July 12, 2018

NEA RA in the books — MAE represented well

By Joyce Helmick, MAE President

The Mississippi Association of Educators Delegation to the NEA Representative Assembly represented Mississippi well as we took care of the business of the National Education Association in Minneapolis, Minn., during the Fourth of July week.

Paramount on everyone’s mind was the treatment of the immigrant children who had been taken away from their parents by edict of the current administration. We joined with NEA in taking a strong stand against the policies that have caused families to be split apart, have forced tiny children to appear in court unaccompanied by either a parent or a lawyer, and have caused the entire world to look at us in a different light.

This was the scene as NEA RA delegates joined others to demand that families be reunited.

The MAE delegation joined our fellow RA attendees and colleagues from across the nation in a show of solidarity for the immigrant children on Saturday, June 30, in downtown Minneapolis. Hundreds of thousands of Americans expressed their concern in marches from coast to coast on that day also.

Our week was both hard work and lots of fun. We met together every morning at 7:00 a.m. in caucus to discuss our own business and to determine our positions on the Constitutional and By-Law Amendments, Resolutions, and New Business Items before the convention. These meetings gave us an opportunity to fellowship and build stronger bonds with our fellow MAE members.

Importantly, we learned about issues facing our fellow educators in other states and discovered many similarities as we all struggle to strengthen public education. We continued discussions on the damaging policies of Betsy DeVos in regards to public education vs charter schools. (NEA has developed a new policy on charter schools which will soon be published.)

Wednesdays will be “Red for Ed” days across the nation, thanks to NEA’s push and our participation.

MAE joined educators across the nation to designate Wednesdays RED FOR ED throughout the school year. MAE will begin its RED FOR ED campaign as school starts this year. So, get your rad shirts, slacks, skirts, jackets, shoes, and dresses ready for Wednesdays! By wearing red, we will be showing our commitment to ensuring a quality education for every single student we encounter.

Darein holds forth as Emcee of the Human and Civil Rights Banquet.

We were particularly proud of our National Committeeman Darein Spann who once again emceed the Human and Civil Rights Banquet. He has already been tapped to do the same honors next year. If you’ve ever heard him in this kind of role, you understand why he’s the go-to guy for this occasion.

I’m confident that MAE is in good hands with this group of inspired members energizing our locals.

We were blessed to have a great group of new attendees at this year’s NEA RA. I look forward to seeing their contributions to our efforts in the coming years!

One of the most valuable takeaways we experience during the NEA RA is watching educators debate and discuss work of the NEA. Because of the recent Janus decision, it is anticipated that dues will drop, which in turn will affect all of us who rely on the NEA for fiscal assistance through a variety of means. NEA has adjusted its budget to meet the anticipated revenue drop, and member organizations adjusted their asks from the NEA staff by addressing those things that they considered priorities.

We also honored some special folks —

Entrepreneur and Author Ted Dintersmith was honored as NEA Friend of Education

“We have experts in our schools,” Ted Dintersmith told educators at the NEA Representative Assembly in Minneapolis, “They are just not at the top of our education pyramid.” He is known as one of the nation’s leading advocates of student-centered, teacher-led practices and policies.

Washington State educator Mandy Manning, 2018 National Teacher of the Year, was recognized for her unwavering commitment to the immigrant and refugee students she teachers at Joel E. Ferris High School in Spokane.

Mississippi educators were awed by the brave presence of David Hogg, Parkland School shooting survivor, who spoke from his experience, and his heart. Educators have a powerful ally in students. Whether it’s demanding lawmakers properly fund our schools or take action to help keep students safe from gun violence, young people have taken up the call.”

“We have been speaking up, mobilizing, and standing strong because our friends and family mean the world to us,” Mr. Hogg said. “We are young, and that means we don’t have to accept the status quo. And we never will. We intend to close the gap between the world as it is and what it should be.”

Loretta Ragsdell calls herself a “guerrilla educator.” The first-ever NCHE Higher Educator of the Year, who addressed the NEA RA delegates, Ragsdell said she educates at every opportunity — “the grocery store, the laundromat, Macy’s!” Ragsdell’s passion for education has taken her decades-long teaching career from preschool to college, where she currently teaches English and writing in the City Colleges of Chicago (CCC) and other Chicagoland institutions.

MAE delegates were moved by the ESP of the year, Sherry Shaw of Wasilla, Alaska, who was carrying a 100-pound Osprey backpack on stage. Shaw asked her fellow educators to imagine they were carrying a 100-pound backpack around all the time. “That would be about the equivalent to the baggage some students are carrying around that we don’t see,” she said. In Wasilla, Shaw manages a program that provides food, clothing, and hygiene products to families affected by drug abuse, domestic violence, and homelessness. Many of those affected are students.

Imagine my surprise to see myself “in lights” along with some dear friends.

This NEA RA was bittersweet for me as I said goodbye to some colleagues who had been in the presidential ranks alongside me for a number of years. Some of us were happy to be promo’ing the Gala together. (That’s Erica Webber-Jones’ darling daughter in the picture.)

I am confident that MAE will grow from the participation of its MAE Delegates to the 2018 NEA RA. We encourage locals to begin planning now to send delegates to Houston in 2019.

I’m looking forward to a great 2018-2019 school year! I hope you are too!

With warm regards,