Nebraska State Education Association Names a Free Thinker as Executive Director

The Nebraska State Education Association selected Maddie Fennell to be its new executive director, replacing the retiring Craig Christiansen. Ordinarily this wouldn’t be big news, but Fennell isn’t ordinary.

A state teacher of the year, Fennell chaired the National Education Association’s Commission on Effective Teachers and Teaching. In that role, she was a bit of an iconoclast:

We have replicated in our organization some of the same inefficiencies we fight against in our school districts. The challenges of the past can inform our future, but we can’t continue to use the same strategies to solve our new challenges.

We tie the hands of our leaders through complicated resolutions and policies. We lack the flexibility to rapidly adapt in a texting, Facebook, technologically “do it now” society.

We must promote and enable greater flexibility within NEA governance structures for a rapid response to the changing political and educational environments. We must take the primary responsibility for the quality of teaching and for student learning.

It is time for our union to evolve.

There was significant resistance to Fennell’s approach within NEA, and there continues to be. A strategy of flexibility may be better suited to her home state, and we wish her well in her new position.