E. Toby Boyd was onstage, holding the mic and rallying the thousands of educators in front of him at the State Capitol in Sacramento. “Show me what democracy looks like!” he cried, cupping his ear. The crowd responded, weakly.
“We need to make some noise, folks!” Boyd said, pacing the stage and shouting the line again. The crowd thundered back, “This is what democracy looks like!”
Expect Boyd to bring the same energy and enthusiasm to his role as CTA president, which he assumes in late June, as he did as “emcee” at CTA’s #RedForEd Day of Action on May 22. Many people know him as a longtime CTA leader, most recently on the CTA Board of Directors representing District E (covering most of Sacramento and San Joaquin counties). He’s soft-spoken and friendly, as befits the kindergarten teacher he is.
But make no mistake: Boyd’s ready to fight for public education and educators. “Do not be fooled by my calm, quiet demeanor,” he told CTA State Council delegates in March in his speech before the election. “I’ve learned power and action do not come from a loud voice. They come from listening, reflecting, and then acting.”
The self-professed “proud black man from Detroit and single father of a daughter with special needs” will be the face of CTA during a particularly high-profile time. While education funding in California is at a high, the state is a dismal 39th in the country in per-pupil spending. The #RedForEd movement has focused attention on public schools, students and educators, yet resources for all are still lacking. The racial and social justice issues that roil the country are felt intensely in our classrooms.
We talked to Boyd about his vision for CTA as he takes office.
What he brings as CTA’s leader
“I want to make sure that CTA continues to be the thriving advocate for the children of this state and for our members. We have to be the voice of children who don’t have a voice. We have to give parents the tools they need to navigate and advocate for their children, and help them do better.
“I want to make sure that all members are included in my leadership. I’m a compassionate listener and problem-solver. I am known for my ability to bring people together to work collaboratively. I don’t have all the answers, but it’s not about me. It’s about the members behind me who will help me steer CTA into the future.”
What he wants members to know
“CTA’s power is the integrity of our members, and our informed voices. We are the ones who must stand up for our students and communities as well as our profession. We must understand the value of our voices within our profession as well as to the public — and we must use those voices.
“We need to stay together. We can achieve things that others cannot, we will be successful, but we can’t do it alone. We have to do it as a group.”
His goals for public education
“We must ensure that we look at our profession through the lenses of equity and social justice while seeking a dedicated funding source that provides educators and students with adequate resources. We spend more money on the prison system than our educational system. Where are our priorities?
“Our educational system is built on the deficit model. We teach to the deficits of our children instead of their strengths. We focus on how well they did at point A or point B on the system’s spectrum, but we don’t know what their life is like, what is going on at home, what their health is like — there are so many factors that we don’t have control over.
“Since we know where they began on the spectrum and where we want them to finish, why not move them along on that continuum until they get to where they need to go? It’s going to take a mind shift, not only for educators but policymakers, to change the system from a deficit model to a strength-based model, and what that looks like.”
Advice to new educators
“Learning to be an educator is nothing like being an educator. It’s not easy, especially if you don’t have the tools you need. That first year, you’re going to feel that you just don’t have it.
“But the more you do it, the better it gets. Try to build relationships, a community and network. Being able to talk to someone, having that person to confide in, having someone with whom you can debrief and just breathe lets you understand that one day does not make your whole career.
“And remember, you can always talk to your union representative.”
“#RedForEd is not just about funding education. It’s about the working conditions of our educators, the learning conditions of our children. It’s about the whole child. It’s about racial and social justice.
“I’m excited about #RedForEd, and about CTA members’ role in it. We’re here for the betterment of the children, and the adults and communities we serve. No one is going to be left behind. We’ll be here to make sure of that.”
E. Toby Boyd
Age 60; lives in Sacramento with daughter Chauncee, mother Jacqueline.
Kindergarten teacher for 25 years. Accounting major in college (“I’m a numbers freak”) before switching; B.A. in liberal studies and teaching credential from CSU Sacramento.
On CTA Board of Directors since 2009; held committee positions on CTA State Council and the CTA/ABC Committee; 12-time delegate to NEA Representative Assembly; bargaining team member, Elk Grove Education Association. Served on the state Transitional Kindergarten Professional Learning Steering Committee.
“I used to be a hell of a bowler. And people at CTA Summer Institute think I sing ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ really well.”