Teachers Union President to be Honored at White House

New Haven Federation of Teachers President David Cicarella has been named a “Champion of Change” by the White House for his commitment to supporting teachers in the district’s groundbreaking school reform initiative.
Cicarella, who has been with the New Haven Public Schools system for 33 years, will travel to Washington D.C. this week to attend a ceremony where he will be honored for his work along with 11 other educational leaders from around the country. Each week, the White House honors standout Americans who are striving to make a difference in their community.

This week, the White House will recognize leaders who work tirelessly toward the goal of turning around low-performing schools to ensure all students have access to top-notch educations. The “School Turnaround Champions of Change” event will be held from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House. The ceremony will be live-streamed on the website, http://www.whitehouse.gov/live. Cicarella will also tell his story in a blog post that will be featured on the White House website.
“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. “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.”
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said collaboration was key to developing and implementing the New Haven School Change initiative, which other school districts are using as a model. “New Haven’s success is based on shared responsibility—with the union, city and school leaders acknowledging that collaboration, not top-down dictatorial mandates, yields the best solutions.”
“David Cicarella has demonstrated that the relationship between teachers' representatives and district management can truly be one that emphasizes collaboration and meaningful reform,” said Connecticut Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor. “Thanks to Mr. Cicarella, Mayor DeStefano, Superintendent Mayo, and other local leaders, New Haven has become a powerful model of change -- a school district where innovative reforms are directly benefitting schoolchildren and inspiring professionals statewide. I salute David for his solutions-oriented approach and his significant accomplishments to date.”
“Teachers are absolutely critical to accomplishing our mission of turning around schools and ensuring all our kids have access to the best education possible,” Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said. “Dave understands that and has been a guiding force in bringing teachers into the process of school reform. This award is a testament to his commitment and the hard work of our talented teachers.”
“Great teachers are the key to success when it comes to improving schools. Dave Cicarella has worked from the beginning to empower teachers and have their voices be heard,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Reginald Mayo. “We couldn’t have come as far as we have in turning around schools and advancing academic achievement without Dave’s determination and the hard work of our teachers.”
Cicarella was a classroom teacher for 22 years in New Haven and worked for six years as an instructional coach in the Math Department. He was elected president of the New Haven Federation of Teachers in 2007 and has played an integral role in helping to shape New Haven’s nationally watched School Change initiative.
The New Haven School Change initiative seeks to dramatically improve student outcomes in three ways – by eliminating the achievement gap with the state, cutting the high school drop-out rate in half and ensuring every student is academically prepared and financially able to attend, succeed in and graduate from college.

Critical to the reform initiative’s success was the teachers union’s ratification of a new contract several years ago that emphasized cooperation and collaboration and established new comprehensive evaluation systems for teachers and administrators. The evaluation system includes student learning, instructional practices and professional values and is seen as a model for school districts in Connecticut and across the country.
Cicarella is the second New Haven educator to be named a “Champion of Change” by the White House. Food Services Director Tim Cipriano received the honor in spring 2011 for his efforts to introduce healthy and locally produced food into city schools.