The holiday season is upon us and I'd like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for your support of the Washington Teachers' Union and its leadership. More importantly, I want to especially thank you for the awesome job you do everyday in your school to reclaim the promise of public education for all children in the District. As we approach the end of the calendar year, this is an ideal time to reflect on the past 16 months and some of your union's challenges and successes.
I'm sure you are well aware of many of the challenges that the union and its members have confronted during this period. They include our ongoing push for changes in IMPACT so that the teacher evaluation system becomes one designed to support--rather than punish--teachers. The union has filed more than 125 individual grievances on behalf of members who have been victimized by the broken teacher evaluation process, as well as a class action citing over 30 procedural violations.
In recent weeks, we have heard from dozens of you who are concerned about the new PARCC assessment. Most of these concerns revolve around the technology needed at the local school site to implement the new assessment and whether your school is truly ready to administer PARCC. Be assured, that your union is listening to you and has already brought your concerns to the attention of those school district staffers charged with overseeing PARCC.
We are also closely monitoring Chancellor Henderson's effort to impose an extended day outside of the collective bargaining process. We firmly believe that the Chancellor and DCPS are violating the collective bargaining agreement by trying to go around the union and negotiate an extended day directly with teachers at individual schools.
Needless to say, one of the union's chief priorities--and challenges--is to negotiate a contract that will be good for both teachers and stud ents. Negotiations with school district leaders are underway and we are determined to reach an agreement that takes into account the myriad of issues that impact teaching and learning in DC public schools. We will be keeping you informed of our progress.
Now, I'd like to turn to our successes and accomplishments--and we've had several of them over the past year. I was installed as president on August 1, 2013. Since that time we've stressed the importance of both serving members and making sure that parents, elected leaders, school administrators and the community see the WTU as a strong and willing partner in the effort to improve our schools for ALL of its students.
Toward that end, we joined with our community allies to host a "Day of Action" event at Eastern High School in December 2013. More than 700 educators, community activists, parents, students, faith leaders and others attended the community forum. We followed that up in May 2014 with a Day of Action in recognition of the 60th anniversary of the historic Board v. Board of Education decision that integrated public schools.
More than 125 community leaders, school administrators, elected officials and WTU members came together last February for the WTU's "A Shared Vision for Reclaiming the Promise" conference. The event included a conversation on better understanding the needs of D.C. public school teachers and breakout sessions designed to discuss how teachers, students, parents and the community can work more collaboratively on behalf of D.C. schools. A second Shared Vision Conference is being planned for Feb. 21, 2015. Save the date!
Beginning at the outset of 2014, we revitalized our Committee on Political Education (COPE) committee. Made up of energetic and committed WTU members, the committee spearheaded the process that led to the union's endorsement of candidates for city council and state board of education.
The WTU Union Leadership Institute, which provides intensive training for union leaders and activists, held a full-day of training on school and union issues at Anacostia High School in June (watch the video), as well as trainings at Trinity University in August and Savoy Elementary School in November. These trainings were attended by, among others, building representatives, and members of School Chapter Advisory Committees, Local School Advisory Teams and Personnel Advisory Committees. The WTU and its field staff have worked to ensure that the union is represented on all of these building-level bodies.
Your union has had other notable achievements as well, including the opening of the new WTU headquarters last June, our First Book events at Whittier and Langdon elementary schools, where hundreds of DC students received free books, and a community bookfest at Dorothy Height Library on Benning Road where over 1,000 new books were given away to children and families. Here's a video of the bookfest.
We have also been busy on the organizing front, including during Mobilization May, as well as during New Teacher Orientation in August, where the WTU signed up more than 550 new members and offered free learning sessions and professional development opportunities to new teachers. Watch a video of New Teacher Orientation.
As we get ready to open a new year, be assured that the union will continue to represent your interests--both within DCPS and with our newly elected mayor and other city leaders. And we'll have plenty to offer you in the upcoming year, such as our recently announced Spring professional development classes.
Meanwhile, have a happy, safe and restful holiday season.