More than 350 delegates convened this weekend for the 173rd CEA Representative Assembly (RA), held virtually, to set policy and adopt a budget for the Connecticut Education Association. The CEA RA is the association’s highest policymaking body.
NEA President Becky Pringle addressed the delegates and acknowledged CEA not only for its strong, visionary leadership within Connecticut’s borders but also for the wisdom and insights its leaders have shared throughout NEA.
“As we slowly emerge from a difficult, overwhelming, and sometimes scary year,” Pringle said, “I thank you for all you have done for your students and each other amidst ever-present uncertainty and obstacles. Your commitment, strength, and resilience have made me even prouder to be a teacher and the leader of the largest labor union in this country.”
As teachers continue to serve their students, many of whom struggled even before the pandemic, Pringle commended CEA members for stepping up their activism and helping pass President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which allocates billions to education to keep students safe and meet their social, emotional, and academic needs. She also reminded teachers that, at NEA’s urging, state and local plans for spending federal education relief dollars are required to involve teacher input in a real and meaningful way.
CEA President Jeff Leake echoed Pringle’s sentiments, emphasizing that teachers’ input into this historic investment can help address students’ emotional needs and the trauma that has been ongoing in many of their lives.
“We could explore implementing the community schools model, which has the potential to better meet the needs of our students and our underresourced communities. What if more schools could enhance learning and nutrition by offering their students not just a free breakfast and lunch, but dinner and a snack? The fact that a sizable number of students face obstacles like eviction and hunger is a reminder that the education system can’t be expected to solve every problem in society. Schools would be more successful if students’ families didn’t struggle with low incomes, unstable housing, or a lack of healthcare—all problems that can greatly affect learning. We know that even in our well-off communities, there is a need.”
Leake also reviewed the work that CEA has done over the past year, including being a leading voice on the response to COVID—the association’s initial guidance to the governor on closing schools, the immediate establishment of task forces to guide remote learning, a reopening forum, campaigns for additional funding for local school districts, regular meetings with the governor and State Department of Education, and ongoing calls to do the right thing.
”This has been the longest and most challenging year in CEA history,” said CEA Executive Director Don Williams. “Everyone had to learn how to do everything in a new way. There was no roadmap, and we all had to work together to build a lighted pathway forward. The spirit and purpose of all successful unions, CEA’s Stronger Together made a critical difference for teachers this year. We’ve never faced a challenge where the stakes included literal survival in the midst of a life-threatening pandemic.”
Leake pointed out the CEA was the only education stakeholder that consistently drafted and promoted comprehensive safety plans for Connecticut schools, with its recommendations commanding attention in the media and at the State Department of Education. When districts fell short of meeting those standards, CEA members and locals organized, spoke out, and worked hard for safety and accountability.
Elections; budget adopted; resolutions, amendments passed
Running unopposed, Darien teacher Katy Gale was re-elected to a three-year term as NEA director.
Candidates for the office of CEA president and vice president each had an opportunity to address CEA RA delegates. Running for a three-year term as president are incumbent Jeff Leake and challenger Kate Dias, who serves as president of the Manchester Education Association. Running for vice president, also a three-year term, are current CEA Vice President Tom Nicholas and Darien Education Association President Joslyn Delancey.
Because the CEA RA was held virtually, voting will take place by mail-in ballot. Ballots have been mailed to all delegates who attended the CEA RA. CEA’s Elections Committee will meet in person to count ballots, and results will be announced the week of June 14.
Delegates adopted a budget for fiscal year 2021-2022, resulting in no membership dues increase.
A number of constitutional amendments were passed, and resolutions were adopted to clarify existing language or make it more inclusive and up-to-date. Delegates overwhelmingly adopted several resolutions on measures that—among other things—elicit broader support of public education, strengthen the association’s social justice and anti-racism goals, include social and emotional learning as an important component of a comprehensive education, oppose withholding recess as a student disciplinary measure, underscore the need for equity in higher education, involve teachers in gauging the relevance of student assessments, and lower student dropout rates by providing intervention, social emotional and academic support, retention counseling, and career programs.
Education Supporters Honored
Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro was awarded the Mondani CEA Friend of Education Award for her decades of advocacy that have resulted in the inclusion of an expanded child tax credit in the American Rescue Plan. The Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University estimates that the credit will reduce child poverty by 45 percent overall and 52 percent for African Americans.
Unlike the preexisting program that offered families the tax credit annually when they filed their taxes, the relief package will provide families with monthly payments expected to start this summer, providing a stable cash flow. The credit is also being extended to millions of families who earn too little to qualify for the credit under existing law.
Announcing the award, President Jeff Leake said, “This is our biggest, most prestigious award, given only to those who stand head and shoulders above the rest in their commitment to public education and advocacy on behalf of teachers and students.”
“The expanded and improved Child Tax Credit is a historic change that is a lifeline to the middle class and drastically cuts child poverty,” said DeLauro. “These payments to children and their families throughout the year will help them with the costs of things like food, childcare, diapers, healthcare, clothing, and taxes.”
Glastonbury world language teacher Mark Pearsall was recognized with CEA’s Clifford Silvers Education Advocacy Award.
Pearsall, who has served in numerous roles with the Glastonbury Education Association, including treasurer and vice president, currently chairs GEA’s Professional Rights and Responsibilities Committee.
“It’s difficult to imagine GEA without Mark and his leadership on negotiations teams spanning decades,” says GEA President Jeremy Gervais, who nominated Pearsall. “He has worked tirelessly assisting members, playing an essential role in contract bargaining for the district, and earning the respect of his peers, the administration, and the membership as a whole. In all of his various roles, he is calm and meticulous and pays great attention to what is being said and, importantly, what is not being said.”
NEA-Danbury member Kymberly D’Auria, a family and consumer science/humanistic multicultural educator at Danbury High School, was named the recipient of CEA’s 2020-2021 Harvey Milk-Sylvia Rivera Award for Challenging Discrimination Related to Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation.
A Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) advisor at Danbury High School for the past nine years, D’Auria has trained GSA student members in strategies to advocate for themselves and the greater teen LGBTQIA community. The group’s activities have expanded beyond their own school and have included gatherings with other GSA clubs in western Connecticut and collaborations with Boehringer Ingelheim, a local corporation that has consistently been designated as a Best Place to Work for LGBTQIA equality.
D’Auria is also actively involved in training other educators, especially school counselors, and has promoted opportunities to attend and experience True Colors workshops, True Colors Conference Day of Silence, World AIDS Day, and Bethel Pride, to name a few. Outside of school, D’Auria serves as a board member and facilitator with GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) CT and has conducted related trainings and workshops for various educational institutions.
Local associations were also honored at the CEA RA for their efforts toward outreach and communication. This year’s CEA Local Association Newsletter Award winner is:
- Joyce Bogdan, Editor, WHEA World, West Hartford Education Association
CEA Local Association Website Award winners are:
- Shannon McNeice, West Hartford Education Association – 1st place
- Mark Janick, Suffield Education Association – 2nd place
- Patricia McLaughlin, Guilford Education Association – 3rd place