Labor-Management Collaboration Conference Showcases The Value of Educators' Voices

Frequent communications and strong union-management partnerships between teachers and administrators at the school level is associated with a positive learning environment, improved student performance, and decreased teacher turnover, according to a 2014 study on long-term collaborative partnerships by SMLR Professor Saul Rubinstein and Ph.D. alumnus John McCarthy, IRHR ’14. 

The Rubinstein-McCarthy study was central to the Northeast TURN and New Jersey Collaborative School Leadership Initiative Conference held on March 18-19, 2016 at the Rutgers University Inn and Conference Center. The conference brought together more than 70 educators and members of teacher associations from districts across several northeastern states to further discuss ways to cultivate a culture of collaboration at their school sites.  

“Union-management partnerships not only give people a voice, but it also increases the quality of decisions that are made,” says Professor Saul Rubinstein who organized the conference in partnership with the Northeast TURN, the teacher union reform network of American Federation of Teachers (AFT) & National Education Association (NEA) locals and partners. 

“Research shows that if you empower people closest to a problem, you’ll open the doors to different solutions,” he says.

The two-day event incorporated a combination of panel and group discussions to further explore the culture and outcomes of union-management collaborations across school districts. W. Patrick Dolan from the Consortium for Educational Change was among the speakers who explored the opportunities and challenges found in the collaborative landscape. 

“We need a healing model that is led from the middle,” says Dolan. “There are systemic changes that need to be done together, and Rutgers’ hard data shows how we can do this.”

In addition to the panel, conversations addressed how a deeper understanding of collaborative leadership can be achieved through professional practices and pedagogy as well as ways to integrate academic-social-emotional learning in classrooms and learning communities.

Cara Stein, a teacher from Bergen County Special Services School District in New Jersey, was among the attendees who took pride in their districts’ work. “Through this work will be able to improve the culture of our community at large and have more effective education. It’s beneficial to everyone, not just our district,” says Stein. “To be part of the movement is exciting.”