Page 11

GAE_KNOW_Fall_Final_for web | 11 Chapman was part of CCEA’s history-making moment in August 2007 when the Clayton County Board of Education unanimously passed three of the association’s initiatives — a memorandum of educators’ rights, contracts for paraprofessionals and an agreement to set the paraprofessional starting salary as one of the top three in the metro area. The initiatives weren’t ultimately implemented once a change of regime occurred, but ultimately, the healing conversations had begun in Clayton County. The decade-long turmoil prepared Chapman to join the team at the Georgia Association of Educators as a board member. He then served as GAE vice president for two terms before being elected president in April. “It was exciting to be elected this year,” he says. “It’s a great honor that the educators and members of GAE have put their confidence in me all of these years.” Chapman hopes other accomplishments during his tenure in Clayton County — such as growing the group’s membership from 1,400 to 2,500 educators — will carry forward into his next two years as GAE president. The district’s instability then set him up for a larger statewide fight now for public education funding, supportive legislators, standardized testing changes and teacher retirement. “You must have determination in all of your adversity,” he says. “Education truly changed my life for the better and will change the lives of everyone else. It’s our future, and we must support it.” GROWING MEMBERSHIP The first step in speaking strongly on behalf of educators is having a solid group to represent. Chapman and Chris Baumann, GAE’s new executive director, teamed up in August to develop a strategy to grow the group’s membership. They plan to visit members around the state, attend key legislative meetings and create a phone banking effort to get everyone involved. “We both have a similar vision about where we see GAE going based on what we’ve heard from members and other leaders,” Baumann says. We’re about getting out and listening to members.” Chapman wants to focus on a central message when talking with members — GAE needs to energize, organize and mobilize. To change the direction of public education funding and legislation in Georgia, it’ll take many members standing up and speaking out, he says. But if they do, Chapman is hopeful about what can be done on behalf of teachers. “It’s going to take everybody doing their part,” he says. “We’re going to use every talent and every bit of strength to steer this state in the next two years.” Unity and solidarity are key for the years ahead, says Martha Hinson, a retired Forest Park Middle School paraprofessional who was vice president of the Clayton County Education Association when Chapman joined. “We have to open doors back at the Capitol and put ourselves out there so the public remembers who we are,” she says. “We’ve always been a strong and vocal group and need to gain that back so people know who GAE really is.” Hinson mentored Chapman as he served on CCEA committees and moved into leadership, and she still gives him advice about lobbying at the Gold Dome and keeping members involved. “I have no doubt Sid can do this,” she says. “But he needs all the support he can get from all of us.” SUPPORTING LEGISLATORS GAE also needs legislative support to bolster members’ strong voices and concerns. In a non-bargaining state, all public education changes in Georgia must go through the legislative process. This means funding, testing, classroom requirements and staff concerns related to salary, retirement and furloughs pass through legislators’ hands. “Sid understands the issues of all educators, whether veteran school teacher, custodian or bus driver,” Baumann says. “He came up through the ranks as a substitute, teacher and leader and has a strong grasp of the issues at hand.” Chapman is no stranger to political action and knows it requires electing politicians who are public-education friendly, no matter the party. GAE’s leadership team initially debated endorsing a candidate this fall but decided to move forward in favor of Sen. Jason Carter. “We felt that if we sat back, that was saying the cuts and dismantling public education is OK,” Chapman says. “Despite fear of retribution from the political end, we want to say all of these cuts aren’t OK. Silence is consent.” Leading up to the election, GAE will boost phone banking efforts on behalf of Carter and encourage voter registration and participation at the polls. Carter’s wife Kate teaches journalism at Henry W. Grady High School in Atlanta, and the couple strongly advocate for public education. Many times, Chapman explains, politicians say they support education but tend to push reforms in favor of private schools or universities. “We’re not against charter schools, but we want everyone to think about the problems that go along with waivers and accountability,” he says. For example, throwing out requirements related to class size, certification, pay and fair dismissal regulations leads to unintended consequences, such as large class sizes with 35 children in a classroom. Funding is also becoming more complicated between public and charter schools, particularly the private charter schools that are lobbying for state funds. “We really want the public to demand that we fund public education,” Chapman says. “It’s a great investment for the future of Georgia.” TESTING AND CURRICULUM To address the funding question, GAE and legislators must also tackle hot-topic debates about standardized testing and curriculum standards. With recent changes to the state’s high school graduation test, end-of-course tests and Common Core, Chapman is concerned that no standards are being set, students are becoming overwhelmed and teachers are being judged unfairly based on scores. “We’re not against testing. We’re against toxic over-testing that continues to change,” he says. “Teachers and students get used to one thing, and it changes but is still required for teacher evaluation.” Plus, ongoing confusion about Common Core adoption has amped tension about standards, testing and the politics of education. Though the program was designed by a group of bipartisan governors across the nation, chaired by Georgia’s own Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue in 2009, some who oppose the changes have tried to tie it to federal mandates from Democrats. Reading at Pleasant Grove Elementary in Stockbridge for Literacy Day “IT’S GOING TO TAKE EVERYBODY DOING THEIR PART, WE’RE GOING TO USE EVERY TALENT AND EVERY BIT OF STRENGTH TO STEER THIS STATE IN THE NEXT TWO YEARS.”

GAE_KNOW_Fall_Final_for web
To see the actual publication please follow the link above