Summer Leadership Academy participants urged to ‘be relentless’

“Be relentless; never give up.” That’s what NEA Executive Committee member Earl Wiman told participants this week at the WEAC Summer Leadership Academy, where dozens of members gathered for inspiration and guidance in supporting public education and children.

“Push farther and do more than you’ve ever done before,” Wiman said in a keynote presentation that included extensive audience participation.

Wiman emphasized that educators are the experts at what it takes to help children succeed. “We know these things. Ask us,” he said, “and we will tell you what needs to be done for schools to be successful and for children to be able to do well in school. That’s why our voice is so important and why we must move forward as a collective, because we can’t do it individually.”

It’s important, he said, that every child in America has access to a great public school, no matter their zip code. And union members – especially the leaders attending this conference – are going to continue to play a key role in making sure that happens.

“We need to remember always,” he said, “that it’s about kids. It’s about students, it’s about all of our students, and all of our kids.”

The 2017 WEAC Summer Leadership Academy, at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, also included a parallel JumpStart training session for National Board Certification candidates.

Images from the 2017 WEAC Summer Leadership Academy:


NEA video honors Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin

A new NEA video pays tribute to Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin, winner of this year’s Mary Hatwood Futrell Award at the annual NEA Convention. “There is no greater champion of women’s rights, worker rights and the middle class,” it says. At the end of the tribute video, WEAC President Ron Martin accepts the award on Baldwin’s behalf because she could not attend the ceremony because of her duties in the U.S. Senate. Baldwin was nominated for the award by the WEAC Human and Civil Rights Committee. Watch the video below and click here to read more about Tammy Baldwin’s Human and Civil Rights Award.

Sequanna Taylor of Milwaukee elected to ESP seat on the NEA Board

Sequanna Taylor with WEAC President Ron Martin at the NEA Convention.

WEAC member Sequanna Taylor, from Milwaukee, has been elected to an Education Support Professional At-Large seat on the National Education Association Board. Sequanna, who is president of the Milwaukee Educational Assistants’ Association and sits on the Executive Board of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, was elected by an overwhelming vote of delegates to the NEA Convention in Boston. The Convention concluded over the weekend.

Sequanna is a longtime activist and advocate for public education and specifically for the children in Milwaukee Public Schools. She also serves on the Milwaukee County Board.

A Milwaukee native, she attended South Division High School and has an associate’s degree in criminal justice and bachelor’s degree in human services. She is also a graduate of an eight-month leadership-training program sponsored by Emerge Wisconsin, a national organization active in 14 states that prepares women to run for political office. She also is an active WEAC ESP leader and, nationally, Sequanna networks with ESPs at NEA ESP conferences.

“You get to know ESPs from all over and create relationships for a lifetime,” she said in a recent NEA article. “I like how NEA gears leadership training, education tips, seminars and workshops to the specific needs and responsibilities of ESPs.”

WEAC delegation to the NEA Representative Assembly:

Below is a summary of the Convention, provided by the NEA:

Vigorous debates and discussions over social justice, the dangers posed by the Trump-DeVos education agenda, and ending the proliferation of unaccountable charter schools dominated the 96th NEA Representative Assembly (RA) held July 2 – 5 at the Boston Convention Center. Despite addressing these serious challenges, the spirits of delegates were lifted by emotional presentations from student poets that kicked off each day’s activities and a rapturously received appearance by actor and reading advocate LeVar Burton.

In her keynote address on Day 1, NEA President Lily Eskelsen García didn’t sugarcoat the dire challenges facing public education in the Trump era. But “we can win. We have the power, and they know it,” she said.

Eskelsen García assured the 7,000 delegates that NEA would not try to find common ground with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who is pursuing an aggressive school privatization agenda, while refusing to protect our most vulnerable students from discrimination.

“I will not allow the National Education Association to be used by Donald Trump or Betsy DeVos,” Eskelsen García told the delegates to resounding applause. “I do not trust their motives. I do not believe their alternative facts. I see no reason to assume they will do what is best for our students and their families. There will be no photo-op!”

Giving the close of Day 1 the feel of an organizing rally, NEA Executive Director John Stocks celebrated the student advocacy, member solidarity, and recent victories by NEA state affiliates.

“All across the country, you are demonstrating that we have the resolve to fight for what’s right for our students and educators, the resilience to take a hit and bounce back, the audacity to demand respect, and the relentless will to win,” Stocks said. “In school after school, campus after campus, local after local, state after state, it is you who are giving voice to the needs of our students, educators, and public education.”

Day Two turned the spotlight on professional practice and two outstanding educators, 2017 NEA Education Support Professional (ESP) of the Year Saul Ramos, and 2017 National Teacher of the Year Sydney Chaffee.

In his speech to the assembly, Ramos, a paraeducator in Worchester, Mass., urged the delegates to live up to the promise of the RA’s theme: “Uniting Our Members and the Nation for Strong Communities, Empowered Professionals, Successful Students.”

“It is more important than ever for all of us to unite and support public education,” Ramos said. “ESP members, NEA-retired members, teachers, higher education and student members, and parents— we must all stand strong together, and let our elected leaders know what we need as educators to nurture successful students.”

Sydney Chaffee, a humanities teacher at Codman Academy in Boston, recalled her evolution as an educator. Her first year in the classroom was spent figuring out how to maintain control over her students and how they learned, but she quickly realized that empowering her students was more important—and effective—than a tightly controlled classroom.

“All educators should listen to student voices and be architects of ‘school communities,’” Chaffee told the assembly. “Let’s keep our ears and hearts open to our students’ brilliance, even when it makes us uncomfortable. Let’s envision education as a time machine that helps our students travel to worlds we have only imagined—ones that are built on ideals of justice and equity and collaboration.”

One of the indisputable highlights of the 2017 RA for the delegates was the appearance of LeVar Burton, this year’s recipient of NEA’s highest honor, the Friend of Education Award. In his speech, Burton, host of the long-running PBS children’s series, “Reading Rainbow,” fired on all cylinders, taking down Betsy DeVos, saluting the impact his mother (a teacher) had on his life, and passionately calling for adequate funding of public education and greater respect for educators.

“I believe that what you have to offer is essential to this nation,” Burton said. “And our desire to lead the world in any meaningful manner depends on you…Without you, we go nowhere.”

On Day 3, delegates overwhelmingly approved a new policy statement in response to the rapid expansion of unaccountable, privately managed charter schools.

“We oppose any charter schools that do not meet the criteria because they fall short of our nation’s responsibility to provide great public schools for every student in America,” said NEA Vice President Becky Pringle, who led the 21-member task force charged with writing the new policy statement.

The statement draws a sharp new line between charter schools that have a positive effect on public education and those unaccountable, privately managed charter schools that hurt public schools and students. NEA will forcefully support state and local efforts to limit charter growth and increase charter accountability, and slow the diversion of resources from neighborhood public schools to charters.

As always, RA delegates got down to important business of electing NEA leaders. President Eskelsen García, Vice President Pringle and Secretary Treasurer Moss were all re-elected to serve another three-year term, which they will begin on September 1.

Also re-elected was California educator George Sheridan, who has served on the nine-member NEA Executive Committee since 2014. The committee, which consists of three executive officers and six members elected at-large by the Representative Assembly, is responsible for general policy and interests of NEA and acts for the NEA Board of Directors in between its four regularly scheduled meetings each year.

The Executive Committee will have a new face starting September 1, as former Oregon Education Association President Johanna “Hanna” Vaandering was elected to a first term.

“I am honored and thrilled to have this role to advocate for great public schools now at a national level,” said Vaandering. “I am committed to continuing my efforts in ensuring great public schools for all students, fighting for the rights of each and every educator, and advocating for stable and adequate school funding for schools across our country.”

NEA Annual Meeting and Representative Assembly 2017

The World’s Largest Democratic Deliberative Assembly

NEA’s Annual Meeting takes place during the final week of June and/or the first week of July. Various committees, constituencies, caucuses, leadership groups, and delegates from state and local affiliates gather to set policy and chart the direction of NEA business.

The Representative Assembly (RA) takes place during the final four days of the Annual Meeting. It is the primary legislative and policymaking body of the Association and derives its powers from, and is responsible to, the membership. The Representative Assembly adopts the strategic plan and budget, resolutions, the Legislative Program, and other policies of the Association. Delegates vote by secret ballot on proposed amendments to the Constitution and Bylaws. Those delegates with full voting rights elect the executive officers, Executive Committee members, and at-large members of the NEA Board of Directors, as appropriate.

The RA consists of some 8,000 delegates representing state and local affiliates, student members, retired members, and other segments of the united education profession. Further information on the RA is contained in Article III of the Constitution (PDF Icon PDF, 101 KB, 31 pgs.) and in Bylaw 3 (PDF Icon PDF, 207 KB, 31 pgs.). The RA is the largest democratic deliberative assembly in the world and adheres to Roberts Rules of Order.

Young delegates find camaraderie, inspiration at NEA Representative Assembly

Approximately 8,000 delegates – including 122 from Wisconsin – will represent state and local affiliates, student members, retired members, and other segments of the united education profession at the NEA’s Annual Meeting and Representative Assembly this summer in Boston. This year’s events take place from June 25 to July 5.

Various committees, constituencies, caucuses, leadership groups, and delegates from state and local affiliates gather to set policy and chart the direction of NEA business. But the RA is about more than setting association policy. It’s also a venue for members and leaders to share information and insights, discuss leadership strategies, and form lasting friendships.

We asked a few of our young WEAC delegates why they chose to be NEA RA delegates and why it matters. Here is what they had to say:

Josh Jackson, K-5 teacher, Sherman Elementary School, Milwaukee Public Schools:

“As a young educator and union member, one of the most important things for me was to be active in any and every way possible. What I found is that by choosing to serve as a delegate, I opened the door to have a say in the direction of NEA and help support the needs and wants of educators from Wisconsin. After being elected, it was such an exhilarating experience to attend my first NEA RA last year in Washington, D.C. and stand on the floor of the RA with so many other educators from around Wisconsin and around the country and do the work of our union. Serving as a delegate to NEA RA matters to me because it is my way to give back to all those educators that have stood up for our students. By attending I want to make sure that Wisconsin’s voice is heard loud and clear and that everyone knows WE are here for the betterment of education in our state and nation!”

Justin Kamp, music teacher, Harmony Elementary School, Milton School District:

“The NEA RA is a great opportunity to be a voice for and with WEAC at the National Level. It is also a way to be engaged in the NEA and get a stronger understanding for what the NEA does for EVERY state.

“At the NEA RA it is great to be a part of discussion and decisions that will help shape, grow and move our union toward the future of education. We are the voice that advocates for quality public education for ALL students. It is crucial that newer WEAC members get involved and continue working with our union, for we are the future of the union.”

Gina Pagel, foreign language and literature teacher, Arboretum Elementary School, Waunakee Community School District:

“I am thrilled to serve as a delegate to the NEA RA this year! The Representative Assembly is our chance to speak for our students at the national level. It’s members’ chance to amplify the voices of fellow teachers from Wisconsin. It’s our chance to vote on the future direction of our association.The NEA RA will be our chance to vote to ensure that those who represent members from across the country every day have a clear vision. The RA is also a fabulous opportunity to network with other educators. I have met and formed a professional community with like-minded members who I can reach out to when I’m seeking advice about both school and the work of our local association. I’m so grateful to be a part of such a committed group of educators who lift one another up and push our association to be its very best. Serving as a delegate is one of many ways to get involved and to do our part as members of this organization.”

Nick Sirek, 6th grade teacher, DeLong Middle School, Eau Claire School District:

“I have chosen to serve as a delegate to the NEA RA for two main reasons. First, because it is one more way to get involved with the association! I am lucky to serve at the local and state level, and representing Wisconsin at the national level is another way for me to be an active member of the association. I am able to make connections between all levels for the members in Eau Claire. The second reason I serve as a delegate is because it is exciting! I cannot describe how thrilling it is to celebrate public education and public school educators with nearly 10,000 other delegates! Through my involvement at the NEA RA I am able to help promote students, public schools, and educators!”

Jane Weidner, social studies and Spanish teacher, Cedar Grove Middle School, Cedar Grove-Belgium School District:

“I am the NEA. The NEA is an organization of everyday education professionals, who work in the best interest of our students, our communities, and our schools. One of the ways that I can contribute to that cause is by attending the NEA Representative Assembly. It is democracy in action and allows me to have a voice in the direction that my union takes. We are in a time when public education is under attack, and it is crucial that we stand together with other educators from around the nation to protect our public schools. The NEA RA is one opportunity for me to do just that.”

NEA Leadership Visits Milwaukee to Learn More About Community Schools

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Milwaukee Public Schools has been getting some well-deserved attention for its commitment to the Community Schools model–which has grown from the advocacy of educators in the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association.

The district established the first three community schools in 2015 and has now expanded to a total of seven thriving community schools. Early growth shows improved school culture and climate, significant increases in literacy rates in early grades, dramatic growth in school and community partnerships, increased math proficiency in early grades, increased community engagement, and increased college and career pathways for students.


Authentic Community Schools link culturally relevant classroom practices with community services, social supports and neighborhood engagement. The Center for Popular Democracy identifies six research-based strategies that allow for greater student-centered learning and community investment. These strategies include: strong culturally relevant curriculum, high quality teaching; shared leadership; community support services; restorative practices; and family and community engagement.

Milwaukee’s early success with the model prompted National Education Association (NEA) President Lily Eskelsen Garcia, Vice President Becky Pringle, and Secretary Treasurer Princess Moss and members of the NEA Executive Council to visit. NEA’s trip signals the growing interest to strengthen and build the public Community Schools model nationwide.


The visit started with a trip to James Madison Academic Campus (JMAC), where the MPS Administration shared successes and challenges with implementing the Community Schools model.

NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia and her leadership team sit at the table with MTEA leadership and MPS Administration to discuss Community Schools in Milwaukee (Photo: Joe Brusky).

JMAC’s Community School Coordinator and Parent Coordinator provided their expertise to the group. These two positions are critical to establishing engaged parents and community for successful school outcomes.

The Community School Coordinator for James Madison Academic Campus (JMAC) presented to the group (Photo: Joe Brusky).

Following the visit to JMAC, the group made their way over to the newest Community School in Milwaukee, Lincoln Avenue, where the school’s “Lincoln Cheer Team” greeted them.

The Lincoln Cheer Team greeted the group upon their arrival (Photo: Joe Brusky).

Beck Pringle and Lily Eskelsen Garcia react to the festive welcome (Photo: Joe Brusky).

Lincoln Avenue’s parent coordinator showed off the school’s Parent Center. The center provides a hub for parents to increase engagement in the school’s operation as well as expand access to needed resources, such as Internet and laundry facilities.

Lincoln Avenue’s Parent Coordinator shares the early successes with the Parent Center at the new Community School (Photo: Joe Brusky).

Ryan Hurley of the United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County spoke on how his organization facilitates community partnerships by helping identify and mobilize neighborhood groups and resources. These neighborhood collaborations provide the school with additional support such as access to health services or other critical needs that must be met to ensure learning occurs.

Lily Eskelsen Garcia observes a reading group (Photo: Joe Brusky).

Finally NEA leadership got to see the model in action. They toured several rooms, including a bilingual kindergarten classroom. Lily Eskelsen Garcia, Becky Pringle, and Princess Moss used the opportunity to work and speak with students to experience how students are excelling. The early results on the Community School model are encouraging, but there’s no greater proof of the model’s success than seeing students thriving firsthand. We know when our students’ needs are met they flourish.

NEA Vice President Becky Pringle checks in on a young writer (Photo: Joe Brusky).

As the model grows nationwide, we look forward to making Milwaukee a place for other NEA educators to come and learn about how the model can enhance the quality of classroom practices and increase community involvement. Public community schools galvanize our educators around a vision inclusive of community control of public education which stands in stark contrast to the corporate destruction of our public schools system.

Lincoln Avenue students ask Lily Eskelsen Garcia and MTEA Vice President Amy Mizialko take a photo as they left the school (Photo: Joe Brusky).


Learn more about Community Schools here.

NEA Executive Committee visits MTEA, applauds Community Schools program

The Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association welcomed the National Education Association Executive Committee to Milwaukee Tuesday. The NEA leaders – including President Lily Eskelsen García, Vice President Becky Pringle and Secretary-Treasurer Princess Moss – met with MTEA’s leadership, MPS Administration and United Way representatives to find ways to continue the success and growth of Milwaukee’s seven #CommunitySchools. The group toured and met the students and staff of James Madison Academic Campus (JMAC) and Lincoln Avenue Elementary, both MPS Community Schools. MTEA’s Joe Brusky shared these – and more – photos on the MTEA Facebook page:

NEA says Trump’s action on transgender students is ‘dangerous and ill-advised’

From the National Education Association

The Trump administration is planning to release a new plan to rescind federal guidance to protect transgender students from discrimination. The National Education Association, the nation’s largest labor union, reiterated its pledge to double-down on protecting the civil rights of our LGBTQ students and members.

Withdrawing the guidance does not change the law. As most courts have held, Title IX protects transgender students, and only courts, and ultimately the Supreme Court, can change that. Schools have a legal and a moral duty to support all students, including transgender students. In fact, states, school districts, and schools nationwide are supporting and affirming transgender students, and we believe they will continue to do so with or without guidance from the Trump administration.

The following statement can be attributed to NEA President Lily Eskelsen García:

“Every student matters, and every student has the right to feel safe, welcomed, and valued in our public schools. This is our legal, ethical and moral obligation. The Trump administration’s plans to reverse protections for transgender students by rescinding the Title IX guidance, is dangerous, ill-advised, and unnecessary.

“We reject this discriminatory plan because it is a drastic departure from our core values. We don’t teach hate, we do not tell people how to pray, and we do not discriminate against people based on their religion, gender, or identity. Period.

“As the Trump administration threatens our students and our values, we will double-down on our efforts to protect our most vulnerable citizens, including our LGBTQ students and members. We urge more states, school districts, and schools to adopt protections for transgender students. We owe it to our students because they need to see us take a bold stand against discrimination whatever form it takes.”

To learn more about supporting transgender students in K-12, please click on the following NEA report titled “Schools in Transition: A Guide for Supporting Transgender Students in K-12 schools.”

NEA grant helps WEAC promote and support Education Support Professionals

WEAC has received a grant from the National Education Association’s Great Public Schools (GPS) Fund to build respect and recognition of Education Support Professionals. GPS Fund Grants, established by NEA members in 2013, are designed to help enhance the education profession and promote student success.  WEAC was one of 22 recipients.

“Nobody knows better than educators what their students need to succeed in the classroom,” said NEA Vice President Becky Pringle. “Through these grants, we are providing the resources to put plans and programs in action that really will help ensure opportunity, equity, and success for every public school student in America.”

Education Support Professionals are the wide range of school staff who team with teachers for student success, such as paraprofessionals, secretaries, custodians and bus drivers. Wisconsin’s effort will connect support professionals across school districts to promote professionalism and offer opportunities for professional growth.

“Support professionals have a direct impact on student learning,” said Arlene Braden, a high school secretary and WEAC Secretary-Treasurer. “We’re excited to lead efforts to recognize their important role and offer opportunities so they have even a more profound impact on students.”

The GPS Fund Grants program was established because NEA members believed that the Association could do more to help ensure the success of all students, regardless of their ZIP code. Previous grants have been used to support bullying and suicide prevention programs, increase the number of nationally board certified teachers (NBCTs), and provide professional development opportunities for educators. The grants also support programs that focus on successful students, accomplished professionals, dynamic collaboration, and empowered leaders.

Grants from the GPS Fund are made directly to NEA state and local affiliates for promising projects and ideas that improve student success. The funds also help affiliates build partnerships with local organizations and work with key education stakeholders to develop and implement programs and policies that emphasize student success through union-led efforts.

“Educators around the country reach, teach, and inspire students every day to learn and achieve their dreams, and to support their work we need to continue to accelerate the transformation of public education — these grants help with this process,” said Pringle.

NEA to new Congress: Now is time to renew commitment to public education

Lily Eskelsen García: Congress can put students and families ahead of partisan politics

eskelsen_garcia_new_congress_2017_350pxThe National Education Association and its 3 million members are urging the 115th U.S. Congress to renew its commitment to students and public education, to govern by putting families ahead of partisan politics, and to resist the temptation to undermine the American vision of public education.

NEA President Lily Eskelsen García issued the following statement:

“On behalf of the 3 million members of the National Education Association, I congratulate the members of the 115th Congress. With the election behind us, now is the time for Congress to put students and families ahead of partisan politics in order to get the work done on behalf of the American people.

“This is important because we believe all children, regardless of family circumstances or ZIP code, have the right to a public education that helps them reach their full potential and does not depend on living in advantaged circumstances, getting accepted by a private school or winning a charter school lottery. Our doors are open to all. Every student deserves the best our country can offer.

“Congress can start that process by renewing its commitment to the American vision of public education — one which welcomes and includes students of all backgrounds, identities, origins and abilities. We offer this keeping in mind the bipartisanship our nation saw during the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which produced the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). In passing ESSA, Congress acted with the best interests of all students in mind — and now it should allow states and local communities the room to effectively implement it and avoid slashing or diverting the resources that help make that possible.

“We also challenge Congress to take a bold stand against efforts by ideologues, corporations, billionaires and hedge fund managers to undermine and privatize public education and harm our students. Lawmakers have to resist the temptation to substitute the will of special interests for the experience and expertise of educators, the ones who know the names and faces of the students across the country.

“We urge Congress — Democrats, Republicans, Independents — to value and support this vision for a strong and inclusive public education system that ensures that all students can succeed. We look forward to working with all lawmakers who are willing to renew their commitment to public education, who will fulfill the promise of ESSA, and who will stand up for students and working families.”