1,000 Educators Declare Their Pride in SAGE
More than 1,000 educators and guests packed the state's first conference
on the highly successful SAGE class-size reduction program Monday and
Tuesday (March 6-7, 2000) in Milwaukee.
"Today we gather here as part of our Great Schools
effort to celebrate one of the true victories for all Wisconsin citizens
... that is the promise and the possibilities of the SAGE program,"
WEAC Executive Director Michael Butera told the enthusiastic crowd.
The SAGE Schools Are Great Schools Conference was
organized by WEAC, in partnership with the Wisconsin Federation of Teachers
and the Wisconsin Realtors Association. SAGE stands for Student Achievement
Guarantee in Education, a program that reduces class size in primary
grades in schools with large numbers of children from low-income backgrounds.
Butera said SAGE is closely linked to the goals and
objectives of WEAC's expansive Great Schools initiative.
"Gathered here today, teachers, good union members,
parents, administrators and public officials will work cooperatively
to collaborate in the best sense of the word in ensuring that every
kid deserves and receives a Great School," Butera said.
"Thanks to hard work by people like you in this room,
Wisconsin will invest in its children through establishing as many as
500 SAGE schools across this state," he said. "We should be proud of
what we have done, what we intend to do and of the political necessities
we have engaged in to make this a reality."
Pointing out that the SAGE conference is a union activity,
WEAC Vice President Stan Johnson said, "We're here for the achievement
of our students." And, he said, "it's about making our profession a
Wisconsin Federation of Teachers President Bob Beglinger said SAGE "is an example of
why Wisconsin schools continue to rank high and among the best schools
in the world."
Bill Berland, president of the Wisconsin Realtors
Association, said good schools sell houses.
"Our partnership brings to light the clear-cut link between education
and real estate," he said. "The quality of schools directly impacts
the vitality and viability of neighborhoods."
State Superintendent John Benson and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Professor Alex Molnar were presented
special awards for their key roles in the development of the SAGE program.
"I believe SAGE is a model for partnership and collaboration,"
Benson said. He said he accepted the award on behalf of "our littlest
children ... who will have a much better chance of getting on that plane
and soaring to success."
Molnar, who headed a task force that came up with
the idea for SAGE, credited all the task force members and Benson, who
appointed Molnar to the post after Benson defeated Molnar in the race
for state superintendent. Molnar said had he won that election, SAGE
probably never would have been created.
"Thank God I lost," Molnar said. "And thank God he
(Benson) showed that trust in me."
SAGE, Molnar said, "demonstrates that everyone benefits
when we all work together."
Conference keynote speaker NEA Vice President Reg
Weaver said the success of SAGE proves
that class size does matter, and so does funding for education. Yes,
he said, SAGE costs money, "and the students are achieving." The next
time someone tells you money doesn't matter, Weaver told the participants,
tell them about SAGE.
It's another example, he said, of why Wisconsin schools
are Great Schools.
"And every kid deserves a Great School," he said.
"Keep up the good work. I am so proud of you."
Conference participants spent most of Tuesday attending
a variety of workshops on topics such as Understanding Fiscal Issues,
Understanding SAGE Program Requirements, Developing Accountability Plans,
Encouraging Professional Development Opportunities, and Increasing Parental
Representatives from many of the existing 80 SAGE
schools shared perspectives with representatives from schools that are
considering joining the SAGE program next year, when it will expand
to as many as 500 schools statewide as the result of increased state
Posted March 7, 2000