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President's Viewpoint

May We Go Far Together

I am honored to serve as your new NEA-Retired president, and I’m also well aware of the awesome responsibility that comes with this position.

My campaign theme was “Speaking Up, Speaking Out, and Speaking for NEA-Retired and Public Education.” That theme encapsulates what I believe we all must do to keep public education strong.

Join me in speaking for the needs of retired public school educators. Let’s all work to protect our pensions, preserve Social Security (this includes the necessary demise of the Government Pension Offset/Wage Earning Protection), Medicare, and other health care options, and put an end to price gouging of our prescription drugs.

Join me in speaking out against social injustice, and the bigotry, hatred, bullying, and prejudice that surround us every day.

Join me also in speaking up for our colleagues—but most of all for those who have no voice: students who enter our schools tired, hungry, ill clad, and too often traumatized.
NEA-Retired members are strong lobbyists and dedicated public education advocates. We breathe life into the African proverb that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together. Devotion to public education is in our blood. (It’s the reason I sometimes walk store aisles, getting a preview of the new twist on school supplies!)
Regardless of your politics I hope you will stand strong for the working families across this nation who are trying to make ends meet.

May we go far together—in unwavering solidarity.

—NEA-Retired President Sarah Borgman

Meet Sarah Borgman 

‘The union gives you a choice to have a voice’

Sarah Borgman—the newly elected president of NEA-Retired—comes from a family of public servants. One sister was a nurse and the other was a teacher. 

 In 1957 Borgman followed in their footsteps. She became a secondary language arts and Spanish teacher in Wakarusa, Ind. 

Before Borgman entered her classroom, however, she would make a request that would set her on a path to lead NEA-Retired, which represents 317,000 retired educators nationwide.  
Borgman asked to borrow money from her father. The money wasn’t for classroom supplies or new clothes. It was to pay her union dues.

“I asked my dad because I didn’t have that money,” says Borgman, who adds that her first paycheck wouldn’t come for another month. At the time, it was standard practice to receive one paycheck per month for the nine months of school. Looking back, asking her father for help “was the right thing to do,” she says.

This small act would take the 42-year veteran through a lifetime of Association activities, from attending a few local meetings early on to serving on various committees for the Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA) and NEA.

Borgman spent the last 31 years of her career as a fifth-grade teacher for Indiana’s Baugo Community Schools. But that’s not all she did. Toward the end of her teaching career, Borgman was also instructing junior college courses at night, doting on five grandchildren, and keeping up with Association activities.

With a full plate, Borgman decided to retire in 1999. Her work with the Association, however, continues.

Post Retirement

Borgman would eventually become a member of the NEA-Retired executive council, and past president of ISTA-Retired, where she served for six years. Much of the work from her days as a state Retired president remains in place, such as grants for communications and membership growth. 

“When I chose not to run for another term as president, I knew there were leaders who would continue our efforts already begun,” reflects Borgman.

The list of her activities and involvement is long and the work has been meaningful. 

“The Association has been my bulwark ever since I entered the profession in the fall of 1957,” Borgman writes in an ISTA blog post published shortly after her election to lead NEA-Retired. “It took me awhile to get involved in various positions, but from the very start it was the Association for me.”

Borgman’s involvement with the Association offered an opportunity to see growth in the organization and membership, along with some losses within the education profession, “But never did I doubt the work we could do together and how, if I chose, I could make a difference, too,” she writes in the blog. 

This idea of making a “difference” propelled Borgman to run for president of NEA-Retired—a move that would allow the retired educator to continue to work from within every level of the Association.

“I’ll be the first to tell you I don’t agree with everything my union does, but I do know that the union gives you a choice to have a voice, and this allows me to be a part of the solution,” she says.

Borgman was elected by delegates to the NEA-Retired Annual Meeting, held this summer in Boston. She succeeds Tom Curran, whose second three-year term expired this summer. Roberta Margo of Minnesota was elected to fill the executive council post left open by Borgman’s election. 

As president, Borgman plans to use her goal-oriented personality to “truly make a difference and lead” she told ISTA.

Top Priorities

Borgman has already set several goals, including more opportunities for collaboration between NEA governance and staff, as well as with the state presidents. She also wants better communication with members, the Executive Council, the state presidents, and NEA staff. The communications plan will include a monthly newsletter with state presidents.

“We’re all a part of the NEA family. I want to be able to work hand in hand with everyone, and I want that same kind of bond with state presidents across the country,” she explains. 
Nationally, Borgman will focus on protecting healthcare for retirees and avoiding price gouging of prescription drugs, Medicare and other forms of health care, specifically insurance coverage and rates.

Also on her list is protection of pensions and Social Security. “Pensions are being decimated, robbed, and changed—not for the better,” she says in the ISTA blog post. “It is also imperative that we protect Social Security, and in many states do away with the Government Pension Offset/Wage Earning Protection (GPO/WEP),” two arcane laws that deprive about 9 million public service workers who were employed in 27 states—this includes teachers and educational support professionals, plus firefighters, police officers, nurses, and other public-service employees—of the Social Security benefits they have earned.

With GPO/WEP, Borgman wants to take a slightly different approach to some activities that are organized by NEA-Retired, too. For example, during National Retirement Security Advocacy Day—the May event during which retired members travel to Capitol Hill to meet and strategize with members of Congress on ways to protect their retirement benefits—Borgman wants to take a detour to speak to those who hint at maintaining GPO/WEP. In fact, Borgman says she wants to “go face to face” with legislators who don’t want to eliminate the punitive laws. 
And she’s not planning to make it easy for others to tell her “No.”   
“If I have to take ‘No’ for an answer I’m going to want to know why, what do we need to alter our plan, and how can we set and achieve our goals together. I’m an organizer and a leader; I can be assertive without being aggressive,” she says.

While Borgman has specific goals in mind, her overarching goal is to support and encourage members of the Council—especially those who chair one of the eight committees—to set their own goals. “I don’t intend to do, ‘business as usual,” she says, adding that she may not be a “young chicken anymore, but I do believe I have the energy and enthusiasm that this job requires, and I’m going to give it my best shot.” 


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