More than 400 NEA-Retired members, yesterday, kicked off the first day of the organization’s two-day 32nd Annual Meeting. Gathered in Orlando, Fla., prior to the July 3 start of the annual NEA Representative Assembly, the retired educators will address new business items that will guide the organization through the coming year.
Yesterday’s opening session marked a historic first when NEA President Lily Eskelsen García, Vice President Becky Pringle, and Secretary-Treasurer Princess Moss appeared before the group together.
“This is the first time ever that we have had all three NEA officers present at the same time at our annual meeting,” said NEA-Retired President Tom Curran as he introduced the trio.
Each of the NEA leaders thanked NEA-Retired members for their work as activists and urged them to focus their support on NEA’s efforts to build a movement of empowered educators who are equipped to create union-led, student-centered change.
Calling NEA-Retired members a “consistent drumbeat for change,” Eskelsen García told the retirees: “You still know what it means to lead. You are still inspired—still united to move this union…and keep things going.”
Retirees: ‘The Most Important Voice’
As the Elementary Secondary Education Act—commonly known as No Child Left Behind, and derided by NEA as “no child left untested”—moves closer toward reauthorization, it’s even more important for lawmakers to hear the voices of retired educators, Eskelsen García said.
“The most important voice they [Congress] may hear [during the reauthorization process] is an educator who says, ‘You can change that. It doesn’t affect me personally, because I’m retired. But let me tell you about my experience.’ Your voice will be amazingly important,” Eskelsen García told annual meeting attendees, referring to the importance of teachers—not tests—having the authority to determine what students learn.
“We’re asking for true professional decision-making authority by people who know the names of the kids,” Eskelsen García said.
NEA Vice President Becky Pringle talked to the gathering about how expectations figure into the equation when it comes to student learning, and how NEA members across the country are reaching into their communities, and “owning their own power.”
Pringle pointed to educators in California, New Jersey, and Mongtomery County, Md., and to Massachusetts, where, in the wake of legislation that created innovation schools, educators are designing schools to meet their students’ needs.
“You, as retired NEA members have the wisdom, expertise, insight, and experience,” Pringle told the group. “You must be part of this new journey—learning about what it is our new members and emerging leaders need, then mentoring and coaching them to advocate and lobby for greater authority for the education professions.”
‘No Telling What We Can Do’
Sounding a similar theme, NEA Secretary-Treasurer Princess Moss told the group, “We know what the answers are, and what our students need. We want to put the resources into that for our members to be successful so they can help their students be successful.”
Moss urged retirees to use their energy to support the empowerment efforts of their active colleagues. She told the group how the long-ago mentoring she received as a local leader from Martha Wood, who is today a member of the NEA-Retired Executive Council, helped to fuel Moss’ ascent within NEA. Wood told her back then, Moss said, “We have to find a place for you.” Today, Moss continued with emotion, “I am the secretary-treasurer of the largest labor union in the world.
“There is no telling the lives you can touch and inspire. … No telling what we can do if we work together. … My story is just one example of how your expertise, your wisdom, and caring can help a leader who started out just like me—who wanted to be the best that I could be.”
Gene Craig Receives Distinguished Service Award
This morning, the group presented its highest honor—the NEA-Retired Distinguished Service Award—to Gene Craig, a member of the Illinois Education Association Retired, whose efforts helped to start the chapter, which continues to flourish today.
NEA-Retired members also presented NEA Student Program members James MacGregor and Hannah Pawlak with the coveted Jack Kinnaman Memorial Scholarship, which remembers the contributions of Jack Kinnaman, former NEA-Retired vice president and NEA-Retired Advisory Council member.
Today, the gathering will recognize NEA-Retired affiliates for membership growth—NEA-Retired is the fastest growing constituent group within NEA—communications efforts and contributions to the NEA’s political action campaign, the Fund for Children and Public Education.
NEA President Lily Eskelsen García, Vice President Becky Pringle, and Secretary-Treasurer Princess Moss at the 2015 NEA-Retired Annual Meeting. Their appearance marks the first time in NEA-Retired history that NEA leaders have addressed the gathering together.