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A Model of Collaboration

The financial crisis around the world is taking its toll on public sector employees, and educators are not exempt. As the evidence mounts that this situation is a long-term condition rather than a temporary one, education is increasingly in the spotlight. The simple fact is that the cost of educating the nation's youth consumes a substantial portion of state and federal revenues.

As a nation, we face difficult times, but it is in challenging times that our true values are evident. Jefferson County Public Schools in Golden, Colorado, set a model of how educators and community members use civility, commitment, and inventiveness to address the district's $40 million budget shortfall. In Jeffco, district administrators, school board members, and leaders from the teacher and classified school employee associations worked together to make decisions about how to handle the deficit. These groups met during a weekend "employee summit" that was facilitated by a federal mediator, and the district created a video explaining the budget decisions made during the summit and an area on its website where community members can provide feedback on the proposed budget.

While the outcome of their work is painful and affects each student, family, educator, and the community at large, their approach is noteworthy. It sends a powerful message, particularly to Jeffco students, that adults can reach agreement with hard work, mutual respect, and commitment that leads to reasonable resolutions of even the most complex challenges facing the community.

Jeffco and other school districts across the nation are using collaboration and civility to address the budget crisis facing public schools. Their actions provide opportunities to educate their students about how to face challenges with dignity and respect. To educate future leaders, public sector employees, particularly educators, have a responsibility to model how to use dialogue to build deep understanding of one another and to work collaboratively, rather than divisively.

Educators who collaborate about teaching and student learning build their skillfulness to engage in difficult decisions within their classrooms, and beyond them.

Joellen Killion
Deputy Executive Director, Learning Forward

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