Nearly 400 delegates representing 160 districts around the state came together for the 2023 CEA Representative Assembly, reflecting on the collective achievements not only of the past year but throughout the association’s 175 year-history.
Convening May 12–13 at Mohegan Sun’s Earth Expo, CEA’s largest governing body honored exemplary educators, elected new officers, and voted on a budget, new business items, and amendments to the constitution and bylaws. Past CEA leaders were invited to the anniversary celebration, which included a video showcasing the association’s proud history and highlighting key milestones.
A time of celebration
“I couldn’t be any prouder to be leading our organization on its path forward, following the trailblazers who came before us,” said CEA President Kate Dias in her welcoming remarks. “I am so excited to be part of this celebration of the important work teachers do every day.”
Dias recalled her own educators, from the kindergarten classroom to postgraduate programs, who nurtured her creativity and sense of self, mentored and empowered her, encouraged her leadership and negotiation skills, and ultimately put her on the path to heading up the state’s largest teachers union.
“School was full of educators who let me be me,” she said, “and I am fortunate that in this work, I am continuously improved by teachers. As you can imagine, it’s a strong, vibrant network of union members who make me a better leader, keep me honest and grounded in the work we are focused on, and share their passion, understanding and experiences.”
She reminded delegates, “Each of you carries your district in a unique and special way, and shining a light on you and the high-quality assets you are is a job I take seriously. Legislators and key decisionmakers need to step up and support you, and we must support and grow one another. It is what we do best. Because of a teacher, we can do anything.”
She added, “Representing our colleagues and considering their needs can sometimes be a daunting task, but it is important work for us to do. The purpose of our gathering is to make important decisions about the future of our association, but this is also a time of celebration: a reminder that good work does happen even in trying times. We take this opportunity to lift up the efforts of our members and staff to continue to fight the good fight every day.”
That fight, said CEA Executive Director Donald Williams, includes a shortage of teachers, resources, and funds, as well as challenges undreamed of in decades past, such as the pressures, threats, and distractions of social media on teachers and students, the uncertain current and future impact of artificial intelligence on student work, campaigns to ban books and censor curriculum, a national effort to inject radicalized politics into local board of education meetings and actions, and well-funded campaigns to diminish teachers’ rights by destroying unions.
“We see this effort increasing in Connecticut with groups whose goal is not only to destroy unions and the power of ‘stronger together’ but also to destroy public education and privatize our schools. The idea is to hang a new sign on our schools and replace opportunity for all with profit for a few.”
Williams outlined CEA’s legislative agenda, one of the most ambitious at the State Capitol in the past 40 years, which calls for higher teacher salaries, recognition for teachers’ work and sacrifice during COVID, an evaluation process that respects the profession and a de-emphasis on standardized testing, a return to play-based learning for young students, improved school indoor air quality, uninterrupted prep time, an Educator’s Bill of Rights, fairness and due process, and more.
“After 175 years, the work of our union and the fight for our profession and equity for all students is more important than ever,” he said.
Reports, resolutions, budget, business items
Delegates unanimously voted to adopt an amendment to the bylaws that changes EDEC’s name to Racial and Ethnic Diversity Affairs Commission.
They also adopted a new budget for the 2023-2024 fiscal year, with a $3.25 dues increase, and discussed and debated several new business items including increasing CEA-Retired representation on the CEA Board of Directors, investigating offering local associations their own email, website, and file management and sharing system, and researching best practices for establishing a minimum amount of time given to delegates to review new amendments ahead of the CEA RA.
In addition, delegates discussed, debated, and voted to adopt resolutions that would, among other things
- Reduce the financial burden of continuing education and expand loan forgiveness for teachers
- Actively recruit and retain teachers who represent diverse cultural, ethnic, and racial groups
- Encourage greater involvement and representation of diverse ethnic and racial groups not only in the profession but also in the organization
- Protect against discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, economic status, religion, political beliefs, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, marital status, age, disability, size, veteran status, and more
Leaders elected, teachers honored and remembered
Elections were held for two CEA leadership positions. Running unopposed, Tanya Kores and Carrie Cassady were declared NEA director and NEA director alternate, respectively. They take office on September 1, 2023, and their three-year terms end August 31, 2026.
A hallmark of the CEA RA each year is the presentation of awards recognizing significant efforts on behalf of teachers, students, and school communities. In addition to numerous honors for work in the area of human and civil rights, public relations, and support for students and teachers, CEA announced the winner of the 2023 John McCormack Award, which promotes excellence in teaching and service to the profession.
Bridgeport third-grade teacher Mikeya Stovall, this year’s McCormack Award winner, chairs the Bridgeport Education Association’s Legislative Action Committee and serves on its Ethnic and Minority Affairs Committee, along with several others. She has been a delegate to the CEA RA each year since 2019. She has also helped organize special events like BEA’s Hispanic heritage and Black history recognition dinners and BEA’s first union-led, districtwide food drive that benefited hundreds of local families in need.