City | 7:38 pm | August 21, 2012 | By Nick Defiesta

White House honors teachers’ union president

David Cicarella, president of the New Haven Federation of Teachers, was honored by the White House Tuesday for his contributions to the city's education reform efforts.
David Cicarella, president of the New Haven Federation of Teachers, was honored by the White House Tuesday for his contributions to the city's education reform efforts. Photo by Nick Defiesta.

New Haven teachers’ union leader David Cicarella was honored at the White House Tuesday for his role in the city’s progress on education reform.

Cicarella, the president of the New Haven Federation of teachers since 2007, was named a “White House Champion of Change” by President Barack Obama for his efforts in bringing about the ratification of a 2009 teacher’s union contract that has been hailed by some as a model for low-performing school districts nationwide. The contract is most noted for its introduction of a teacher evaluation system that included student learning — considered a breakthrough at a time when many urban school districts remained in gridlock over teacher contracts.

“This award is a true honor for me and also for the many talented teachers of New Haven Public Schools who face the challenges of urban education by demanding nothing less than the best for our students,” Cicarella said in a statement. “Our teachers had a seat at the table when it came to defining New Haven’s School Change Initiative and they have gone above and beyond in working toward the goal of transforming all of our schools into top learning institutions.”

Cicarella was honored alongside 11 other educational leaders from around the country Tuesday afternoon in a ceremony in the White House’s Eisenhower Executive Office Building. According to the Champions of Change website, the awards seek to foster collaboration between “ordinary Americans … doing extraordinary things in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.”

In a statement, Stefan Pryor ’93 LAW ’98, Connecticut’s education commissioner and a charter school founder, called Cicarella’s work as union president proof that “the relationship between teachers’ representatives and district management can truly be one that emphasizes collaboration and meaningful reform.”

Superintendent Reggie Mayo and Mayor John DeStefano Jr., who has made education reform one of his top policy priorities in recent years, also saluted Cicarella’s work in the city’s public schools.

Before his election to the union’s top post, Cicarella was a classroom teacher and instructional coach in New Haven for 28 years.

Cicarella is the second New Haven educator to be named a Champion of Change: Tom Cipriano, the district’s food services director, won the award last spring for his efforts in educating children about food and improving the nutritiousness of food served in New Haven school cafeterias.

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