California Teachers Association

OCTOBER 2010

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Waiting for teacher contracts. I believe teachers are the key [to student success], and I also think teachers deserve a great union. I believe in unions; I’m a member of a great union. It’s a really hard thing to say, but when fighting for the rights of teach- ers, you have to make sure their contracts them- selves aren’t restricting reform. This film didn’t paint teachers unions in a favor- able light. Do you think teachers unions can play a role in school reform? Yes. Randi Weingarten, [president] of the American Federation of Teachers, did a great job of championing new laws in Colorado that rethink teacher tenure and rethink merit pay. It’s a fascinating thing: Teachers unions have to defend teachers and get more money for great teachers, but they can’t be putting up road- blocks to reform. Charter schools have been getting a lot more traction lately for parents who are not happy with their neighborhood schools. You say in the film that only one in five charter schools does a better job than traditional schools, but in the movie charter schools seem to be portrayed as the answer. Why is this? Well, the movie is about whether these kids will get into great performing schools, and their par- ents didn’t care whether they are charter or not. I talk about how only one in five charters is do- ing a great job. The great thing about charters is that it’s all about innovation. But failure can also be a great part of innovation, because you are taking a chance. Charters that are failing need to be shut down. But the ones that are doing great, in my opinion, are breaking the sound barrier. They’re showing what works. The trick is to bring those ingredients into district schools. What do you hope the audience will take away from Waiting for Superman? That the problem is severe and it’s worse than I imagined. It affects all of us. Even if your kids go to a different school it affects all of us in so- ciety and the competitiveness of our country. I also want people to take away the feeling that it’s possible to go into the toughest neighbor- hood and educate every kid. being the result of poor teaching and unions,” says Delgado, a Merced Union High School District Teachers Association member. “I was offended that Ms. Winfrey could present such a biased view of education, which sought to devalue the professionalism of my colleagues, the efforts of my students and also the purpose of teachers unions.” Delgado was contacted by the show’s producers and asked if she would be willing to appear on a live show. She said yes and was on a flight to Chicago the next day. She felt excited about being a voice for teachers and education reform. The jet-lagged Delgado was asked if she could be interviewed immediately upon arrival, and she was filmed from midnight to 1:30 a.m. in Harpo Studios. She was told the producers needed “background footage” to make key points that might not be conveyed in live conversation on the show. “I wholeheartedly agreed to the late night interview, because I Annie Delgado What one member wasn’t allowed to say on ‘Oprah’ Annie Delgado, a history and economics teacher at Buhach Colony High School in Atwater, was so infuriated after she saw an episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” about the documentary Waiting for Superman that she posted a comment on Oprah.com advocating for teachers and unions. “I was outraged by the manner in which Ms. Winfrey characterized the decline of public education as believed so strongly in what needed to be said,” relates Delgado, a former lawyer who has been teaching for a decade. But that footage ended up on the cutting room floor, with the exception of one sentence, “I believe the teachers unions got a bad rap.” Instead of sitting onstage, she sat in the audience. Instead of focusing on teachers, the show was centered on Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who donated $100 million to Newark schools. Delgado had hoped to be the voice of teachers, but she was silenced. At one point Oprah opened up the conversation to members of the audience. Delgado raised her hand. Oprah looked at her, and then selected someone else to speak. The discussion about education reform continued, once again, without a teacher’s point of view. “I am still trying to wrap my head around what happened on the show,” says Delgado. “Having been set up with a microphone and placed in the front row, I expected to answer questions that would lend insight into the perspective of teachers. My isolated statement did not convey what I intended. I cannot even begin to state how disappointed I was by the experience.” Delgado may not have been allowed to have her say on “Oprah,” but she made an effort to stand up for 3.2 million educators and their students. For that, she is a hero. For those who are “Waiting for Annie Delgado,” please continue reading. She will be heard in this story because her opinion matters. Here are some of the things she would have told Oprah had she been allowed to have her say. “I think it is clear that parents are frustrated with the limited resources many children have in public education,” she says. “What has not been conveyed in Waiting for Superman and the media is that teachers experience the same frustration. We want our students to have incredible learning opportunities. When the school system does not provide us with the resources we need, we turn to our Continued on page 37 SPECIAL ELECTION ISSUE OCTOBER 2010 | www.cta.org 31

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