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President Jeff Wensing: Keeping Our Association Visible and Relevant

The second semester has begun, and we are in the home stretch to successfully conclude the 2017-18 school year. NEOEA leadership and staff continue to engage local associations in order to understand their needs so that NEOEA can offer local leaders the training that is required to keep their associations visible and relevant to members.

On February 24, NEOEA’s Megaconference was held at Corporate College East. Two hundred eighty-five members attended three breakout sessions from a choice of 33 options which focused on the areas of professional, personal, and leadership development. Due to the valuable information that leaders take back to their associations, Megaconference continues to attract educators and increases in attendance almost annually.

Also, February 24 was a “Working People’s Day of Action.” Columbus was one of ten cities across the United States to host an event. The purpose of rallying with our union brothers and sisters was to remind all people that strong unions play a vital role in society. We need to maintain our right to organize so that we can continue to fight for equitable pay and affordable health care. Together, we need to secure the future of a strong middle class. At the conclusion of Megaconference, our members stood as one and held signs that read “I am a voice for students” and “I support public education.” Even though we were in Warrensville Heights, NEOEA’s act of solidarity indicated to the participants in Columbus that we were there in spirit and NEOEA is engaged in the fight to maintain our voice for public education. Educators can’t be silenced, and we will continue to advocate for our students’ learning conditions.

On March 5, NEOEA hosted legislative receptions in Warren, Amherst, Medina, and Lakewood. State senators and state representatives from both sides of the aisle attended. Our members had an opportunity to meet and greet their legislators as well as enter into some quality Q&A. Some of the topics revolved around pending legislation such as expanding the voucher program (HB200), changes to the COLA in OPERS (HB413), OTES reform (SB216), and the possible creation of the Ohio Department of Learning and Achievement (HB512). Since the 2018 election for governor is upon us, NEOEA invited all the candidates. Senator Joe Schiavoni, Betty Sutton, and Dennis Kucinich attended the events, which gave our members an audience with the individuals who can potentially lead our state for the next four years. By hosting four legislative receptions on one night, NEOEA brought locally-elected representatives to our members in locations that were convenient and productive. Almost 200 educators attended a legislative reception, which is an encouraging sign that our membership is engaged in the 2018 election cycle.

Since the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, student activism is exploding. Students across America are taking it upon themselves to create positive change and their voices are being heard—just ask Florida Governor Rick Scott. Educators and local associations are taking it upon themselves to support student activism. Whether it was making sure the student rallies on March 14 were safe and successful or joining arm-in-arm with parents and students, educators will continue to be involved and support our students. Another example was seen on March 24 as students organized a “March for Our Lives” in Washington, D.C., and other major cities.

Finally, many local school districts have a levy on the ballot on May 8. While the current process of funding public schools in Ohio is still unconstitutional, the reality is that levies must pass. Also, a school levy has a better chance of passing when trusted educators are involved in the process of promoting it. Although exhausting, educators participate because our students deserve access to quality programs, clean classrooms, and nutritious school meals.

Since January, NEOEA members have met with legislators, attended Megaconference, attended meetings to prepare for the Janus decision, joined student activists, and have begun preparations to support school levies. Sounds like a productive few months! Keep up the outstanding work in both your roles of educator and leader.

United we stand,

Jeff Wensing
NEOEA President

Published in our Spring Issue 2018 of News & Views.

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