AFT Utah President Interviewed and Published on AFT Leadernet

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AFT Utah leader shares vision of reclaiming the promise

AFT Utah president Brad Asay has been one of the AFT's most energetic leaders in sharing the vision of reclaiming the promise of public education to his members and the broader community.

When Brad Asay wants something done, he likes to use what he calls "the ask method." It's simply going to people and "asking them for what you want," he says. Asay says his ability to approach people without fear of rejection comes from his youthful days as a Mormon missionary. "If you don't ask, you get nothing."

Asay's willingness to speak out motivated him to run for the Utah state Legislature. And although his run wasn't successful, it opened new doors for him. Appointed president of AFT Utah in May 2013, Asay, who taught junior high for 18 years, has been using those open doors to share the vision of reclaiming the promise of public education—and has been asking others to share that vision as well.

Asay was spurred into action after hearing AFT President Randi Weingarten's speech on reclaiming the promise during the national union's TEACH conference in July. "Something about it just resonated with me," he says of the speech. "All I could think about was going back home and spreading this message."

Earlier this month, the AFT Utah president was a panelist at the AFT's state legislative issues conference, where he talked about what he has done to spread the gospel of reclaiming the promise of public education in Utah.

Asay utilized the letter to the editor template on LeaderNet to craft a letter on reclaiming the promise that he sent to local newspapers. "I didn't know what the response would be, but the feedback was incredible," he says. "There was clear support from the community for public schools." That encouraged Asay to take the next step and host a town hall in Ogden in October. Asay reached out to Martell Menlove, Utah's superintendent of public instruction, who took part in the event. "I shared the vision, and he agreed that it was really good stuff," Asay says.

Dozens of community members turned out for the town hall, where they discussed issues and concerns such as class size, underfunded schools and parental involvement. The event's success prompted AFT Utah to hold a second town hall in late November.

The second town hall, held in Salt Lake City, opened up a dialogue with two of the state's congressional candidates. It also led to inroads with members of the Utah state Legislature, who Asay has asked to embrace reclaiming the promise.

In recent weeks, Asay, along with AFT Utah staffers, has been visiting schools throughout the state to talk to school staff and others about the vision of reclaiming the promise and about how they can help make that vision a reality.

"As a union, all of the plans we make now begin with thinking about how reclaiming the promise fits in to the work we do. It's become evolutionary and has taken on a life of its own."

Asay says the state federation will be asking its members to promote the Share My Lesson website in conjunction with the Dec. 9 National Day of Action being staged by parents, students, teachers and community members across the country.

[Adrienne Coles]