The CEA Representative Assembly gave delegates the opportunity to not only conduct the Association’s business, but also to recognize colleagues and public education supporters who have made a significant impact for students and teachers.
Shawn Wooden Receives Founders Award for Commitment to Securing Teacher Pensions
Connecticut State Treasurer Shawn Wooden received the first award of this year’s CEA RA, the 1848 Founders Award, for his support of students, teachers, and public education, and for his dedication to shoring up the historically underfunded Teachers’ Retirement Fund.
“It is my distinct pleasure to provide the first Founders Award to someone who truly makes a difference, someone who greatly appreciates teachers and education,” said CEA President Kate Dias.
Teachers’ pensions are vital to their security in retirement and Wooden has taken important action to stabilize the pension fund. During his first year in office, Wooden successfully reamortized the fund’s unfunded liability and this year chose to use some of the state’s budget surplus to make a huge supplemental contribution of nearly $1 billion—in addition to the state’s $1.4 billion in regular pension contributions.
“Teachers’ pensions are so important to our retirement security. Make no mistake—that extra contribution was Shawn’s choice, and I can’t emphasize that enough. Those dollars could have gone elsewhere, but Shawn knew how important our retirement fund is to us and how important it is to fund it properly and to keep it protected,” said Dias.
“I want to thank you for your support and friendship, and the work that we have done together,” said Wooden. “One of the big things, as a candidate, that I talked about was dealing with the teachers’ pension fund, making it more sustainable, and it was on this trajectory that just was not going to work for retirees, not going to work for the state.”
Wooden added that too often politicians promise a lot and then underdeliver. “It’s a vicious cycle and people have less faith, less trust in politicians, and I was very proud to actually talk about the problem, to work collaboratively with partners, with CEA, with others in government, and actually to really lean in and to get it over the finish line, and to do something really big, really important, really hard and have success.”
Wooden told delegates that he remembered his first visit to CEA headquarters almost a decade ago when he was first becoming involved in state politics and ran against an incumbent in a state senate primary. At that point, CEA still endorsed candidates for legislative office rather than offering a legislator report card, and Wooden was disappointed when the CEA Political Action Committee elected to endorse his opponent.
CEA-Retired member Bob Brown, who served then and still serves as CEA-PAC chair, said that Wooden’s opponent was a veteran legislator who had always voted with CEA. “Our practice was that if we endorsed you and you voted with us, we would continue to endorse you. But Shawn so impressed me and the committee that when his interview was over, I ran out into the lobby to talk with him privately before he left. I told him how impressive his interview was. I also told him we had to continue to endorse his opponent because a failure to do so would detract from the meaningfulness and power of our endorsements. He understood. But I told Shawn that he was exactly the kind of person we would support, and that he should stay in politics, and we would certainly endorse and support him in the future.”
“I respected that decision, I understood that decision, and I felt the sincerity,” Wooden said. “You said, ‘Come back,’ and I came back when I ran for state treasurer, and we’ve never been apart since.”
“This is an example that really shows how important our involvement in political action is,” said Brown.
“I’m very sad because Shawn is not running for reelection,” Dias said, though she added that she fully empathized with his reasoning as a father of two teens who wants more time with them. She expressed hope that he would return to public office at some point in the future.
“I can’t think of a more noble profession than teaching—inspiring and mentoring the next generation,” Wooden said. “A lot of people talk about it, but I’m a big believer, for elected officials and public policies, put your money where your mouth is, right? Don’t just give pats on the back but let all these great ideals, let that be reflected in our actions. And I’ve endeavored to do that.”
With 54 Years of Service, Attorney Marty Gould Has Legacy of Landmark Contributions to the Teaching Profession in Connecticut
“I bet that most of you in the audience have never heard his name before this evening,” CEA Attorney Adrienne DeLucca told RA delegates, speaking of Attorney Marty Gould, the 2022 recipient of CEA’s most prestigious award, the Thomas P. Mondani CEA Friend of Education Award.
“Hopefully, after tonight you will never forget it,” she continued. “Marty has been representing CEA and its members for almost 54 years. In fact, Marty was at the very first two-day RA, serving as parliamentarian. Marty is all of you who go into your classrooms every day not expecting any recognition or praise. You do what you do just for the love of it hoping to do some good and make a difference along the way. That’s Marty, he is the quiet, unsung hero behind the scenes who works tirelessly in support of public education and public school teachers across the state in countless capacities.”
Gould, the founding partner of Gould Killian, LLP, has played a pivotal role for the teaching profession in Connecticut in numerous ways over the last half century, including by representing Bridgeport teachers during their arraignments and court proceedings during the strike that led to the enactment of the 1979 Teachers’ Negotiations Act, which mandates binding arbitration during collective bargaining.
In his work representing public school teachers Gould has won over 40 cases, 30 of them at the Connecticut Supreme Court, a couple at the Connecticut Appellate Court, and a few in federal court. “I can’t stress enough what a truly astounding statistic that is,” DeLucca said. “The vast majority of all lawyers will never see the inside of the Appellate or Supreme Court let alone argue a case there and win. Some of these cases have had a profound effect on the teaching profession and literally paved the way for everyone here tonight.”
Those landmark cases include representing a teacher in 1971 who lost her job because she was six months pregnant. Taking the case to federal district court, Gould got the teacher her job back along with back pay and ended the sexist and discriminatory practice of firing female teachers simply because they wanted a career and motherhood at the same. In a 1974 case, Gould represented a physical education teacher and girls’ basketball coach who was making only three-fifths of what the boys’ coach was making. Gould won that federal lawsuit mandating equal pay. Other historic cases included ones overturning strict dress codes and automatic discipline for teachers without due process.
More recently, Gould guided the CEA legal department in the successful filing of an injunction on behalf of members and several municipalities against then Governor Malloy and other state actors for failure to release and distribute Education Cost Sharing grants specifically allocated to each municipality. He joined DeLucca in filing charges with the State Board of Labor Relations and successfully petitioned the State Department of Education to revoke the teaching and administrative certifications of a principal responsible for an egregiously hostile work environment, including bullying, misuse of power, and severe instances of sexual harassment. And after a five-year battle that went all the way to the Connecticut Supreme Court, Gould and CEA lawyers achieved a win for New Milford teachers when the Court unanimously confirmed the grievance arbitration, awarding teachers back pay for improper extension of the workday on multiple occasions.
Gould told delegates that is has been a pleasure to represent Connecticut educators for the past five decades and told a story about the Bridgeport teachers’ strike to illustrate why supporting unionized educators has been near and dear to his heart.
“I was with the Bridgeport teachers, and we were in front of an extremely irate judge, and he’d called up the teachers one by one to give them a tongue lashing and to tell them what kind of a horrific example they were setting for the students and that they were violating the law,” Gould said.
As law enforcement sent teachers away, one-by-one, to Camp Martel, which had been set up as a makeshift prison, there was a break in the proceedings. “I was sitting at the council table, and a teacher came up to me and I figured, ‘Okay, I understand if they want to call it off—it’s too much. It’s too difficult.’ Many of these teachers had never even received a parking ticket and they’re being tongue-lashed by a judge for violating the law and sent to jail. This teacher came up to me and she said, ‘You need to do us a favor. You need to keep this going for long enough so we all can be sentenced to jail, and we can all undergo that because we are a unit, and we are going to stick together.’”
Gould said that that teacher’s words have stuck with him all these years as the very essence of what CEA and public employee unions are all about.
Manchester Educator Honored for Teaching Excellence
The John McCormack Award recognizes and promote excellence in teaching and service to the profession, and this year Manchester teacher James Tierinni was the recipient of the $2,000 honor. Tierinni is not only an extremely dedicated math teacher that students stay connected to long after graduation, he is also very involved with the Manchester Education Association, having served as a building rep, treasurer, and member of the Negotiations team over his thirteen years in the district.
As a math teacher, Tierinni created a Saturday math program to help struggling students that has expanded into other subjects. Students come to school on Saturday morning, have free lunch, and receive personalized help with difficult concepts. Tierinni was the coordinator of the program for five years, and it has met with great success. Students who participated saw their grades in math improve, on average, 25-30%. During the pandemic, Tierinni would turn up outside the home of students struggling to understand math in a virtual setting and practice math problems outside their window using chalk on the driveway.
Through his involvement with MEA, Tierinni was instrumental in using MEA funds to create several student scholarships and has worked to raise additional funds. Since 2015, the MEA has funded over 70 scholarships totaling more than $40,000, including a future educator award.
As the CEA John McCormack Award winner, Tierinni will also be CEA’s nominee for the national NEA Member Benefits Award and he will attend next year’s NEA Foundation Salute to Education Gala in Washington, D.C.
CEA Salutes Local Association and Town Leaders
Throughout the pandemic, New Canaan Education Association leaders Vivian Birdsall and Ronna Van Veghel stepped up to help their students and their colleagues, going the extra mile, and at the CEA RA they were awarded the CEA Salutes Award. During the loss, disruptions, and chaos of pandemic learning New Canaan teachers frequently found themselves at their breaking point, and Birdsall and Van Veghel were there for them, whether it was to listen to concerns, advocate on their behalf, or simply lend a shoulder to cry on if need be. The local association leaders work tirelessly to ensure teachers’ mental health and well-being are prioritized, schools are safe learning and teaching environments, and that their members’ are heard, seen, informed, and valued.
The CEA Salutes award also recognizes those outside the profession who have done outstanding work for public education. Enfield Board of Education Vice Chair Scott Ryder is one of those individuals. Ryder has had a big impact on public education in Enfield, working with students, parents, and educators, and serving on countless committees and organizations. Nominator, Enfield teacher Michele Wilcox, describes Ryder as a hard-working and dedicated individual who “has an astounding amount of energy which he pours into the leadership positions he holds within the town.”
Shepaug Teacher Goes Above and Beyond the Call of Duty
Teachers regularly go above and beyond the call of duty for their students—and the CEA Above and Beyond the Call of Duty Award honors those who have gone even further above and beyond the call, also promoting a positive image of teachers or the teaching profession.
Shepaug Valley School teacher Mike Nolan is this year’s recipient for his extraordinary efforts to assist English learners and their families. Nolan takes his job to the next level and befriends the families of his English learners, helping with transportation, groceries, and meals during hard times. He makes time not only for his students and their families, but after school he provides other English learners with academic support. He checks in on students and families and is a helpful resource to his colleagues working with families with limited English skills.
Susan B. Anthony – Prudence Crandall Equality Award
From her first steps into her classroom, Greenwich teacher Valerie Bolling went beyond teaching lessons in poetry and championed diversity, equity, and inclusion. Teaching in her district’s most diverse schools, Bolling combed the libraries for books that reflected herself and her students.
The author of several children’s books, Bolling was selected as a 2000 Greenwich Public Schools Distinguished teacher, the district’s highest honor, for advocating for her students. CEA’s Human and Civil Right’s Commission voted to name Bolling the Susan B. Anthony – Prudence Crandall Equality Award winner.
CEA Newsletter and Website Awards
Newsletters and websites are excellent means of bringing a local Association’s message to members. Every year, CEA awards local association newsletter editors and website designers for their hard work. This year’s newsletter winners are as follows:
- First place and best overall, The Bridgeline, Bridgeport Education Association, Lisa Balzano
- Second place, WHEA World, West Hartford Education Association, Sara Tamborello
- Third place, NHEA News – Monthly Rewind, North Haven Education Association, Krista Kaplan
- Best new entry, CREC-EA Newsletter, CREC Education Association, Elizabeth Guay
Website award winners are as listed:
- Best overall, West Hartford Education Association, Shannon McNeice
- First place, New Canaan Education Association, Ronna Van Veghel
- Second place, CREC Education Association, Hiroe Vestergaard
- Third place, North Haven Education Association, Krista Kaplan