The Maryland State Education Association, otherwise known as the largest teacher's union in Maryland, has a new president that started on Wednesday.
Cheryl Bost says this opportunity is the first day of a new adventure, so WMAR-2 News wanted to know what that means to her and what she plans on focusing on while she holds the position.
Reporter Mark Roper sat down with Bost to get some insight:
Q: So what is today bringing for you, what’s on the table?
A: Today I am obviously trying to get out to let folks know there is a new leadership at MSEA so we can build on all of the strengths we brought to the table for education. So I’m excited, I am a Baltimore County teacher and I want folks to know I am here as a new leader.
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges facing teachers in Maryland right now?
A: Right now, we are educators and we represent 74,000 across the state. We are faced with increased class sizes, we don’t have the technology and the staff we need in schools, we are very short on school counselors, social workers, and so educators across the state are trying to make due with less. So funding is a big issue and we are looking to the Kirwan Commission in Annapolis to try and help us fill that funding gap.
Q: That is definitely a lot to handle when you are talking about overcrowding, teacher pay, a lot of things that cost money and not a lot of money to pay for it. What would be the biggest property right now then?
A: So overall I think to have the educator voice in the decision making, which helps us prioritize what we need to provide. I was a teacher at Mars Estate Elementary School and at that time we had 70% of students living under the poverty line, and the state wanted to come in and take our school over based on test scores alone. And as a community and as a school we said no, these are the things that we need, and so we had a voice in the decision making. We wanted social workers, counselors, extra planning time, after school and summer programs for our students, and we received those things as well as training and things for teachers. We closed the achievement gap between black and white students, our suspensions went down, and the school climate improved. We became a community school once again where people wanted to come. And so I think if we do that from school to school, district to district, and really make the educators a voice, it can be efficient for what we fund for our schools and it will meet the needs of the students and the staff. And that is really what I want to do as president, I have called it a new labor movement where educators are the voice of the decision-making instead of people who have never stepped foot in a classroom.
Q: Since you are from Baltimore County and Baltimore County does not have a permanent superintendent yet, do you have any thoughts as the new leader of the teachers union in terms of bringing some resolution to that situation for the county?
A: I am proud to be a Baltimore County teacher. I taught at Mars Estate and Prettyboy, and had the fortune of working under Verletta White, the current interim, she was the assistant principal at Mars Estate. I know her and support her very much and I think Baltimore County needs her stability. She has worked her way through the school system, and I think it’s time for the Board of Education, which will be turning over through the election, to look at her and the value she brings and not look back, but look forward. I think Verletta would be a great superintendent and we need that stability and long-range goals for the students and the system. We have a lot of challenges that can be opportunities in Baltimore County and I think she is the person who could do it.
Q: Has the Supreme Court decision, the Janus decision, have any effect on teachers here?
A: Well we have 74,000 members and we have continued to grow each year and I am confident as we give educators that voice, we will continue to grow. We have a strong union and we represent all of our educators, bus drivers, teachers, even some administrators. And so, I think as we work to increase teacher salaries and provide our support professionals a living wage, and show everybody that they have a collective voice then they will continue to be members of our organization, and we will continue to grow.
Q: Does the decision itself hurt the financial stability of the union?
A: We have been gearing up for the attacks that are coming from the wealthy and corporations against unions, which we see as attacks against the middle class. So we have been out having one-on-one conversations with our members, so I don’t see this as hurting us, I see it as strengthening our resolve to represent our members and students. We have seen the voices in other states such as Arizona and Virginia, so we see more of our educators coming together, and I don’t think it will hurt the association.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
A: I am just excited and hope for the public to support public education here in the state of Maryland and help us as we go through Election Day, and get out there and vote. The Maryland State Education Association is supporting Ben Jealous and his initiatives for teacher pay, living wage, pre-k, career technology education, so we want people to support those initiatives and go vote.