This is no time for cruise control - by UEA Vice President Tom Nedreberg


By UEA Vice President Tom Nedreberg

As Vice President from a rural area, I put more than 20,000 miles on my car doing association business last year. While driving to a UEA Board Meeting in Cedar City recently, I relearned a very important lesson. Driving just south of Nephi where the speed limit changed to 80 MPH, I had my cruise control set. It started to storm and I didn’t worry about it until I went to pass a truck and all of a sudden my rear tires decided they wanted to pass my front tires.

In the blink of an eye, I had a rush of emotions, thoughts, and decisions that had to be made right then. There wasn’t time for thoughtful deliberation but I had to rely on years of experience and training to make sure I didn’t end up in a mess. So rather than fight the car and the situation and end up in the side of the truck or rolling my car, when I saw I was going off the road into the median, I quickly decided to just ride it out until I could more safely maneuver my car.

By the time I was at the bottom of the median, I was going slowly enough that I was faced with a choice, do I stop and possibly get stuck or do I use my momentum and get back up the hill to the freeway again. When I looked ahead, I didn’t see any big obstacles so I chose to get back on the road, which I did.

This was a scary experience for me, but it reminded me of a couple of the unprecedented events that the UEA has had to face this past summer–Ogden teachers being left out of contract negotiations and being bullied into signing an imposed contract, and the letter from Sen. Howard Stephenson and Rep. Bill Wright saying they want to study doing away with all public-sector collective bargaining, eliminating payroll deduction of dues, and imposing a new version of vouchers.

With all the other attacks on education and the middle class happening around the nation and knowing they could end up in Utah as well, it was not possible for the UEA to remain on the road in cruise control. The Ogden teachers had three weeks to make a decision about whether they should sign their “new” contracts. When these teachers asked for help from the UEA, decisions had to be made quickly on not only how to control the direction of the Association, but also how to make sure we could get back on the road of advocating for strong public schools for all students.

These decisions weren’t made based solely on emotion, but were thought out and vetted using the experience and training of UEA and NEA staff members working overtime. They looked at the consequences of each choice and made decisions to make sure that would not only help the teachers in Ogden, but that would still allow the UEA to be on the road once the crisis was over.

So while this past summer has been a rough emotional ride, it has also been a time for all of us to discover the real value of our Association–from the local to the national level. We are all working to protect public education. It is now more critical than ever that we all work together to make sure a crisis doesn’t take our eye off of our goal of a great public school for all children. I’ve learned that, in stormy times like these, you can’t be on cruise control in your classroom or in your responsibilities as a teacher or as a member of your Association.



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