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RA 2011: NEA Standing Strong: for our Students, our Schools, and America

Delegates Gather in Chicago for NEA's Annual Meeting and Representative Assembly

June 30, 2011
By Cindy Long

Some might say the Taste of Chicago is the place to be this weekend, but for the thousands of NEA delegates descending on McCormick Place Convention Center, the NEA’s Annual Meeting and Representative Assembly is the main event. The meeting kicks into high gear tomorrow, but the action’s been underway since early this week.

On June 28, NEA students and retired members, teachers, and education support professionals picked up hammers, shovels, paint brushes, brooms, and mops to repair, landscape, and spruce up the local elementary school as part of NEA’s Outreach to Teach program.

Outreach to Teach celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. Mark Lie, Chicago cake designer and recent contestant on Food Network Challenge Awesome 80’s Cakes, helped make the anniversary celebration special. Lie designed, baked, assembled, and presented a special cake to the school and volunteers in honor of the milestone anniversary and successful completion of the Dawes project.

“This is my fourth Outreach to Teach,” said NEA Student Program Chairperson Tommie Leaders. “As an NEA student member, I love participating in these events and helping to make a difference in the very schools our members will teach in one day. Our student members really believe in this.”

At the annual NEA Joint Conference on Concerns of Minorities and Women, educators from around the country gathered to learn what really works from schools on a path to success—and hear how unions are playing a critical role in the transformation process.
Carol Montgomery, a high school special-education Social Studies teacher in Gwinnett County outside Atlanta, wanted to do just that—learn about best practices to share with her fellow members in the Peach State.

“I want to take this information back to my union so we can learn what’s working out there,” said Montgomery, who also serves as a cluster leader. “I was especially interested in learning more about the Priority Schools Campaign, both how it works and the resources it gives.”

At the NEA-Retired conference, new officers were elected. Tom Curran, past Vice President from Raymond, Maine, was elected President. John Jensen, of Omaha, Nebraska, was elected Vice President.

The NEA-Retired conference theme was “NEA-Retired: Standing Strong for Retirees and Public Education,” and attendees were fired up about the hostile climate surrounding the labor movement. Often with the ability to build their own schedules for a change, retired members are picking up pickets and phones to call attention to the misguided attacks on public employees.

“People are attacking education, think they can sort out the problems by a test and there is no need for unions,” said President Dennis Van Roekel in his opening remarks. “We do have a heavy lift, but it can be done…Our numbers provide the voice, the power.”


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