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NEA News

Answering Students’ Call—Again

When I retired from teaching two years ago and moved to Nevada County, California, a beautiful region in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, I didn’t expect education to become a central part of my life again. I loved teaching social studies and being an active union member for nearly four decades. I even served as a local union president for a dozen years. I thought that was all in the past, but life had other plans for me.
Teacher Candidate Ken Johnson

Last fall, I was recruited to run for school board by teachers and students who were frustrated by the intractability of the Nevada Joint Union High School Board of Trustees. 

I had heard about incidents of racism and bullying in our schools and about the district’s failure to equitably serve students, teachers, and the school community. Then board members blocked a much-needed, state-mandated plan simply because the proposal used the word “equity.” 

That’s when I made my decision. 

I ran a grassroots campaign in partnership with two other pro-change candidates. We knocked on doors and explained that our primary interest was the students, not a political agenda. 

One of the most heartening campaign events for me was a listening session that drew more than 50 young people. Their concerns poured out.

One LGBTQ+ student spoke eloquently about his experience facing mistreatment in school and the school leadership’s unwillingness to help. An Asian girl complained about frequent racist remarks. Black and Pacific Islander students shared stories of being taunted about nooses and lynching. And bullies had thrown rocks at gay students. I could not understand why administrators were ignoring students’ cries for help.

I also received an important message from voters during the campaign: They understood the issues and the need for change. No matter what their political beliefs were, they often said, “We support you, because you were a teacher. You know what our kids need.” All teachers should understand that, at a time when loud voices suggest otherwise, the public values what teachers do.

I was elected with a solid 57 percent of the vote alongside the two candidates I ran with. Now like-minded people control the board, and we are ready to move the district forward. 

We want to resolve the board’s contentious atmosphere and encourage healthy debate. We are pushing for instruction that provides a complete and accurate account of history. And we want to have a plan for improving school facilities. 

We want to do what is best for our students. That’s why we all became educators in the first place.


Sam Evelyn Morgan Rock

Learn more about NEA-Retired

Now more than ever the commitment continues. Learn how NEA-Retired works to meet the needs of retired education employees (like Sam Evelyn Rock from the Chattanooga Hamilton County Retired Teachers Assn in Tennessee at right) and how to join.

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National Education Association

Great public schools for every student

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.