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History of Novato Federation of Teachers

The Novato Federation of Teachers (NFT) is a professional teachers' organization dedicated to the improvement of public education in the Novato Unified School District.
 
NFT is a teachers' union affiliated with the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) (Local 1986/AFL/CIO).
 
The AFT is a genuinely independent teacher organization of character and integrity and is the recognized leader in school reform and educational innovation. It is a national classroom teachers' organization that speaks for teachers across the United States, with its main headquarters in Washington, D.C.
 
NFT has the backing and services of CFT and AFT, but we remain an autono-mous organization. NFT members control their organization and make all policy decisions related to positions and activities of the organization.
 
The constitution of NFT expressly required that we be a democratically run organization and function according to democratic principles.
 
The NFT, Local 1986 AFT/CFT, became the first bargaining agent in Novato after receiving 55% of the teachers' votes on November 4, 1976. NFT has remained the bargaining agent through two decertification attempts, each time increasing the margin of victory.
 
NFT received its charter from AFT on October 18, 1969 with 23 charter members under the leadership of Arthur (Bill) Atwood. It remained a small group with token representation on the old C.E.C. under the Winton Act. However, all was not well with the Association chapter, CTA/NEA, who controlled the majority of seats on C.E.C. As the local chapter became more centered on state and county organization affairs, many members became disturbed that the organizations' concerns were becoming less oriented to local teacher needs. Loss of local control was also a major issue to many members for decision-making was shifting from the local organization to the county or state organization. When it became clear that the Association was unresponsive to teacher concerns, may members of the Association left that group and formed an independent group, the Classroom Teachers of Novato (CTON), headed by Iris Cloudt. It soon became evident, however, that an umbrella cover and help of a national organization was needed and AFT/CFT met those needs. Thus, CTON members joined NFT and became the guiding force of a newly merged organization with triple the membership.
 
Under the leadership of President Iris Cloudt, NFT continued to grow in numbers as more teachers became disillusioned with the Association. When collective bargaining became a reality, NFT was in a good position to "go for the gold" and became the exclusive bargaining agent. NFT began preparations for a challenge election under the leadership of W. Jerry Larkin, with Iris Cloudt as chairperson of the NFT contract committee. The Association leaders delayed the election, but with the aid of CFT/AFT staff, especially Sam Bishop, NFT ran a successful classroom teacher oriented campaign under the direction of President Helen Vargas in the fall of 1976.
 
NFT set out to negotiate the first collective bargaining contract for Novato teaches after obtaining a great deal of input from all Novato teachers. Among the highlights of the contract was the concept of professional hours of employment. No time clock was to be employed and teaches were left to determine how their professional duties would be met.
 
Over the years NFT has been the official voice for Novato teaches, and the contract has been steadily improved. Under the leadership of Presidents P. Carey McCarthy and Helen (Vargas) O'Hare, the following noteworthy achievements were accomplished. Extra duty assignments were slowly bargained away and some weekly prep time was achieved for elementary teachers. A permanent sabbatical fund was established, and teachers were to be paid a negotiated hourly rate or daily rate for any work over and beyond their professional responsibilities, as well as for voluntary participation in District-authorized and established in-service activities and curriculum work. The District makes a negotiated contribution to health benefits or retirees between 55-65, and there are early retirement incentives. Furthermore, salary increases have been continuously negotiated to increase Novato's salary schedule rank in the Bay Area.
 
Members of NFT are professional teachers. We work for professional goals. We believe that the teaching profession should be organized and strongly united. We think teaches themselves should set and maintain the standards of their own profession.
 
Over the years great effort has been made to develop a more cooperative attitude in relations between the Federation and the District. Through the grievance procedure and regular meetings between the President of the Federation and the Superintendent, NFT has assumed an ever-increasing role in the professional activities of Novato Teachers.
 
It is the goal of the current officers and building representative to professionalize teaching and take an active role in determining our future.
 
(NFT Bylaws, 1970 - last modification 9/16/2002)