2015 PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovator

2015 PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovator

Friday, July 7, 2017

My First National Education Association Representative Assembly Part 1

Each year, the National Education Association, a union with 3.2 million members, holds the largest democratic assembly in the U.S. This year's Representative Assembly took place in Boston, Massachusetts, during the week of July 4, 2017. My district elected me and two other delegates to add our voices and our votes to the assembly.

Katie, Me, Bradley. We are waiting for the plane to take us there. We sat for an hour on the tarmac when we got there. Let's just get this over with: Bradley is, like, 12 years old, but he attended previous RAs as a student delegate, so he has way more experience than we have with this.

We arrived late to Boston, so we had just enough time to get our rooms, unpack, and eat a snack before we went to bed. We had a 7:30 caucus to attend the next morning, and I wanted to run in Boston Commons, so we needed our beauty rest.

Katie and I ran to the Boston Marathon finish line, just down the street from our hotel,  at 5 am. The last time I took my picture on the finish line, I committed a faux pas by stepping on it. My runner friends were horrified, and they told me that a runner does NOT step on the finish line until he/she crosses it during the race. I reversed the bad mojo by taking the correct picture this time:

Katie did the right thing; she has no bad mojo.

We started the Ohio Caucus at 7:30 AM, which was later than our regular 7:00 AM call for  the rest of the week. I was very excited and nervous because I really didn't know what we would be doing. I had attended an Ohio Caucus in Columbus in June in preparation for this RA, but there was so much information, and it was really overwhelming. Luckily, Bradley had attended several RAs in college as a student delegate, so he was able to provide us with some guidance and lots of introductions.

Our first Ohio Caucus in Boston!
I spent this first day listening and watching and trying to follow along with what was happening around me. Here is what we do in Caucus:

1. Our President, Becky Higgins, welcomes us and gives us some general information about what the meeting and the day will be like.

2. Each day we have a booklet that lists the New Business Items delegates have submitted for consideration. It also lists any Resolutions Amendments and NEA Constitutional Amendments that are under consideration. We methodically go through as many of these items as possible, debating whether Ohio supports each item or not when we vote on them in the Assembly. Sometimes we don't agree easily, and that is where explanations from various committees and debating among delegates come in. It's fascinating, and it takes a lot of listening and concentration.

3. In between reports and debates, candidates for NEA President, Vice President, Treasurer, and Board visited us to campaign, so there were a lot of speeches. Ohio is a big group, over 350 delegates, so we had a lot of campaigners. More on this in the next post.

4. There was a silent auction and a live auction going on during Caucus to raise money for the Fund for Children and Public Education. The first day our Auction Chair had people bid on hard-boiled eggs, as apparently these were hot ticket items in previous years. I was a little confused by this part, but I eventually figured it out, so I'll explain more on it in a later post.

After the Caucus, we had some time to explore and eat breakfast. Then we attended a tour of Fenway Park. The tour was arranged by North Eastern Ohio Education Association, my branch of the Ohio Education Association. I had visited Boston with my family two years ago, but Fenway was something we never got to see, so I was really excited about this tour. I learned about the history of the ballpark, the Green Monster, the players, and the ownership.

Outside the park before the tour

Reminder sign in the park. I feel like this is for me. Let me live!

Did you know that Fenway park has a large garden that supplies much of the vegetables used in the food at the park? It also helps climate control in the offices!

This is the view from the press box, second tier.
 After the tour, NEOEA invited us to a lunch at The Bleacher Bar, which is a bar/restaurant right off the field on the same level. You can look right out the window and see the game directly in front of you!
Katie and I at lunch. Bradley was sitting with the "cool" people.
The three of us had a little time to explore Boston before our evening responsibilities, so we walked to the Harbor and we watched the seals swimming outside the aquarium. We also saw Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market and the site of the Boston Massacre.

That evening we had Ohio Night, a dinner/dance for the delegates. The three of us cleaned up and mingled with other Ohians. I enjoyed meeting other people, and the food was really good!

Ohio Night: We clean up!

This is Mary Alice Conkey: Executive Director of NEOEA

This day was an important time for me to establish some contacts for the Assembly. There were a lot of things, little and big, that I had to process, and I needed to make sure I had some guidance so I didn't do anything stupid. I made sure to touch base with Mary Alice, whom I know from my work on the Leadership Development Committee. She was very reassuring and helpful.

The first day was a whirlwind. After Ohio Night, I headed off to bed, my body exhausted and my mind racing.

Next Post: Day 2 of Ohio Caucus and Day 1 of the NEA Representative Assembly

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