DCPS and union leaders strike collegial tone in welcoming new teachers

Chancellor Kaya Henderson and Elizabeth Davis, the new Washington Teachers Union president, struck a collegial and cooperative tone Wednesday morning at an orientation for new D.C. Public Schools teachers.

Henderson said she was excited to work with Davis, a veteran of the school system who most recently taught at Phelps Architecture, Construction and Engineering High School. Davis echoed the sentiment, saying she’s looking forward to helping the chancellor meet her goals and to “reenergizing the union” to support teachers, students and families.

Still, the two have a relationship to build, a contract to negotiate, and issues on which they don’t necessarily see eye to eye. Henderson wants more flexibility to offer a longer school day and year, for example, while Davis has expressed skepticism that more hours in class is the best way to lift student achievement.

“If you think you’re nervous about starting the school year,” Davis told her new colleagues, “imagine how I’m feeling right now.”

The two-day orientation is meant to give hundreds of new teachers a chance to get acquainted with the school system, tour model classrooms and ask veteran teachers for advice. And with less than two weeks before the first day of classes, the auditorium was filled with all the hope, ambition and jitters of a fresh school year.

“We believe in your potential to help us meet our mission to give our young people a world-class education,” Henderson told her new employees. “We chose you.”

Emma Brown writes about national education and about people with a stake in schools, including teachers, parents and kids.

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