The Leader of the Future
By John Rosales
In the coming years, NEA leaders will need to be flexible, creative, and steadfast as never before in order to unite members, promote NEA's No Child Left Behind action plan, and advocate for healthy public schools, says NEA President Reg Weaver.
Senior NEA officials will also need to possess one other quality, he says, if they are to succeed in moving NEA's agenda forward on state and national fronts.
"It is important for them to be inclusive," Weaver says. "Inclusivity consists of everybody associated with NEA, not just elected leaders, but members and staff working together. Some of the best thinking comes when there are more heads involved in the process."
While Weaver acknowledges the different roles and responsibilities of members, staff, and elected officials, he says that "the overall thinking that goes into a final policy position should consist of everybody having the opportunity to give input."
It is this type of inclusive leadership that has made Team NEA effective in fighting for members' interests and will continue to be key in the future.
"[Inclusivity] will maximize the overall benefits of the organization, especially in these times of change," he says.
President Reg Weaver talks with Executive Committee Members Christy Levings (left) and Paula Monroe (right).
Fortunately for NEA, the two newest members of the NEA Executive Committee, Christy Levings and Paula Monroe, "are ready" for the challenge, Weaver says. "They have been actively involved at the local and state level of the organization for many years, and have participated in many workshops that have prepared them for the job."
Levings, a veteran elementary teacher and former president of the Kansas National Education Association, and Monroe, a high school secretary who served as the president of the California Education Support Professionals, were elected to the Executive Committee in July 2007 for three-year terms. Committee members are responsible for the general policy and financial interests of NEA.
Since they also act on behalf of the NEA Board of Directors in between the Board's four annual meetings, committee members are on constant travel visiting schools, speaking to members, and gauging the ever-evolving education landscape.
"You cannot remain stagnant and be a national leader today," says Weaver. "You must change with the times to service members of different ages and different generations as well as students."
Levings and Monroe will have to adapt to new education initiatives while remaining steadfast on traditional issues, from fighting to improve members' salaries and school funding to closing student achievement gaps and reaching out to ethnic minority communities, Weaver added.
"Part of their challenge is to help us identify what makes a good public school," he says. "There are many challenges coming up. As good as Paula and Christy are, they cannot do it themselves."
Weaver says the current Executive Committee and other leaders must contend with what he calls "the whole transformation issue as it relates to how we function today as an organization."
"Do we continue to operate at the local, state, and national levels in the same manner, using the same processes and procedures today as we did yesterday?" he asks. "We have to be flexible."
Weaver says NEA must not only serve and protect members, and help ensure that every child attends a quality school, but the organization should also see that some members are groomed and nurtured as future leaders.
"It is critical that we identify individuals coming up through the ranks who will continue to move the organization in the best direction," he says. "We are going to rely on other individuals who will become members of the team in order to keep up with the changing times."
Monroe, a high school secretary in Redlands, California, has two decades of education experience. She served two terms on the NEA Board of Directors as well as eight years as president of the Redlands Education Support Professionals. She was also president of the California Education Support Professionals.
Levings is an elementary school teacher from rural Osawatomie, Kansas. She has 34 years in education and has served as vice president and president of the Kansas National Education Association, and president of the Olathe National Education Association.
New Teacher Salaries
Pay Rises, But Amounts Vary
Over the last several years, a number of New Jersey school districts have adopted $50,000 as a starting salary for new teachers. In 2006, at least 17 Westfield school districts agreed to pay $50,000 or more for their first-year teachers with a bachelor's degree. Six other districts provided at least that much in 2007, while another six have offered it this year. Five more districts are in line to do the same for 2009. "And there's probably another dozen in the pipeline, too," says Robert Willoughby, assistant director of research for the New Jersey Education Association.
The West Virginia Education Association (WVEA) is pressing state legislators to also increase the starting salary for teachers. "We believe that $35,000 will be something that will entice individuals to go into education, to become teachers," says Charlie Delauder, WVEA president. The proposal is being made as about 5,500 West Virginia teachers become eligible for retirement this spring. In Texas, about 57 percent of teachers work in districts with starting salaries of $40,000 or more. They are located in 121 districts, according to the Texas State Teachers Association. Another 42 districts have a starting salary of between $38,500 and $39,999. NEA supports a starting salary of at least $40,000.
Community Support and Association Leadership
The Washington Education Association (WEA) played a decisive role in replacing a state constitutional amendment that required a 60 percent "supermajority" vote for school levies with one that requires a simple majority vote. WEA was a lead player in a broad grassroots coalition called Simple Majority for Our Local Schools. The amendment was supported by a diverse group, including Mainstream Republicans of Washington, League of Women Voters of Washington, and the Washington State Labor Council.
Meanwhile, the North Dakota School Boards Association (NDSBA) passed a resolution that would remove compensation from collective bargaining during teacher contract negotiations. The action counters a mandate by the state Legislature to establish a minimum teacher salary and to put 70 percent of districts' state aid increase into salaries. "The school board association doesn't listen," says Dakota Draper, president of the North Dakota Education Association. "It's one of the reasons we're 50th out of 51 [nationwide] in teacher salaries." According to news reports, NDSBA wants control over how school funds are spent. "This isn't an issue of local control," Draper says. "It's one of absolute control." With the resolution, the increase in state funds for schools could be spent on a variety of costs, and teacher salaries would continue to languish, says Draper. NDSBA meets in October when they could drop the resolution.
ESP Pay Hikes
Support Professionals Win Salary Increases in Austin, Santa Fe
Thanks to lobbying and grassroots organizing by the Hays Educators Association (HEA), a 400-member local near Austin, Texas, board members passed an across-the-board raise of $1,200 for education support professionals. For some, this represents a 9.5 percent increase, coupled with the HEA-driven 8 percent increase in 2006. For many support staff, it amounted to raises of $2 per hour.
In New Mexico, NEA-Santa Fe and the Santa Fe Public Schools agreed to a contract that provides a better than 5 percent average raise for all categories of classified employees covered under the bargaining agreement. The agreement also provides an average raise of 7 percent for licensed personnel, including counselors and special education professionals.