Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Local News

May 9, 2013

New teachers union president issues challenge to legislators

INDIANAPOLIS — The new president of the Indiana State Teachers Association has a challenge for legislators responsible for the fast and furious changes in public education over the last four years: You try teaching.

Teresa Meredith, elected to head ISTA in late April, believes lawmakers might benefit from seeing the impact of school funding cuts, more high-stakes testing, and tougher scrutiny of teachers and schools.

“Really, I dare any legislator to take over a kindergarten class. And not just for a day, I’d expect them to do the job for a while,” Meredith said. “I don’t think most of them would survive a semester.”

She does think they’d come away with more respect for a profession that feels under siege by education reformers. “I think they’d say, ‘These teachers know what they’re doing.’ ”

Meredith, a longtime kindergarten teacher in Shelbyville, steps into the role as the public face of the state’s largest teachers’ union at a time when the organization has lost much of its considerable clout.

The association, which represents about 45,000 teachers and support staff, failed to fight off the sweeping reforms ushered in by Republicans who control the Statehouse. ISTA unsuccessfully opposed a significant rollback of teachers’ collective bargaining rights and legislation that tied teacher pay to student test scores. It protested in vain against spending cuts to K-12 public schools and lost its legal fight to stop the private school voucher program that the General Assembly just expanded.

Its reputation and finances are still suffering from the 2009 collapse of the ISTA insurance trust, triggered by massive investment losses of more than $24 million. ISTA is still entangled in a federal lawsuit, brought by the state, alleging the losses were tied to securities fraud.

Meredith, who served as vice president since 2007 under her predecessor, Nate Schnellenberger, praised his leadership.

“Outside of those leaders who initially founded ISTA in 1854, I can’t imagine – from what I know of the history of our organization – a much more stressful time than what we’ve been through in the last six years,” she said.  “Yet he (Nate) still believes in the mission of who we are as an organization: To represent educators and to preserve and protect public education.”

Meredith is a believer too. Her decision to become a teacher and an advocate for teachers is rooted in her earliest experience with a teacher.

From a financially—strapped family with little education and who couldn’t afford to pay the fee then charged to attend kindergarten, Meredith entered the first grade woefully unprepared.

“I was far behind. But I had the most amazing first-grade teacher,” Meredith said. She remembers that teacher, the late Sue Griffith of Shelbyville, encouraging her as she first learned to read: “She said, ‘You’ve got to learn this. Once you learn this you can go anywhere you want to, in your mind. We’ve got a book for anything you can imagine.”

Meredith would go on to become one of the first in her family to graduate from high school. And the first in her family to go to college.

Here’s what she also remembers from that first year in school: A teacher who lost her job when her pregnancy began to show. The following year, another teacher kept her job after she became pregnant.

What changed? The passage by the Indiana General Assembly of the 1979 teachers collective bargaining law that, among other things, barred schools from firing teachers just because they were pregnant.

Meredith later learned that her beloved first-grade teacher had been active with ISTA in the effort to pass that law.

Now, in her new role, Meredith sees her charge is to help ISTA regain some of its lost political footing and help teachers rebuild some of the lost respect for their profession.

“It’s important we have a place in the political arena, but that respect for our profession is important too. We’ve got to work on that. No one else can do that for us.”

Meredith sees progress on those goals with the surprise election last November of Glenda Ritz, a schoolteacher and political novice who toppled Tony Bennett in the race for Superintendent of Public Instruction. The former state schools chief was an aggressive advocate for reform and a quick enemy of ISTA when it tried to block some of his plans.

Meredith credits the victory to Ritz’s impressive grassroots campaign, which leveraged the influence of teachers in local communities to sway voters for Ritz.  “It probably gave teachers the biggest glimmer of hope they could have been given,” Meredith said.

“People didn’t vote for Glenda because they didn’t like Tony Bennett,” she added. “They went to vote for her because they knew somebody who knew an educator who knew Glenda’s story. That’s why they did it. And we have to be able replicate that.”

Maureen Hayden can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com

1
Text Only
Local News
  • Fresh shrimp business approved GOSHEN — Finding fresh shrimp in Elkhart County just got a little easier.

    August 21, 2014

  • NWS GN140822 john hertzel (2) John Hertzler relishes role with Goshen Historical Society GOSHEN — Visitors to the Goshen Historical Society’s museum might not know John Hertzler is there, tucked back in an office beyond the rows of historic documents, photographs and artifacts.

    August 21, 2014 2 Photos

  • Lifelong Learning fall courses announced GOSHEN — The Lifelong Learning Institute of Elkhart County is offering fall courses. These short courses are designed to provide stimulating and affordable classes in many fields for active seniors. There are no tests or grades, and no previous studies or degrees are required.

    August 21, 2014

  • South Ninth Street area under boil water order South Ninth Street, between East Jackson and Franklin streets in Goshen, is under a boil water order from noon until further notice.

    August 21, 2014

  • GN140821 Pike Street Project 2 INDOT meeting held to discuss Pike Street project GOSHEN — Major changes may be on the way for a small section of Pike Street in downtown Goshen.

    August 20, 2014 2 Photos

  • 0821 goshen college challenge Locals embrace ice bucket challenge It’s a challenge that has united participants with the shared sensation of an icy burst of water, sopping wet clothing and video evidence — all in the name of philanthropy.

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • GN140821 nisly complaint Complaint filed against state rep candidate Accusations of wrongdoing, in the form of a complaint to the Indiana Election Commission, have been levied against District 22 representative Republican nominee Curt Nisly.

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • GN140820 dometic groundbreaking Dometic breaks ground on significant expansion in Goshen GOSHEN — As Dometic officials gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony for the $7 million expansion of their Goshen distribution center Wednesday, the work was already underway in the background. “It’s happening right now,” said Dave Schutz, vice presi

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • GN140821 Ignition art Plenty of good music on horizon at Ignition Several upcoming shows at Ignition Garage in Goshen were announced this week.

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • City plan nearing a final draft GOSHEN — The city’s new comprehensive plan is nearing completion, and a near-final draft has now been released for public review. Goshen Plan Commission members released the draft of the city’s newly penned comprehensive plan, titled “Uncommonly Grea

    August 19, 2014

Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Poll

Three Goshen elementary schools — Chandler, Chamberlain and West Goshen — are providing free meals to all students during the school year as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Nearly 80 percent of students at Chandler, 89 percent of students at Chamberlain and 78 percent of students at West Goshen already qualify for free or reduced-price lunches based on their family income. How do you feel about the new lunch program?

I think it’s a good idea to feed all the students free of charge
I think those who can afford it should pay for their school meals
I think all students should be required to pay for their school meals
     View Results
AP Video
US: We Do Not Pay Ransom to Terrorists Ferguson Teachers Training to Deal With Trauma Jon Hamm on the Unrest in Ferguson Tit for Tat? McDonald's Shuttered in Moscow Life on the Professional Video Game Circuit TX Gov Perry in Washington: 'Confident' in Case Hospital Releases Two Missionaries Who Had Ebola Ramen Health Risks: The Dark Side of the Noodle NYC Doctor-in-chief Seeks Community Approach Indonesian Police Fire Tear Gas at Protesters Raw: Shots Fired in Liberian Shantytown DOJ, Bank of America Reach Record Settlement Raw: Cubavision Airs Images of Fidel Castro Raw: Grief After Deadly Airstrikes in Gaza Officer Who Pointed Gun at Protesters Suspended Kathy Griffin Challenges Minaj to 'a Booty Off' Johnson: Six Arrests, No Tear Gas in Ferguson Raw: Rescue, Relief Efforts at Japan Landslide Cadavers, a Teen, and a Medical School Dream California Drought Stings Honeybees, Beekeepers