Truckee/Tahoe education: New teacher’s union co-presidents outline future goals
TAHOE CITY, Calif. – Earlier this year, the local teacher’s union for the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District elected new leaders to launch the union forward.
Tahoe Truckee Education Association co-presidents Jon Halvorsen, a teacher at Truckee High School, and Ed Hilton, a teacher at Sierra Continuation High School, are tasked with leading the union’s 250 members – 99.8 percent of those are teachers – through the district’s fickle economic times.
Both took time recently to answer a few questions, outlining their goals for the future and how they hope to accomplish them.
Co-president Jon Halvorsen, (JH): In our first few months on the job Ed and I will be focusing on setting both short-term and long-term goals for our association and building involvement by more members. We want to expand our organizational capacity by involving more members in leadership roles and by building more community partnerships. One such partnership will be with the Measure A Committee and doing everything in our power to help them with the upcoming campaign. In fact, our Political Action Committee is focusing their primary attention on these efforts and getting Measure A passed.
Co-president Ed Hilton, (EH): Agreed. Jon and I would like to “flatten” our association as many other successful organizations and businesses have done – taking cues from new 21st century leadership models. Handing off responsibility and including more people in the leadership of the organization builds trust and allows others to have ownership in the organization.
JH: Right now, our biggest concerns have to deal more with public education in general at the state and national levels and how the politics of reform are impacting our schools and students right here in Tahoe Truckee. Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Education has created Race to the Top (a one-time grant based on district reforms that could link teacher pay to student performance among other requirements) and other reform efforts that we believe are detrimental to a quality education for all kids. TTEA, as does CTA, believes a quality education is a right and not a race. It is unconscionable that in the United States of America we would have a educational platform where there were more losers than winners. That is what a race is all about.
EH: Jon and I are also concerned with the over emphasis in education right now with standardized testing. This only shifts our – district, teachers, community, etc. – focus to the areas which are tested and ultimately narrows the curriculum since because of the added emphasis and high stakes attached to the tests. A holistic, well-rounded curriculum will serve our students best in the 21st century as creative, problem-solving skills are necessary.
JH: Yes. Ed and I are spending a lot of our energy and time working cooperatively with the California Teachers Association with state wide issues revolving around the state budget and the need for California to fully fund education. Right now, we stand at 47th in the nation in per-pupil funding. Our state and nation needs to fully fund education and realize that this is the best investment we as citizens can make for the future. We can not afford to continue making cuts to our schools here in CA on top of the 17 billion that was cut last year.
EH: The financial crisis has also caused us to get much more involved in the upcoming state elections this November. We are working hard to help get education-friendly candidates elected, which means Jerry Brown for Governor and Tom Torlakson for State Superintendent of Schools. We also are doing what we can to get the message out to the public about why propositions 24 and 25 need to pass so we can close corporate tax loopholes and stop the ludicrously each year with the 2/3 majority required to pass the state budget.
JH: That teachers are the educational experts who need to be included in any conversations about how we educate and/or reform our schools. The conferences we attended this year have shown us that many groups and individuals are trying to take teachers away from the decision making table and turn it over to other interests. Ed and I believe that the union exists to protect public education and to make sure that educators decide how we best serve our students so that we ensure a bright future for everyone and protect our democracy’s greatest asset: A free quality education for all.
JH: The Union’s stance is that education is a right, not a race. We do not believe that our nation, state, or district should move forward with RTTT and base our educational funding and reforms on creating a few winners and a lot of losers. This summer this position became very clear when Ed and I were at the National Education Associations Representative Assembly in New Orleans. Here, approximately 10,000 elected delegates from all 50 states, which Ed and I are, voted “No Confidence” in the US Department of Education’s policies for our nation and RTTT. Every kid deserves to be a winner.