Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Two dreams come together....

Yesterday I was in Memphis, TN at a venue just 1.7 miles away from where Dr. Martin Luther King gave his final speech. I was there to participate in a conference on compensation and career lattice reform for America's teachers. Since the Foundation (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) was sponsoring the event, I was asked to give the opening. The following are my outlined notes. I trust they convey the enormous sense of irony and opportunity that I felt being in that place at that time.

My notes from opening:

Good Evening, Everyone!

My name is Irvin Scott, and I am the Deputy Director of Education for the Foundation and I want to take the next few minutes to do two things:

1.       First, I want express appreciation to specific individuals and groups for this gathering.

2.       Second, I want to set the stage for our conversations and learnings


1.       To begin, I want recognize the District Superintendents, CEOs of the Charter Management Organizations along with your Teams including Union leadership, you are all doing trailblazing work, not only on behalf of the children and teachers in your communities, but also on behalf of the children and teachers in America. Also, Special Thank you for Dr. Kriner Cash for hosting us here in Memphis.

2.       Secondly, Education Resource Strategies and the other thought leaders that you will be interacting with during our time together. It’s important that this conversation is facilitated by leaders in the field, and we are fortunate to have you helping us. 

3.       Finally, want to recognize and thank, the Gates team, particularly Patricia Lorea, who is leading up our Knowledge Development in the compensation reform area; as well as Mike Copland, who oversees all the program officers.

Why we are here? When I thought about that question, I could not help but think about another question, where are we?

-          1.7 Miles from our location is a place that holds special significance in the annals of American history?

-          It’s place that remains a spiritual Mecca for millions of Americans today.

-          And, it’s a place where one of America’s greatest advocates for justice and equity planted what would become his final “Mountaintop Speech” into the rocky soil of the American consciousness.

-          The time? April 3,1968 (Almost 44 years ago)

-          The place? Mason Temple: Headquarters of the Church of God in Christ

-          The Occasion? A rally on behalf of workers in Memphis

-          The person? Martin Luther King, Jr.

-          Now some may argue it’s a stretch to make a connection between our gathering and that 1968 rally. I would beg to differ.  

-          While America has made enormous progress in the area of racial equity, persistent challenges of poverty plague not only Memphis, but many urban and rural communities across this country.

-          And many of us – like many teachers – got into this work of ensuring a quality education for every child, in an effort to serve communities that have not fully realized the dreams that Dr. King and others fought and died for.

-          And in many ways, our work of rethinking traditional compensation systems for America’s teachers can be connected to yet a new dream.

-          It’s a dream of revitalizing and elevating the profession of teaching so that America’s brightest, most caring, and most skillful practitioners learn, grow  and lead together; while teaching those children who need them the most.

-          So, as we begin our work together; I would request three things of you:

-          1. Suspend your disbelief about what is possible, dream a little together….

-          2. Keep in mind that our competing interests intersect at this goal:

o   Elevating a profession to better serve America’s children, especially Low Income Minority children

-          3. And finally, Remember, we have an opportunity to build on what happened nearly 44 years ago only 1.7 miles from here….

-          Thank you, and again welcome to this convening.

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