Dal George Lawrence, who advanced a teaching profession around excellence, pride, collegiality and performance, died on Tuesday, May 14 at Hospice of Northwest Ohio in Perrysburg. Mr. Lawrence, president of the Toledo Federation of Teachers from 1966 to 1996, was 86 and lived in Sylvania, Ohio, with his wife of 46 years, Francine Lawrence.
Mr. Lawrence was born on August 10, 1932. He grew up on a farm between McComb and Findlay, Ohio and spent his childhood doing what country boys do, mastering the art of running a farm. There were plenty of chores to be done and Dal learned the skills needed to raise hogs, chickens and steers. School was okay, and he liked sports (he won nine letters on high school teams), but except for history, Dal wasn’t really enthralled with the subjects his teachers deemed important. He planned to be a farmer, like his father. He became the first in his family to finish high school. He didn’t expect to go to college until the last semester of his senior year of high school. Some of his friends were going to college so he gave it a try. He ended up doing things that he never anticipated.
He graduated from Findlay College in 1954 with a B.S. degree in education and from Ohio State University in 1955 with an M.A. in history. While at Findlay College he helped pay his tuition through full-time employment at the Old Dutch Brewery. While studying at OSU graduate school, Dal was graduate assistant to Foster Rhea Dulles who taught 20th century America, through 1950. He considered Dulles, first cousin to CIA Director Allen Dulles, as one of his heroes and mentors. He described him as a great lecturer and presenter and a man with high standards. Dal took pride in preparing a paper and delivering a verbal presentation twice each quarter about a topic related to 20th century America. Dulles would extort his students to follow the facts, get the facts right.
In January 1956, he started teaching at Grove City High School. He left teaching after one year because he could not support a growing family on a teacher’s salary. From 1956 to 1961, Dal was a successful salesman for Chemi-Trol Chemical Company, traveling throughout the mid-west selling herbicides to county and state highway departments and steel propane tanks to LP gas dealers. During the summer months, he also managed work crews that applied herbicides along highways and at industrial sites. He soon realized that this was not what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.
He recognized that his passion was teaching, specifically World and American history and government. The boy who was a reluctant student in high school discovered a love of reading and learning and pursued a special interest in the history of the Italian Renaissance.
In 1961, Dal was hired by Toledo Public Schools as a history teacher and taught at DeVilbiss High School from 1961 to 1968. The DeVilbiss faculty included lawyers and teachers who were accomplished in their subject discipline, including teachers of Russian and Chinese. He observed that faculty conversations were like going to a New York Chautauqua gathering.
Dal was elected to the Toledo Federation of Teachers Board of Directors in 1964 and was placed on the collective bargaining committee. When Dal was elected president of the Toledo Federation of Teachers in 1966, the union could claim only 250 members, a rather unimpressive figure compared to the membership of the rival Toledo Education Association. But as the folksinger Bob Dylan observed, times were a-changin’, and Toledo teachers were beginning to look for an organization more responsive to their interests than the Association, with its mixed membership of teachers and administrators. TFT offered teachers a vision about what teaching could be and about how schools should perform. The union would speak for teachers and work to empower them as professionals with an effective voice in matters related to teaching and learning.
Dal was the embodiment of that vision. He worked tirelessly, carrying the message to every school in the system: teachers must be treated as professionals and teachers must act as professionals. In 1968, following two previous attempts, TFT won the support of the majority of the teachers in a secret ballot election and became the bargaining agent for contract negotiations. Beyond the strength and support of its members, Dal knew that nothing is more important to the success of a union than the right to bargain collectively and the right to binding arbitration. He negotiated the first binding arbitration public employee contract provision in the state of Ohio. He led two teacher strikes against Toledo Public Schools in 1970 and 1978. The Federation grew to over 3,000 members and negotiates contracts for three major employee groups – teachers, paraprofessionals, and substitute teachers. Dal’s quest to ensure that teachers be respected and that public schools excel became concrete reality in contract language that was often truly revolutionary and provided Toledo teachers with unique professional opportunities. Many of the programs and contract provisions that he developed gained national recognition.
During his tenure as president of Toledo Federation of Teachers, Mr. Lawrence’s vision was to build a profession for teachers around the key issues of excellence, pride, collegiality, and performance. He observed that “we not only improve our professional lives, we also elevate the quality of the instruction we deliver and improve student achievement. Everyone is a winner and public education is strengthened.” He believed that professionalization, restructuring, and instructional change were at the heart of education reform. He was passionate about the union’s educational reform agenda and was the driving force behind numerous innovative projects.
The keystone of Dal’s efforts was peer review, a process in which experienced, accomplished teachers mentor and evaluate the performance of intern teachers and experienced teachers who are deficient in their performance. The Toledo Plan became a nationally acclaimed union/management initiative and was the nation’s first peer review teacher evaluation system. Implemented in 1981 and jointly administered by the Toledo Federation of Teachers and the administration of Toledo Public Schools, the Toledo Plan was the winner of the 2001 “Innovations in Government” award sponsored by the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and the Ford Foundation. This trailblazing program gave teachers the ultimate responsibility for policing their own ranks, a major step toward professional credibility. It has been copied and implemented by numerous school districts throughout the country.“Toledo teachers can now show the public,” Dal was quoted as saying in the book Teachers, Schools and Society,” that they care about quality and that they will not tolerate unacceptable performance. It is important for teachers to accept the ultimate responsibility for policing their profession.” Speaking about the Toledo Plan, Dal also said, “In fact, peer review’s real value is not found in a better way to evaluate. Its beauty lies in the creation of a union/management panel that presides over the process. After all, no one has a vested interest in incompetent performance.” Under his presidency, Toledo became a leader in union-management collaboration. Dal practiced “solution driven unionism” before it became a national standard. He provided consultation and served as a mentor to teacher union presidents and superintendents as they established peer review programs in their school districts. Following his retirement, he served as an American Federation of Teachers Consultant for Peer Assistance and Review.
Dal negotiated new pay concepts aimed at keeping teachers in the classroom and pushed his members toward accountability and responsibility for student learning. Dal established a Career Ladder plan that offered teachers the opportunity to increase their salaries by meeting a series of performance objectives while being evaluated, once again, through a process of peer review. The State of Ohio endorsed the program by providing special funding for the extra compensation awarded Career Ladder teachers. He negotiated additional pay for a master’s degree in a liberal arts field to incentivize teachers to acquire knowledge in their subject discipline. He considered instructional expertise and leadership as the province of teachers in Toledo. Math and science instruction at the junior high involving teacher leaders who coached peers in collaboration with Michigan State University, ungraded primary education, site based management and a Chinese-Russian Study Center were introduced successfully through Lawrence’s leadership. The Toledo Area Writing Project and courses in critical thinking and classroom management were additional initiatives that emphasized teacherleadership. Dal cultivated talented teachers to advance instructional initiatives. Toledo teachers controlled staff development and made all curriculum and textbook and other district committee appointments through their union contract.
Mr. Lawrence authored 133 monthly columns about public education, “Speaking for Teachers” in the Toledo Blade and is the author of Don’t You Want to Be a Professional?, a book detailing the struggle of Toledo teachers to build a teaching profession. He also published The Toledo Plan – Peer Review and Peer Assistance – Practical Advice for Beginners. He also authored articles about labor, peer assistance review and education reform in The Peer Assistance and Review Reader, Journal of Law & Education, Education and Urban Society, and Profiles in Leadership. “Toledo: Intern and Intervention Programs in a Union Town” was a feature in Teacher Evaluation – A study of Effective Practices prepared by the National Institute of Education. Ray Marshall, Secretary of Education in the Carter administration, authored The Case for Collaborative School Reform – The Toledo Experience, a publication of the Economic Policy Institute. A chapter was devoted to “Toledo: A union takes the lead.” Dal was a member of The New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce which culminated in a report published by the National Center on Education and the Economy: Tough Choices or Tough Times.
He served as Vice President of the American Federation of Teachers from 1988 to 1996 and was President of the Toledo Area AFL-CIO Council from 1994 to 1998. He was active in the area AFL-CIO Council beginning in 1969. He was a long-time member of the Ohio Federation of Teachers Executive Committee. He helped establish the TheOhio 8, a coalition of superintendents and teacher union presidents from Ohio’s largest urban districts. He was a co-founder of Great Lakes Regional Teacher Union Reform Network (TURN) and founding member of the national Teacher Union Reform Network, a nationwide network of union locals from the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association.
Dal was the first teacher recipient of AFT’s QuEST Award in 1987. Albert Shanker, longtime president of the American Federation of Teachers, presented the honor to Dal “for his courage in pursuing his convictions about fundamental education reform; for his pioneering work in peer review, induction and career ladder programs for teachers; and for his enduring commitment to quality education and teacher unionism.” Dal served as a member of the Task Force on the Future of Education for the AFT. He was a member of the Educational Testing Service Visiting Committee and the Ohio Department of Education’s “Classroom of the Future” project and a member of the validation committee for Standards for Evaluations of Educational Personnel.
Dal received the University of Findlay Distinguished Alumnus Award in June, 1992 and was inducted in the DeVilbiss High School Faculty Alumni Hall of Fame in October, 2013. In 2018, the Toledo Area United Labor Committee presented Dal with its Legacy Award for his leadership and dedication to organized labor.
Most people knew Dal as a teacher and teacher union president, but he was so much more than that.
Dal was a voracious reader of books – hard cover only – that were historic and political, rarely fiction. Hundreds of books filled shelves in his home, nearly all of which he read and would then imprint his initials on the title page.
His love of jazz started before he was even in junior high school. His childhood friend Hogan, a tenor sax player, introduced him to jazz listening to 78 platters. Jazz became the only music Dal would listen to growing up and through his ‘senior season’ in life. He loved the dissonance sound. He treasured his high fidelity speaker. Dal and his teenage buddies would travel the Midwest to listen to the music of Stan Kenton who told his people that if there weren’t seats for the boys, he would make room on his piano bench for them. Dal would say in jest that if he became president, that Kenton’s “Peanut Vendor” would be the national anthem. Candy Johnson, music teacher at Spencer Sharples and TFT union building rep, called Dal one day and said “Boss man, I’m picking you up. We’re going to Defiance to hear Count Basie” whose band was playing there that night. Candy put Dal on the piano bench next to Basie for a several minute conversation. Candy played during summers with Basie and other jazz greats. Dal negotiated a Toledo Public Schools salary stipend for Toledo All City Jazz Band/Youth Jazz Ensemble conductor.
Dal wasn’t always a Democrat. His father Parley was a Republican county commissioner in Hancock County for about 20 years. The Republican party did not endorse him on his first run for office but he won and led the ticket. He died in office. Dal’s mother wrote his wife, Francine a letter soon after they were married to tell her that Dal wasn’t always a Democrat! In 1956, he first voted for U.S. President – Adlai Stevenson who was defeated by Dwight Eisenhower. Dal said that his study of history changed him from R to D. Over the years however, he endorsed a few non-democrats. He supported republican George Voinovich for Ohio governor and independent John Anderson for U.S. president who ran against democrat Jimmy Carter.
Dal was an enthusiastic fan of the Ohio State Buckeyes. He saw every OSU Heisman trophy winner play beginning in 1942 with Les Horvath, number 22. OSU was undefeated that year and won the national championship under the leadership of coach Paul Brown. He described himself as a life long suffering fan of the Cleveland Indians and Cleveland Browns.
Dal was a proud left-hander. Vanilla was the only flavor of ice cream worth eating or making. His dad made ice cream on the farm on most Sundays. Dal made ice cream through last summer. He shared it with few people. He was the consummate storyteller. He often entranced colleagues and friends with vivid and animated stories about past events.
Toledo teachers and paraprofessionals remember Dal as the friend and colleague who took them on a journey from recognition of their rights and responsibilities all the way to national acclaim for their achievements. His real legacy is found not in the ink and paper of a contract or the bricks and mortar of an office building, but in the people he inspired, the ideas he nurtured, and the lives he influenced. Always a teacher, always a learner, Dal Lawrence leaves challenged colleagues near and far to match his devotion to the causes of improving public education and professionalizing teaching.
Mr. Lawrence is survived by his wife, Francine; four children, Cheryll, Douglas (Cindy), Christy, and Andrew (Julie); grandchildren, Andrea (Chris) Creamer, Emily Lawrence, Greg Preciado, Betsy Lawrence, Lindsay Lawrence, Patrick Lawrence, Kelsey Lawrence; great-grandchildren, Tru Creamer, Layla Cranston, Max Creamer, Lydia Cranston; sister, Sue (Gene) Lee; nieces and nephews, many friends, colleagues and former students. He was preceded in death by his father, Parley; mother, Margaret; and sister, Jeanette (Kenny) Waaland.
Family will greet friends to celebrate the life and legacy of Dal Lawrence on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 from 2:00 – 8:00 P.M. at Walker Funeral Home, 5155 W. Sylvania Avenue, Toledo. Visitation will continue at the funeral home on Wednesday, May 22, 2019 at 10:00 A.M. followed by a memorial service at 11:00 A.M.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations are suggested to the Toledo Jazz Orchestra, P.O. Box 353123, Toledo, Ohio 43635 or a tax deductible contribution to the Albert Shanker Institute, 555 New Jersey Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20001 or online at www.shankerinstitute.org. Shanker Institute is dedicated to funding research and fostering candid exchanges on policy options related to public education, labor, and democracy.
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