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RA’s Second Day Celebrates Independence, Service, and Renews Activism Call

Kathleen Roberts of Massachusetts speaks at Fourth of July Celebration at The 2010 NEA Annual Meeting and Representative Assembly.

Photo by Calvin Knight for RA Today

Delegates honor the legacy of LBJ and pledged to further his vision of quality public schools for all children

July 4, 2010

By Amy Buffenbarger

On the second day of the 89th Representative Assembly – Independence Day -- patriotic delegates turned the convention hall red, white, and blue, honored the legacy of President Lyndon B. Johnson, and pledged to further his vision of quality public schools for all children.

The July 4th tribute for President Johnson focused on the legacy of his Great Society – created by his signing into law a number of reforms, including the Elementary and Secondary Education Act 45 years ago. As Johnson put pen to paper in 1965, the delegates put pen to paper for a giant petition demanding educators' voices be heard in the impending reauthorization of ESEA. That petition will be carried to the steps of the U.S. Capitol.

Election results were announced, with NEA Executive Committee members Christy Levings and Paula Monroe elected to another term. As for the at-large candidates for NEA Board of Directors, the number of candidates equaled the number of positions open, so the following were elected by acclamation: Jeff Hubbard (administrator at-large), Donna Mirabelli (alternate administrator at-large), Pam Mikkelson (ESP at-large), Judy Near (ESP at-large), and Ruthie Wright (ESP at-large).

A runoff is scheduled Monday for alternate ESP at-large position between James Ojeda and Melinda Smith.
The big attraction of the day was Bob Chanin’s book signing. The legendary former NEA General Counsel was in New Orleans to sign copies of More Than a Lawyer. Written by Michael Edwards, it chronicles Chanin’s career and follows the history of public education and the NEA’s role in everything from the fight for civil rights and affirmative action to current struggles against vouchers and the pitfalls of No Child Left Behind.

NEA’s 2010 Education Support Professional of the Year, Helen Cottongim, delivered an inspiring speech. Cottongim, a bus driver and student transportation safety coordinator in Kentucky, helped establish the Kentucky Education Support Professional Association in 1980. Her commitment to her fellow ESPs and her students since then made her a fierce advocate for NEA, and she encouraged everyone to join her in this role.

“If you’re not already an Association addict who cares about kids and public school, you must become one,” Cottongim said.

In addition to the activism celebrated during the RA, delegates also spend time in each host city participating in community service projects. President Van Roekel thanked Karen Seeling McInnis -- a delegate from Lakeville, Minnesota -- who has organized volunteers at the RA for the past 15 years.

This year, more than 300 NEA members volunteered with the annual Outreach to Teach event, sprucing u Belle Chasse High School in Plaquemines Parish, which sustained heavy damaged from Hurricane Katrina. Delegates have also helped stock the New Orleans Food Bank, served meals to the homeless, and “raised the roof” in Slidell, Louisiana, for Habitat to Humanity. And today, NEA’s HIN Disaster Relief Fund donated $37,000 to North Bay Elementary School in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Students have been learning in portable trailers since Katrina came ashore in 2005 and will be moving into their new building this fall.

Delegates also met the RA’s international guests, visiting from countries such as South Africa, Chile, the Netherlands, Australia, and Singapore. In paying tribute to the hard work of these and other activists around the world, President Van Roekel emphasized that international solidarity and advocacy not only protects public education but also, in some cases, educators’ lives. 

Delegates can read more stories on the RA Today Blog, view multimedia, and connect to the RA Today Facebook page, Twitter and Flickr.

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