The Massachusetts Teachers Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, Saturday lauded Governor Deval Patrick for his education advocacy, giving him the President’s Award at the group’s annual meeting.
“I so respect and honor the profession of teaching,” Patrick said in a brief speech accepting the award. “I grew up on the South Side of Chicago, and I went to those big, broken, under-resourced urban schools that we all so worry about today. And it was teachers, individual teachers, who brought their love, and their preparation, and their concern, and their interest.”
Paul Toner, outgoing president of the 110,000-member union, praised the governor for creating an education position in his Cabinet, bringing federal funds to the state’s schools during a long recession, and speaking for teachers and schools on a national stage.
“Through incredibly difficult fiscal times, I have seen him consistently work to protect and strengthen the public education, and advocate for wise investments in our state and our communities,” Toner said.
Saturday was the second day of the group’s annual meeting, which drew 1,455 delegates to the Hynes Convention Center. The teachers elected a new president, Barbara Madeloni, current secretary of an MTA affiliate. The Massachusetts Society of Professors. They also picked a new vice president, Janet Anderson, a fifth-grade teacher in Taunton.
The governor arrived in time to stand offstage and hear union members raise concerns about some failing schools in poor, immigrant-heavy communities, like Holyoke and Lawrence, being replaced by privately run charter schools. Some teachers said they believe schools are being unfairly evaluated, drawing applause from the crowd of delegates.
Patrick did not directly address the issues in his 3½-minute remarks, but called the discussion part of “vital debates of policy and organization.”
After his speech, Patrick said the union is “an incredible partner on reform,” especially in trying to improve the state’s public pension plan, recently ranked the worst in the country, and close what is often called the achievement gap between schools in different socioeconomic communities.
“People often go about education reform by doing it to the profession. We’ve done it with the profession. And the MTA’s been critical to that,” he said.
Gene Stein, a Newton South High School history teacher attending the convention for the first time, said he was glad to see the governor in person.
“I voted for him twice,” he said.
Stein was especially pleased, he said, that Patrick was there when teachers talked about how the state classifies and treats low-performing schools.
“It was important for him to hear that, because what we’re seeing in the room is a group of teachers who are voicing many different concerns,” Stein said.