teaching Excellence

The final award honoring educators was the Horace Mann-NEA Foundation Award for Teaching Excellence. Of the forty educators nomiated, the overall winner was James A. Brooks. Mr. Brooks was nominated by the North Carolina Association of Educators. He is a film and photojournalism teacher at West Wilkes High School in Millers Creek, North Carolina.
The evening was a celebration of the great things that go on in America's public schools every day!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Team ISEA Makes Visits to the Offices of Our Members of Congress

This morning I joined Team ISEA's members of the NEA Board of Directors, Gayle Jeffers, French Teacher at Sioux City East High School and Jim Young, 4th grade teacher at Hansen Elementary in Cedar Falls; for a Legislative Briefing at the NEA Building. We heard from Team NEA's lobbyists about the issues that impact our members across the nation that are before the United States Congress.

Appointments had been made in advance of our visit to call upon three members of the Iowa Congressional delegation. Those appointments came shortly after lunch, so Gayle and Jim spent the remainder of the morning visiting the various House and Senate office buildings to drop off materials for the other four members of our Congressional delegation. I joined Gayle and Jim in the Longworth Building for lunch in the cafeteria before we set out for our visits.

With our appointment times nearly over-lapping, we had to divide up the visits to our members of Congress. As Gayle Jeffers headed to United States Senator Tom Harkin's office to meet with Rob Barrons, the Senator's education staffer, Jim Young and I headed to Congressman Loebsack's office. Congressman Dave Loebsack (seated at left), freshman member of Congress from Mount Vernon, IA was very much aware of short comings of the federal government's committment to public education. He shared some of his views with us on IDEA (Individuals with Disability Act) as well as the so called No Child Left Behind law. We were very pleased with Congressman Loebsack's willingness to include ISEA/NEA as the process moves forward. One last photo...and here we have NEA Director Jim Young pictured with Congressman Dave Loebsack of Iowa's 2nd Congressional District.

NEA Director Gayle Jeffers headed back to the NEA Building to a meeting of the Midwest Regional Planning Committee once her visit to Senator Harkin's office was complete. NEA Director Jim Young and I next headed off to the office of Jim's member of Congress, Congressman Bruce Braley of Iowa's 1st District. Here Jim and I are pictured with Congressman Braley. Before the Congressman had to rush off for a vote on the floor of the U.S. House, he shared with us his concern for the federal government of the past underfunding programs as IDEA and NCLB and how it undermines the purpose of providing needed educational programs for America's students.

As Congressman Braley headed to the Captiol to vote, NEA Director Jim and I had a chance to visit just a bit longer with the Congressman's Chief of Staff, Sarah Benzing. Sarah's parents, Nick and Diana Benzing of Neola, are long-time activists and members of Team ISEA/NEA and personal friends, having recently retired after a lifetime of teaching. I'm pictured (at right) with Sarah. Congressman Braley knows he has one of Iowa's best and brightest, who thoroughly understands our issues, directing his Congressional office in Washington, D.C. in Sarah Benzing!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Team NEA Hosts Breakfast Reception for New Members of Congress

This morning I participated in a breakfast reception hosted by Team NEA for the new members of Congress and state presidents. The reception was held inside the United States Captiol building on this snowy morning in the Washington, D.C. metro.

I was pleased that both new members of Congress from Iowa were able to join us. The first to arrive was Congressman Dave Loebsack (CD 2). I am pictured here with Congressman Loebsack and NEA Executive Committee member Becky Pringle. Congressman Loebsack shared with us that he was granted his request to serve on the sub-committee on the reauthorization of the Elementary Secondary Education Act (ESEA/NCLB). As a college professor he set aside his own personal interest to work on a Higher Education sub-committee to honor the top priority of his wife, Terry. Terry is a newly retired/ISEA member of 35 years of teaching 2nd grade in Mount Vernon and Iowa City, IA. Executive Committee member Pringle's request to Congressman Loebsack was to keep the lines of communication open with NEA.

Also making time in his busy schedule to participate in the breakfast reception was Congressman Bruce Braley (CD 1). Congressman Braley (on the left) is pictured here with Team NEA Vice President Dennis Van Roekel and me. Congressman Braley shared with Vice President Van Roekel that his wife is a teacher and member of ISEA/NEA at Waterloo West High and his mother was a teacher in Brooklyn, IA. Congressman Braley does truly understand the difference great public schools make on the lives of America's children.

How lucky for Iowans and our nation's families that we have two new members of Congress that are making a positive difference in their lives!