Live from Music Row Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed Executive Director and CEO of Professional Educators of Tennessee J.C. Bowman in-studio to talk about how they differentiate from teachers’ unions, and promote the upcoming Leader U annual professional development conference, Tuesday, June 7th at Middle Tennessee State University.
Leahy: Right now, in-studio, our very good friend, J.C. Bowman, the President of Professional Educators of Tennessee. Good morning, J.C.
Bowman: Good morning, Michael. How are you doing today?
Leahy: I’m doing great. So tell our listeners about Professional Educators of Tennessee.
Bowman: Well, first off, we’re the fastest-growing teachers association in the state.
Leahy: You’re not a teachers’ union?
Bowman: We were never a union. Absolutely not.
Leahy: So what do you do that’s different than a teachers’ union?
Bowman: Thanks for asking. The main thing is we don’t take our members’ money and spend it on social issues. We don’t endorse political candidates. We don’t give them our members’ dues. And so those are the main things that we do not do.
Leahy: You provide services to teachers, I guess.
Bowman: Absolutely. Legal member benefits. Our member benefits are second to none. We’ve got that. We provide advocacy at the capitol. We go there, we bring an actual voice from teachers to the classroom.
Leahy: And you’ve been growing rapidly here in Tennessee.
Bowman: We are. And I’ll be honest with you, sometimes it would be appealing to go national. I do not want to fall into the trap, though, of being a national organization that loses sight of who you’re serving.
Leahy: So you’ve got an event next Tuesday at Middle Tennessee State University. It’s called Leader U professional development conference. What’s going to happen there?
Bowman: We’ve been going through the pandemic and we’ve got lessons that we’ve learned. So, for example, our keynote speaker, and this is the former South Carolina Teacher of the Year, she is Dr. Ann Marie Taylor, who is now a principal. But what’s interesting with her, she said one of the things she learned was communication skills. So they did away with faculty meetings.
Leahy: And that noise you hear is cheering from all the teachers driving in today, right?
Bowman: Well, she considers herself … her job is to support the teachers in her school, and it’s not to enact a policy from on high and whatever.
But her objective, besides student achievement and everything else, is just to serve her teachers. So she would do a memo on Sunday night.
She said sometimes she does it during the week, but usually by Sunday night she’ll send it out to her teachers. Here’s a two- to three-, sometimes five-minute memo.
She sends it out. Her teachers get it by email and text, however they prefer. They get that. They look at it.
Leahy: They got the info. It takes two to five minutes, as opposed to like an hour meeting where people drone on.
Bowman: They have to stay 30 minutes after school. They have to be there before school, and then they have to do a faculty meeting. This is just one thing. We’re bringing the best of the best from the nation. Lessons we learned.
Leahy: So your website is proedtn.org, and if a teacher is listening and wants to sign up, just go to that website.
Bowman: They go to the website. It’s real simple. They do that and it’s quick or they can call the number: 615-778-0803.
Leahy: How many people do you expect for this Leader U conference?
Bowman: We think there’ll be about 130 there. Part of the reason is that teachers are being required to take reading courses this summer. Everybody has to go undertake 12 hours of reading. So we think that they don’t have to take additional coursework.
Leahy: To teach kids how to read. Is that the answer?
Leahy: They haven’t figured that out yet?
Bowman: No. Michael, if you’re the federal projects coordinator, if you’re the maintenance director in Lincoln County in Tennessee, you have to take the reading course to keep your license.
Leahy: That doesn’t make a lot of sense. Who came up with that rule?
Bowman: Your local educational bureaucrats? We have tried to do that and they keep telling us we got to get it.
Leahy: Was it state bureaucrats?
Bowman: State bureaucrats. It was in the literacy bill that passed.
Leahy: Hey, speaking of what’s going on with the state, what happened with the testing here this year?
Bowman: Yes. So there’s been some blowbacks. Sumner County sent out a memo that the test results that they received were inaccurate.
Leahy: I thought, wasn’t this the big deal of education Commissioner Penny Schwinn, who was going to fix that?
Leahy: Is it fixed?
Leahy: Not good. Isn’t that an easy fix? Is there a vendor problem?
Bowman: It is a vendor problem. We’re talking about 100 million a year, Michael and they cannot get you your test back. So I think we need to look at what Florida has done, what DeSantis has done down there, and we need to go to benchmark testing in the middle of the year and do away with the high-stakes testing piece of it, because we can’t get it right and the results aren’t accurate for kids and they’re not accurate for teachers.
To learn more about Professional Educators of Tennessee, visit them on the web at proedtn.org
Listen to the interview:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Middle Tennessee State University Campus” by Skye Marthaler. CC BY-SA 3.0.