WASHINGTON - August 06, 2020 - A middle school science teacher from Pennsylvania, an elementary school music teacher from Virginia and a Texas special education teacher were elected to lead NEA, the nation’s largest union representing nearly 3 million educators.
Nearly 6,000 NEA delegates voted by mail-in ballot during NEA’s virtual Representative Assembly (RA), which was conducted remotely due to the COVID-19 crisis, to elect the new officers and executive committee members.
Becky Pringle, a science teacher from Philadelphia with more than 31 years of classroom experience, was elected to head NEA. Pringle previously served two three-year terms as NEA vice president and secretary-treasurer, and is known as a fierce social justice warrior, staunch defender of educators’ rights, and an unrelenting advocate for all students and communities of color.
“We cannot—we will not—put off for one more second creating schools that serve the needs of all our students regardless of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or express, immigration status or language,” Pringle told RA delegates. “Now is the time to address the systemic inequities that beset the most vulnerable students.”
Throughout Pringle’s years as NEA’s vice president and secretary-treasurer, she worked relentlessly to combat institutional racism and spotlight systemic patterns of racism and educational injustice that impact students. In the social justice arena, she has fought for the rights of students with disabilities, who identify as LGBTQ, or are English Language Learners.
In recent years, Pringle has co-chaired NEA’s Task Force on School Discipline and the School to Prison Pipeline, guiding the development of a new policy statement that compels NEA’s 3-million members to address the inequitable and unfair policies and practices that push many students of color out of public schools and into the criminal justice system.
Pringle also has led NEA’s work to improve student learning. Most notably, she led the workgroup that produced the Association’s groundbreaking “Policy Statement on Teacher Evaluation and Accountability”—NEA’s first broad endorsement of the need for a student-centered, educator-led evaluation and shared accountability system.
Delegates also elected Princes Moss, an elementary music teacher from Louisa County, Va., as NEA vice president. A champion of children and public education at the local, state, and national levels, Moss distinguished herself for 6 years as NEA secretary-treasurer. Previously, she also served two terms on the NEA Executive Committee, where she participated in the Elementary and Secondary Education (ESEA) Advisory Committee, steering the Association’s strategy for the law’s pending reauthorization, and the Dropout Prevention Advisory Committee, helping develop relevant tools for NEA members.
Every student, regardless of where they live, or their race or family’s income, can grow up to be a successful teacher, scientists, future entrepreneur, Moss believes — if students and educators are provided with the support and resources they need. “We must be unapologetic and relentless in fighting for our diverse population of students so that they receive the support they need to ensure their success,” said Moss.
With Moss as president from 2005-2008, the 62,000-member Virginia Education Association increased its membership and advocated successfully for greater investment in public education at the state and local levels. She also served as VEA vice president and on the Board of Directors for NEA and VEA for more than 10 years.
Moss earned her bachelor's degree in music education from the University of Mary Washington and received the university’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2006. She also earned a master's degree in elementary and secondary administration and supervision from the University of Virginia.
Rounding out the top three leadership positions, Noel Candelaria was elected secretary-treasurer.
Candelaria previously served as president and vice president of NEA’s Texas affiliate, the Texas State Teachers Association. He has held leadership positions at the National Council of State Education Associations, NEA Member Benefits and the National Teacher Hall of Fame (NTHF). As the chair of the Memorial to Fallen Educators at NTHF, legislation was passed under his leadership to designate the monument as a national memorial site. Candelaria has also served on numerous national committees and task forces including the NEA Human and Civil Rights Committee.
“I know that public education is the heart of the American dream,” said Candelaria. “We know from experience that every student can learn. We also know that shortchanging our schools today could shortchange our children for a lifetime.”
Candelaria and his wife Patty, who is a National Board Certified Teacher are committed to the success of every student in their community, across Texas, and the nation. As a son of hard-working immigrants growing up in El Paso, Candelaria appreciates the opportunities provided by public education.
In addition to electing three new officers, the NEA delegates also voted to elect two members to the NEA Executive Committee, which is the Association’s elected body comprised of three executive officers and six members elected at large by RA delegates. Tonight, delegates voted to reelect to a second three-year term Hanna Vaandering, an elementary physical education teacher from Ridgewood Elementary in Beaverton, Oregon. There will be a run-off election for the second seat between Mark Jewell, a North Carolina elementary school teacher, and Amber Gould, a high school English teacher from Arizona. Results will be announced August 31st.
The new leadership team is taking the helm of NEA during an unprecedented time of crisis for our students, schools, and communities, and especially our communities of color where job losses, housing and food insecurities, and digital divides have been exacerbated. COVID-19 closed school buildings across our nation this spring, and now school communities are wrestling with incredibly difficult decisions about when to reopen buildings for in-person teaching and learning. Nobody wants to be back in school more than educators, but NEA leaders have consistently said that safety of our students, families, and educators must be our number-one priority. Decisions to reopen buildings should be based on health expertise, and educators and families should have a strong voice in building a plan for how to make it happen.
Pringle, Moss, Candelaria and the new executive members will assume their new duties on September 1, 2020.
Support schoolboard measures for safe and just schools. Visit www.nea.org/safeandjust
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The National Education Association is the nation's largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.
- Celeste Busser