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School district awarded NEA Foundation grant

Aug. 19, 2013
By Carley Dangona


WEST SPRINGFIELD – The West Springfield Public School District is one of only 12 across the nation to be awarded National Education Association (NEA) Foundation grant.

Dr. Russell Johnston, superintendent of schools, received the news at the end of July. The grant is part of the Institute for Innovation in Teaching and Learning initiative, which the district will participate in from 2013 to 2015. The program will begin with a national meeting in Washington, D.C. this October.

The acceptance letter read, “Over the next two years, we will work to support you and your colleagues from across the country to develop the plans for implementation of systemic change on such varied issues as the implementation of the Common Core State Standards; engaging and motivating teachers to be the drivers of their individual and collective professional growth by designing comprehensive development systems – including career ladders – and the creation of a strategic compensation plan.”

Harriet Sanford, president and CEO of the NEA Foundation, told Reminder Publications, “The NEA Foundation non-monetary grant will support the West Springfield local union and school district leaders’ collaborative efforts to improve education by focusing on a single issue. This support includes providing a dedicated coach, connecting leaders to a larger community of practice, and sharing online curriculum on issues of labor-management, and how to lead change and reform.”

She continued, “Teams were competitively selected based on applications co-authored by teacher union presidents and superintendents demonstrating their ability to address difficult issues of systems change and collaborative reform, with a sense of urgency and focus. West Springfield was selected because of its history of union-district collaboration.”

Michelle Davis, co-president of the West Springfield Education Association (WSEA) and a mathematics and reading teacher at West Springfield Middle School, participated in the application process with WSEA co-president and middle school computer teacher Kathleen Hillman, along with Johnston.

She said, “The district was recommended for this grant by Paul Toner, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, based upon his knowledge of the district’s joint commitment between the administration, teacher’s union and School Committee.”

Davis added that she is “very, very excited” about the grant.

Sanford explained the purpose of the program. She said, “The NEA Foundation’s Institute, established in 2010, is comprised of labor-management teams from across the country. Each has identified issues most critical to their students and has made a commitment to work together toward a common goal: to improve the quality of education for their students. In addition to the above, the NEA Foundation also sought to develop a cohort whose actions plans would reflect a diverse set of issues, including what it will learn from these sites’ experiences in order to share with the field.”

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