City Chiefs, Union Hold Governance 'Summit'

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Big-city superintendents and union leaders affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers last week pledged to form a national network to promote "participatory governance" within school districts and exchange information on methods to improve public instruction.

The educators announced their plans following a three-day summit in Chicago, which involved superintendents and union leaders from 11 cities that collectively represent over 3 million schoolchildren.

Those districts include: Cincinnati; Dade County, Fla.; Hammond, Ind.; Los Angeles; Minneapolis; New York City; Pittsburgh; Rochester, N.Y.; St. Paul; Syracuse, N.Y.; and Toledo, Ohio.

A number of school-board members, principals, teachers, and legislators also attended the meeting.

"I do not know of a single time when urban school leaders of this caliber, trying so many innovative programs in their districts, have ever gathered in a single place," said Bruce Goldberg, associate director of the aft's educational-issues department.

"We are all strongly committed to working together and breaking new ground to strengthen public education," he said.

The summit was hosted by the Hammond, Ind., school system and received support from both the aft and the Danforth Foundation. The U.S. Labor Department offered to tape-record the meeting.

Those attending the summit were invited because of the "extensive cooperation" that exists between superintendents and union leaders in their districts, according to a statement released by the aft

Among the issues discussed were:

The urgency of educating all children, regardless of socioeconomic background, and ways to restructure schools to reflect this new focus;

The inadequacies of present accountability systems, such as standardized testing, and the need to identify other, better mechanisms of measurement; and

How to ensure that the spirit of cooperation between teachers and administrators is not undermined during necessary grievance and other contractual procedures.

"There are signs of a loss of confidence in the public-education system," said the aft's president, Albert Shanker. "We must take bold steps to find new and better ways to help our children learn. We have to ... shift attention to restructuring our schools."

The National Education Association, the aft's larger rival, formed a "Mastery in Learning" network more than three years ago that includes 26 schools involved in restructuring efforts.--lo

Vol. 09, Issue 04

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