2015 PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovator

2015 PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovator

Monday, December 9, 2019

Ohio Education Association Representative Assembly

On Saturday, December 7, Medina Delegates David Hamman, Katie Shaffer, Bradley Dalzell, Ed Dargay, Rob Thompson, Austin Argabright, Tricia Schuck, Laina Makepeace, and Stephani Itibrout represented MCTA at the Ohio Education Association Representative Assembly at the Columbus Fairgrounds.  It was a long day with a long drive, but it was definitely worthwhile.

MCTA Delegates hard at work

The Rittman High School Steel Drum Band greeted us as we entered.

At 9:00, President Scott DiMauro opened the Assembly with the Pledge of Allegiance, the National Anthem, and an invocation. Then we quickly got down to business.

This was an exciting RA because the guest speaker was the President of the National Education Association, Lily Eskelsen Garcia.  I admire Lily so much because she is smart and strong and powerful. She is also a dynamic speaker, and her message to rally to bring about change through the upcoming elections was meaningful.

NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia
Lily spent much of her time showing us NEA's webpage devoted to candidates for the election, Education Votes.  The site is very useful in its presentation of information. One of the best tools on the site (in my opinion) is the Candidate Comparison, which allows you to pick any of the current Presidential candidates (Democrat and Republican) and match their platforms on current issues.  Lily has also posted interviews with some of the candidates, and she plans to continue to interview candidates with questions that we can post on that site. So cool.

In addition, NEA has a form you can complete if you are interested in becoming a delegate to either the Democratic or Republican convention. If you are interested, NEA will pass that information on to the Ohio Education Association, who will actively work with you to help you become a delegate.  Lily's goal is to make education a top issue in the upcoming election, and I think she is making the right moves to make that happen.

After Lily's inspirational speech, OEA held a legislative panel consisting of two Republicans and two Democrats who spoke about current legislation to reduce excessive state testing, eliminate value added measurements, and repeal state takeovers of schools.

I think that many union members don't think about what their state and national unions do for them. Today's Representative Assembly showed me that OEA and NEA are working hard for the well being of teachers and students. Another example of this was OEA's stand against state report cards, which you can read here.

Regardless of your political affiliation, you can find great information on both OEA's and NEA's web pages. It's important for all of us to educate ourselves on current events so that we can more effectively advocate for our students.  It all can start with just a few clicks. . .

Sunday, August 4, 2019

National Education Representative Assembly 2019 Recap: Post 3

From July 3-7, 2019, Medina Delegates Bradley Dalzell, Katie Shaffer, and Stephani Itibrout attended the 2019 National Education Association Representative Assembly in Houston, Texas.  The NEA is the largest labor organization in the United States, and we had about 9,000 people there to prove it. You can read the first and second post by clicking here and here

Today's post is about one of the most exciting days of the RA: the Presidential Candidates Forum.  Our NEA President, Lily Eskelsen Garcia, had extended invitations to any candidate to talk to our Assembly. Ten Democrats responded to her invitation, and we were able to hear from all of them.  

There were strict rules to follow, and just about every speaker tried to break them, but Lily doesn't put up with that, so it was great to see that we stayed on schedule. First, the candidate had one minute to say whatever she/he wanted. Then, the candidate had to respond to three questions from our members, and she/he had three minutes per question. Ten minutes per candidate= one hour, forty minutes away from New Business Items (which we had to complete by the end of the RA), so it was very important to keep to the time limits. 

Here is a video of the candidates' speeches and responses to members' questions.

We heard from Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Beto O'Rourke, Julian Castro, Amy Klobuchar, Tim Ryan (from Ohio!), Jay Inslee, Bill DeBlasio, and Kamala Harris.  Click here for a recap from the NEAToday Page.

Here are some of my takes from the forum (These are my opinions, and they do not reflect the opinions of my union or my employer):

1. All candidates spoke pretty well considering the time constraint. It isn't easy to stick to one minute for your platform.

2. Bernie Sanders was the first to speak, and he tried to go over the time limit, even after Lily explained the rules. He said, "Can I say just one more thing?" and she responded, "No, sorry," and escorted him offstage. He wasn't the only one who tried, and Lily's strategy was that when a candidate reached the time limit, we would all clap very loudly to let him/her know that time was up. They all got the hint right away.

3. The floor of the RA looked great! We were all dressed in red to how the #RedforEd movement, and we all had clappers. We were a pretty enthusiastic bunch, with lots of cheering and ovations.

4.  There were a few boos. Beto O'Rourke thought it was appropriate to mention that he supports charter schools.  

5.  Kamala Harris was the last to speak, and she almost didn't make it. She was flying in at the very last minute, and her car got stuck in traffic, so she jumped out of it and ran through the huge convention hall to the stage.  She was completely out of breath, and I'm pretty sure it threw her off since she didn't really have time to recover.  She was still good, though.

I was happy to hear from all the candidates at one time because it definitely gave me a firm idea of where they stand and what I would like to research further. It was incredibly exciting to be in that forum, and I'm so grateful for the opportunity.

If you followed our journey at the RA in Boston, you will know that I stalked Lily Eskelsen Garcia until I could get her picture because I admire her so much.

Boston 2017

Another person I greatly admire is our NEA Vice President, Becky Pringle. I made it my mission to get a picture with her this year. To that end, I bugged our Ohio VP (now our President!) to introduce me, and he came through!

Scott DiMauro, Me, Becky Pringle

Here is something else I enjoyed about the Assembly: I wrote in an earlier post that I was on the Communications Committee. What that meant was that I carried cards around our part of the RA floor that reminded members how we voted on New Business Items in our morning caucus. It was a fun job because I got to walk around rather than sit on my butt during voting. It was also tricky because I had to pay attention to our leaders, who were following new language when Items were amended. Often they had to decide quickly on whether the amended language reflected the feeling of our vote in caucus, and then they gave me a signal on which card to carry around. 

These are the cards used to notify the members.

Here I am informing the Ohio members that our leadership recommends voting down an amendment.  
There were a LOT of New Business Items, more than 140 of them. We lost quite a bit of time with our Candidates Forum (which was of course totally worth it), so we were all a bit nervous about how we were going to finish the voting before the end of the Assembly. On the last day we had a ton of NBIs still left.

The face you make when you think you will be there forever because there are a bunch of NBIs left.
We did manage to get bogged down for a while in Points of Information and some stubborn insistence of bringing back NBIs we had already rejected.  Then Lily woke us up a bit, and we were able to be more efficient. We finished all NBIs this year with a gavel down well before the deadline!

The face you make when you realize that you are going to finish in time.
All in all, it was an exhausting but fun--and definitely productive--time at the National Education Association 2019 Representative Assembly. I am so grateful to my local, Medina City Teachers Association, for sending me as one of our delegates.

Like what you read? Follow us @MedinaTeachers on Twitter and like us on Facebook!

Monday, July 22, 2019

National Education Association Representative Assembly 2019: Post 2

From July 3-7, 2019, Medina Delegates Bradley Dalzell, Katie Shaffer, and Stephani Itibrout attended the 2019 National Education Association Representative Assembly in Houston, Texas.  The NEA is the largest labor organization in the United States, and we had about 9,000 people there to prove it.

Today I would like to write about fundraising. 

Union dues do not go towards any sort of political activity, but union activity is often very political. I have served on committees that have recommended policies to legislators.  The NEA has a separate, voluntary donation program that goes toward legislative policy; it is called the Fund for Children and Public Education (FCPE). To give you an idea of its importance, the FCPE in Ohio was instrumental in reducing arduous and repetitive requirements for New Educators.  Also, FCPE helps the OEA to inform legislators of the dangers of unnecessary testing. Charter school regulation? FCPE is working on that. 

Anyway, fund-raising for FCPE at the Representative Assemblies is very important, and at the NEA RA, it can get very creative.  One of the fun fund-raising activities for FCPE involves forcing our union leaders to do silly things in public. This year it started with hats. The FCPE auctioneer took bids on forcing members to wear Texas-inspired hats during important moments of the RA. The members targeted are then allowed to outbid in order to give the hat to someone else. There was some heavy bidding this year, but many members combined funds in order to keep the humiliation within the leaders. 
From left: Treasurer Mark Hill, VP Scott DiMauro, and Pres. Becky Higgins are wearing weird hats. Daniel Boone?  I don't know. Members donated to FCPE to make them wear these hats on the floor of the RA.

Our Vice-President-Elect, Jeff Wensing, gets picked on every year. I swear I have nothing to do with it:

The best part was when members pooled their funds to make Darryl wear an astronaut suit on the floor of the Assembly.  He was an incredibly good sport about it, and he even got memed on Twitter because he was sitting right by a camera:

We also raised money for the Houston food bank. Darryl played an important role in this because he allowed anyone at the RA to take a picture with him if they donated to the Houston food bank. 

We also collected money by playing Bingo during the RA. If you have ever attended a staff or faculty meeting, you know how this works. The bingo card has a list of "buzz words" or even people, and when you can make a bingo with the events of the RA, you win money or prizes. We bought bingo cards each day for two dollars, and that money also went to the Houston food bank. The cards were VERY popular. I got a bingo, but it was too late for money; I won candy.

I can't write a blog post without a picture of the Medina Delegates. Here we are, excited about our place on the Representative Assembly floor:

Ohio has a large delegation. It is really exciting to be a part of that. Here is a picture of all of us:

To give you an idea of the importance of presence at the RA, I will tell you an anecdote:

There was a hugely-debated New Business Item on the floor of the RA (there are many, so I don't remember which one this was--sorry). We had many votes on many amendments to this NBI, but we just couldn't settle it. Then it came time for Ohio to leave the RA floor to vote for NEA Directors, so all of us stood up at once. Immediately, delegates from other states started screaming, "Ohio! DON'T LEAVE! STAY FOR OUR VOTE!" 

I often tell people that I am a geek for Parliamentary Procedure. It must be true because I get chills whenever I think of that moment.

I think this is enough for Post #2 of the NEA RA. Don't worry; I still have lots more information to share. Specifically, stay with me to read about the presentations of ten Democratic candidates!

Like what you read? Do you support public education? Follow Medina Teachers on Twitter and Facebook.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

National Education Association Representative Assembly 2019

From July 3-7, 2019, Medina Delegates Bradley Dalzell, Katie Shaffer, and Stephani Itibrout attended the 2019 National Education Association Representative Assembly in Houston, Texas.  The NEA is the largest labor organization in the United States, and we had about 9,000 people there to prove it.

As usual, Katie, Bradley, and I had to get our airport selfie when we left.

We arrived in Houston just in time to register for the Assembly, change, and go to our Ohio Night Celebration. This was an opportunity to talk with delegates from other school districts. For me it was another photo opportunity, of course:

Sue Messinger, President of Parma Educators Association

Scott DiMauro, Vice President and President-Elect of Ohio Education Association

Mary Alice Conkey, Executive Director of the North Eastern Ohio Education Association
Between the traveling and the excitement of networking, we were all ready to call it a day relatively early so that we could be fresh for our morning caucuses for both OEA and NEOEA.

I volunteered for two committees this year: The Communications Committee and the Elections Committee. I'll describe our roles in the Assembly later in this blog.

I woke up at 4:45 AM to get in a run in downtown Houston. I wanted to run the trail by the river, but there were police blocking the trail who told me that I should stick to running downtown, so I did just that.

My morning run
During our Ohio Caucus, we listened to campaign speeches for candidates for the NEA Directors. We also discussed campaign strategy for our own candidate, Andrea Beeman. Katie, Bradley, and I volunteered to be a part of the Scream Team, which meant we passed out campaign literature and chanted for Andrea in the Convention Center for about an hour and a half on election day.

"We are screamin'! Vote for Beeman!"
John, Bradley, Me, Terry, Katie
As a member of the OEA Elections Committee, I had to be an Observer, which at first meant I just directed people to the ballot boxes, made sure there were enough pencils, and told voters not to fold their ballots. Then, when the ballot boxes were transferred to be counted, we had to watch the counting process and collectively solve problems for any situations that might arise. The ballots are scanned and counted electronically; it looks like you are running them through a mini-printer. Sometimes the machine spits back a ballot--for example, a bubble wasn't dark enough--and the committee decides whether the bubble was actually blackened or not. There were no real problems with the ballots, so counting was pretty uneventful but instructive.

Our reward for a long day of work was a group outing to The Truckyard, a restaurant/music venue that rotates in food trucks and has all kinds of music and fun.  I ate some amazing duck sliders and resisted the urge to ride the mini ferris wheel.

Katie, Bradley and I enjoyed our sandwiches!

Then we moved on to Axelrad, an outdoor music venue where the main seating is hammocks!  Hammocks everywhere!

Fellow NEOEA Delegates

Chillaxin' at Axelrad
Want to read more about the NEA RA? Want to know about Caucus voting, fundraising, and BS Bingo? Maybe you might like to read about 10 Democratic Presidential Candidates who spoke to us? If so, continue to follow our journey.  Stay tuned for our next post.

Like what you read? Follow Medina Teachers Association on Twitter and Facebook!

Sunday, May 12, 2019

2019 Ohio Education Association Representative Assembly

On Friday, May 10, nine delegates from Medina City Teachers Association attended Day 1 of the Ohio Education Association Representative Assembly. Our task was an important one: advocate for our colleagues and students by voting for our leaders and debating and voting on policy.

We arrived on Thursday for our registration and networking, where we attended an election event for Jeff Wensing, who was running for the position of Vice President of OEA. Of course you realize that I can't resist a good selfie, so I'm warning you right now that there will be plenty of them. See if you recognize anyone.

Jeff Wensing, former President of the North Eastern Ohio Education Association

Mary Alice Conkey, Executive Director of the North Eastern Ohio Education Association
On Friday, we started bright and early at the Columbus Convention Center with introduction ceremonies and candidates' speeches.
David Hamman, President of Medina Teachers Education Association

Rob Thompson, who is apparently part of the Witness Protection Program, and Laina Makepeace, Treasurer of MCTA

Medina Delegates: Rob, Laina, Lori Berger, Katie Shaffer, Bradley Dalzell, Ed Dargay, Sherri Hufford, David Hamman

I had time for a mascot selfie!

We heard speeches from Jim Figley, WEA, and Scott DiMauro, Vice President of OEA, who were both campaigning for the office of President of OEA. We also heard from Jeff Wensing, Sophia Rodriguez, and Adrienne Bowman, who were running for Vice President of OEA. The speeches were all very well-done and it made me happy that we had such good candidates from which to choose.
Scott DiMauro

Jeff Wensing
After speeches, we had a lunch and voting break. It was so exciting to see 900+ delegates lining up to vote for our officers. I had time for more selfies with fellow-delegates and officers.

Scott DiMauro, Vice President of OEA

Sharron Callahan, OEA Director

Nicole Stratton, Copley Teachers Association President

I always take pictures with Copley delegates because I like to send them to my daughter. It kills her that I'm spending time with her teachers.

When we came back, we saw the awards for members who have contributed to the Fund for Children and Public Education. This was a special moment for me because my friend Steve Pierce earned a Lifetime Achievement Award, and my friend Jen Pierce, his wife, was accepting it on his behalf. Steve passed away two months ago, and his friends and family still deeply feel his absence. On this occasion, we were lucky to remember his generosity and dedication to public education. Becky Higgins, OEA President, said some kind words about him as Jen accepted the award.

Becky Higgins, Jennifer Pierce
The election for Vice President was pretty exciting because we had three strong candidates, and as predicted, there was a run-off vote, so off we went to the polls to vote again after a caucus with NEOEA.

As we waited for the results of the second vote, Vice President Scott DiMauro orchestrated a very touching tribute to Becky Higgins, as this was her last OEA RA. Some very impressive people spoke for Becky, including Senator Sherrod Brown, Betty Sutton, and many people whom Becky mentored during her tenure as President.

Nicole Stratton speaks of Becky's mentorship.

Becky Higgins

Betty Sutton made a live appearance!
We were pleased to hear the results of the election:

Our new OEA President is Scott DiMauro!
Our new OEA Vice President is Jeff Wensing!

I am confident that under their leadership, OEA will be stronger than ever. I look forward to being a part of that future.

On Saturday, we debated and voted on New Business Items. These were resolutions that delegates wished OEA to adopt, and there was vigorous debate about all of them. These resolutions included strengthening our lobbying to repeal and replace RESA, eliminate state testing and reliance of testing scores for teacher evaluations and school report cards, and adopt a state-wide non-discrimination policy for our LGBTQ students and colleagues.

Needless to say, it was a busy weekend! I drove home on Saturday afternoon exhausted but happy with our work.

The next step is the National Education Association Representative Assembly in July in Houston, Texas, and Katie Shaffer, Bradley Dalzell, and I will be attending. I am looking forward to representing MCTA on a national level.

Not gonna lie: the selfie game is going to be ON POINT!!!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

My First National Education Association Representative Assembly: Part 4

In case you missed Parts 1 (which you can read here) 2 (which you can read here),  and 3 (which you can read here) Medina City Teachers Association sent three delegates to the National Education Association Representatives Assembly in Boston, Massachusetts, and I was fortunate enough to be one of them. This post continues our adventure as delegates.

Day 2 of the RA was voting for candidates day. We voted for candidates for President, Vice-President, and Treasurer. Because there are so many delegates, each state has an assigned voting time. Ohio's time was 11:15. It's kind of exciting to get up as a group and walk together to the voting booths.

This is what democracy looks like!
It was also the day Ohio was scheduled to take a group picture, so we had to wear our OEA shirts. We were not happy with these shirts, and that's all I'm gonna say about that.

We're going to vote! 
Shenanigans on the floor waiting for the Ohio group picture
This day was a super treat because not only did we get to get up and walk around to vote and get our pictures taken, we also got to see LeVar Burton get the Friend to Education award.  YEEEESSSSS!!! LeVar Burton! Reading Rainbow!

But don't take my word for it. . . 
I'm not gonna lie: I was crying when Lily gave him the award, I was crying during his extremely-supportive speech, I was crying while the whole crowd sang the theme song to Reading Rainbow. I once had the opportunity to see LeVar Burton at the ISTE conference in Atlanta, but I got shut out of the session because EVERYONE wanted to see him, so I was so happy he was there. This was an amazing gift to 7,500 educators, and it was the highlight of my day.

For this post, I'd like to share one neat trick of Parliamentary Procedure that every rookie learns at the RA:

Let's say that we have voted on a gazillion New Business Items (we did), and we debated a whole bunch of them (we did). Let's say there were many times that people claimed Division and even challenged the Chair for a roll call vote (it happened). Next, a delegate goes to the microphone and asks to suspend the rules in order to revisit ALL PREVIOUS NEW BUSINESS ITEMS.  WHAAAAAATTTT?  This means that we potentially can go back to any of the decisions we have already made and start over again?  ARE YOU PEOPLE EVEN HUMAN????

This is a completely natural reaction; I know this because it was my reaction when it happened. Surprisingly, all the experienced delegates around me were very calm about it, and Lily didn't seem a bit perturbed. She put the question to the Body: Will you suspend the rules in order to revisit all previous items of debate? All in favor, say "Aye." All opposed, say "No." Of course the No's resounded through the hall like a roll of thunder. That's when I figured it out; we voted no, so now nobody can challenge a previous decision and ask to revisit it. We've sealed the deal, so to speak. 

Pretty nifty, eh?

This is enough information for one post; it was a pretty exciting day. Bradley and Katie had scored tickets to the LGBTQ Awards Ceremony (I wasn't cool enough to make the cut, I guess), so I had dinner in the North End with my new NEOEA friends Tammy, Ellen, and Sharron. 

Dinner was great; the company was better!

Up next: Auctions and July 4th.

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter @itibrout!

Monday, July 10, 2017

My First National Education Association Representative Assembly: Part 3

In case you missed Parts 1 (which you can read here) and 2 (which you can read here), Medina City Teachers Association sent three delegates to the National Education Association Representatives Assembly in Boston, Massachusetts, and I was fortunate enough to be one of them. This post continues our adventure as delegates.

The official Assembly was incredible: There were over 7,500 teachers, over 11,000 people in the Convention hall. Each state had a designated area in which to sit, and because Ohio had over 350 delegates, our section was further divided into regions. Seating is a big deal at the RA. As a new delegate, I had no idea how much energy we would devote to discussing who sits where. What you are supposed to do is bring a seat marker (which most districts provide to the delegates) to mark your place during the week.  Luckily for us, Sue from Parma offered to find us three seats together in the NEOEA district. Our location wasn't bad at all, even though we were in the last rows of the Ohio delegation, and Ohio was seated toward the back. We had microphones to either side of us, and there were big screens right in front of us, so I feel like I was still in the middle of the action.

Ohio starts to fill up the seats.

Each day of the RA has a different theme. This first day of the Assembly was District-themed, so everyone wore clothing affiliated with their region.  Most of us purchased NEOEA hoodies, and let me tell you, I am SO GLAD I did because it was cooooooollllldddd in that convention center.

This is EXACTLY how I look when I wonder where our seats are.
The two days of Ohio Caucus really helped me to figure out what was going on during the assembly, as the procedure was exactly the same, only with more debate. LOTS more debate. Again, the most popular motions were the ones to end debate. As in any group setting, there are always people who want to talk or be on the jumbo screen, even when they have nothing new or useful to add, but I was impressed with the way Lily Eskelsen Garcia handled people who tried to manipulate parliamentary procedure. She was always kind but firm when she shut down delegates who jumped the line in debate by claiming a point of information when all they wanted to do was debate for or against the motion. I especially loved when someone challenged her decision on a Division vote. Here is a popular meme that went around Twitter about the decisiveness of Lily, Becky, and Princess:
Meme Credit: Bruce Twitchell on Twitter

Speaking of Lily (you knew I was going to speak of Lily, right?), her keynote speech rocked the house.  Here is an analysis of it in The Washington Post.

As we voted on New Business Items and Resolutions Amendments, I tried to keep up with a database, but the wifi was spotty at best on the first day, so I ended up writing down much of the information in the daily booklet of New Business Items. I still haven't gone through it, but it's lurking in my bag in my closet, and I know I'll have to go back to it soon.

We took a lunch break and visited the best park ever just outside the convention center. It had swings for adults, a band, and a food stand. The swings had solar panels on the top, and they glowed in the dark at night. Plus, the swinging generated energy. So cool!

I could have sat in this swing all day.

Katie agrees.

After a break, we came back to more debates and voting. Lily seemed to be frustrated with the technology problems and the acoustics of the hall, so we adjourned at around 5:00, which was the earliest we would leave that week.  

That evening we went to dinner with some NEOEA colleagues, and we had a really nice time.

Bradley is making friends with everyone.
One thing I appreciate about Boston is that it is so walkable. We walked just about everywhere we wanted to go. This means that even though I sat on my butt for hours every day, I still walked at least four miles in the afternoon and evening. Plus, I was running at least four miles each morning. With all the delicious food here, I had to do something to burn off the calories!

We knew that the 5:00 dismissal was a fluke, and we had about 4,297 gajillion New Business Items to discuss in the coming days, so after dinner, it was bedtime.  7:00 Caucus tomorrow!

Next Post: Voting and Learning the Tricks

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter @itibrout!