This is Your Association
Building reps are the go-to people at your school, especially this time of year.
By John Rosales
Jill Hunt, who spent more than two decades as a “building rep” before retiring in 2011, says one of the job’s most difficult challenges is getting members to attend meetings.
“[They] were always after school,” says Hunt, a teacher for 39 years at Medora Elementary School in Illinois. “Many teachers were working in their classrooms and would not take the time to attend the meetings unless something major was pending.”
Building reps are also the go-to people for members with employment-related problems.
“If the problem involves a possible contract violation, the building rep interviews the employee and collects the initial information,” says Marcus Albrecht, a UniServ Director with the Illinois Education Association (IEA). If disciplinary action appears to be on the horizon, the rep also attends members' meetings with their employer.
In the spring, Albrecht says, building reps can be kept very busy with layoffs and second semester summative evaluations.
“They are the first line of assistance when members believe their evaluation is inaccurate or layoff is improper,” he says.
And when it's time to negotiate a new contract, building reps are front and center, serving as a critical communication link between members and the bargaining team.
Building reps’ other responsibilities can include maintaining non-school email addresses, cell phone numbers, and mailing addresses. They also distribute Association news and materials, publicly acknowledge teachers and education support professionals (ESPs) during American Education Week, attend school executive committee meetings, and accompany members who feel uncomfortable approaching administrators with a concern. And when it comes to recruiting new members, building reps do it best.
“I would explain the benefits of being a member,” Hunt says, “everything from liability insurance, legal assistance, and retirement benefits to how we lobby legislators, have voting rights with the state and national Associations, and have the opportunity to sit at the table during bargaining.”
“When new teachers are hired, it is the building rep’s duty to welcome them,” says Loy, SEA treasurer, membership chair and bargaining team member. “That first impression of Jill is what convinced me to join SEA.”
Building reps who are “enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and dedicated are truly the backbone of a strong local,” she adds. “They keep members informed and working together. They encourage new members to branch out and get involved.”
But attendance at meetings is still a challenge.
“I remember Jill personally making the rounds in our building and telling each of us when and where the meetings were occurring,” says Loy. “Then on the day of the meeting she would remind us at lunch and at the end of the day. Jill was excellent at keeping members in our little building informed and letting us know we had a voice.”
Want members to attend your meetings—regularly?
Visit nea.org/10-minutemeeting to learn about running efficient meetings, and to see a sample agenda and flyer for use in your building.