An unprecedented SIX (!) EWEA members attended the NEA’s annual Representative Assembly in Denver this summer. The NEA-RA is the largest democratic deliberative body in the world, spending four long days debating legislative amendments, resolutions, new business items, and electing leadership. In layman’s terms, we use parliamentary procedure to decide on NEA policy and goals for the upcoming year. So what are some of the things we decided this year? The biggest headline maker was the overwhelming passing of an NBI (new business item) calling for the resignation of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan due to the current agenda of the DOE. Another NBI that passed states “NEA shall provide members with links to information regarding parents’ rights, specifically concerning their right to opt out of standardized tests for their children.” We also passed a policy statement about standardized testing and teacher evaluations, stating that “Standardized tests, even if deemed valid and reliable, may not be used to support any employment action against a teacher.” This is just a small fraction of the many items discussed and debated on the floor.
That’s also only a piece of the total RA experience. The election of NEA leadership is always exciting, but with a new president-elect, this year was even more so. Lily Eskelsen Garcia will be our NEA president as of September 1st, and like Ellen Ogintz and Diane Ravitch, I’m in love with her. Her acceptance speech enraptured a crowd of over 10,000 with powerful statements like, “We know what is at stake and it is why we are who we are. It is why we are fearless and why we will not be silent when people who for their own profit and political posture subvert words like ‘reform’ or ‘accountability” and “For us, one thing is clear, before anything is going to get better: It’s the Testing, Stupid. Better yet, it’s the stupid testing.” Rebecca Pringle was also elected as Vice President, and Princess Moss will be serving as secretary treasurer. It’s going to be an exciting three years with these three dynamic and powerful women at the helm!
Perhaps the most exciting part of our adventure was the honor bestowed upon EWEA when our president, Ellen Ogintz, was asked to host an international dignitary from the island of Grenada. Marvin Andall is the President of the Caribbean Union of Teachers and he was amazed at how much was accomplished in each business session (tbh, so were we!) It was a great experience to connect with an international leader and to share our wisdom. Overall, attending the RA this summer (and last year too) has taught me a lot about the way our local organization fits into the county, state, and national level. Both times, I returned feeling a part of something powerful, invigorated and ready to work. Both times, I’ve been incredibly impressed with the strength of NJEA, of Mercer County, and of course, our EWEA. You haven’t celebrated the 4th of July until you’ve done it with 10,000 teachers, so next year, consider running as a delegate to the Representative Assembly!