Dear Fellow UEA Members,
I am writing to you today about the appointment Brad Smith, current Ogden School District Superintendent, as the State Superintendent of Instruction. I recognize there is angst by many over Mr. Smith’s appointment.
First, let me thank those of you who actively engaged with your State Board of Education members. The current Utah State Board of Education is very divided. Supt. Smith was selected by an 8-7 margin. Many Board votes are determined by the same margin.
Second, we are very disappointed the State Board of Education appointed a State Superintendent with no significant classroom teaching experience and little public education administration experience. With so little education knowledge, we anticipate the learning curve for Supt. Smith will be very steep. The UEA hopes and expects to work directly with Supt. Smith, as we have with past superintendents, to help him understand and appreciate the views of classroom teachers.
Finally, let me reassure each of you that UEA has staff and leaders sitting in each and every USOE Board meeting working to influence board rule and board members. Because of UEA, the interviews for State Superintendent were held in open meetings, the stakeholders were involved in the semi-finalist interviews and the public weighed in on the issue of the next Superintendent having education experience. Did we win the day? No, but you can darn well bet the public, teachers and other stakeholders are going to keep tabs on Mr. Smith.
It is important to note that Superintendent Smith’s record in working with teachers has evolved significantly over his short tenure in Ogden School District. A local UniServ director who works with Supt. Smith said, “I believe Mr. Smith's view of teacher organizations has changed in the (past few) years…We went from having a district-implemented contract in 2011 to very positive contract negotiations this past year. Teachers received all of their lost pay steps…for some, 3 pay steps equaling more than a $5,000 a year pay increase. Teachers now have a salary schedule where they will always continue to advance and we have solidified more protections for teachers…Plus, we have been very successful in winning grievances that he has ruled on.”
We will continue to work collaboratively with the new State Superintendent but we will also not lose sight of the fact that teachers need the support of the State School Board and the State Office of Education. Rest assured that we “have your back” and we will continue to be vigilant in our representation of you, the member.
Thank you for all you do for our students and our profession.
Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh, M.A., NBCT
President, Utah Education Association
2009 Utah Teacher of the Year