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Delegates completed an energetic, hopeful RA July 6 with action on New Business Items and Resolutions, tributes to outgoing President Reg Weaver, and speeches from President-Elect Dennis Van Roekel, the newly elected Executive Committee members, and 2008 Teacher of the Year Michael Geisen.
Introducing Geisen, President Weaver praised his courage for publicly calling out NCLB’s deficiencies while standing between U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and President George W. Bush.
Geisen a science teacher in Prineville, Oregon, told the Assembly that since he got the title two months ago, he has traveled so much that he sees everything in airplane metaphors.
At a recent event, Geisen told the RA, he heard Spellings say, “We can’t water down our accountability system with fancy words like ‘authentic assessment’ and ‘multiple measures.’” That, he said, is the view from 30,000 feet up. But, on the ground, he sees the girl who stays home half of the week taking care of her siblings but still tries to help her struggling Latino classmates when she does come to school. He sees the boy struggling with ADHD but determined to go to college and become a teacher, and the girl who’s been physically abused and now has panic attacks in school.
“These students may look like identical little ants from 30,000 feet up, but these are unique and beautiful human beings,” he said. “If our assessments are not ‘authentic,’ relevant, or offered in multiple formats, what are we really measuring?”
He said educators need to take the initiative and hold themselves accountable. “We should be the ones doing rigorous authentic assessment and defining success by multiple measures… and we ourselves need to publicize our results. It’s time to throw open the doors of our classrooms.
“No more waiting around,” he stressed. “Let’s do it ourselves.”
With less of a time crunch than at most RAs, the delegates held extensive debates on several NBIs and resolutions.
As the meeting wound down, President Weaver introduced the NEA’s new leaders, who each briefly addressed the crowd. Amid tributes, thank-you’s, introductions, grandchildren, and a pink stuffed sea horse, President NEA President-elect Dennis Van Roekel spoke to the delegates in praise of dissatisfaction. “If you’re satisfied, why would you ask for change?” he said.
Van Roekel said he was not satisfied with the high drop-out rates of African-American and Hispanic students, and the outrageously unequal access to education, which gives some students wonderful facilities while others learn in buildings that “scream that society doesn’t care about you.”
“I hope every one of you leaves the RA gloriously dissatisfied. I hope it gnaws deep inside of you until you say, ‘I can’t stand it another moment.’”
With its theme of --
TEAM NEA: Commitment -- Courage -- Power
-- delegates gathered June 30 through July 6 at the Washington D.C. Convention Center in Washington D.C. for the Association's 146th Annual Meeting and 87th Representative Assembly.
The National Education Association Representative Assembly (RA) is NEA's highest decision-making body. With over 9,800 delegates, it is also the world's largest democratic, deliberative body.
The RA is convened every July during the Annual Meeting. The first two days are devoted to discussions, conferences, and exhibits—but the highlight is the Representative Assembly itself. During this important event, delegates debate issues that impact American public education, elect top officers, and set policy for the 3.2 million-member Association.
Every morning, bright and early, the delegates meet within their own state delegation to discuss new business items, changes to bylaws and amendments and to raise funds for the NEA Children's Fund. Then the NEA busses transport the state delegates to the national assembly where they act as one decision-making body.
On Friday, July 4th, the delegation was treated to a patriotic song program by the NEA Chorus. Tim Sullivan, Brockton's own BEA President, was among those with golden voices chosen to take part (in middle of photo).
Brockton had several local and district delegates representing the BEA.