At Representative Assembly, CEA President’s Message Focuses on Strength in Solidarity, Diversity
The 171st CEA Representative Assembly continued Saturday morning, with nearly 400 delegates—teachers from every part of the state—in attendance.
Addressing delegates as CEA president for the first time, veteran Cheshire teacher Jeff Leake urged teachers to continue the fight to protect students, public education, and the teaching profession; combat social and racial injustice; and grow, strengthen, and diversify their own ranks.
“The Connecticut Education Association is a major influencer in this enterprise called Connecticut education,” he said, “and our active members are part of an instructional staff of over 50,000 professionals serving a half million students in 205 public school districts. During this Teacher Appreciation Week, we recognize how just one teacher can change a young person’s life, giving them the confidence to pursue their biggest goals. And in the past year, teachers have left an impact well beyond their classrooms, launching a social-justice movement that is impossible to ignore. In less than a week’s time, the historic Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education will turn 65. And while it struck down the separate-but-equal fantasy, it did not undo the systemic school segregation that persists today. We are still dealing with institutional racism and inequity in education, housing, economic opportunity, and criminal justice. We must not be silent about these systemic injustices: we must confront them, and we must talk about them, and then do more than just talk about them.”
CEA’s new leadership team, Leake said, is committed to strengthening the leadership bench at the state and local levels and encouraging the most diverse group of teachers to begin or continue their leadership journeys by participating in events and initiatives including the Women and Minority Teacher Leadership Conference, NEA Leadership Summit, CEA/NEA Orientation, and NEA Early Leaders Initiative. Stepping up to the challenge of greater union involvement and influence, he said, members are knocking on doors for political candidates and meeting with legislators to advocate for their profession and their students.
Leake also noted the rise in Connecticut and nationwide in “bargaining for the common good,” fighting for every single student in every classroom, in all communities. “That is exactly what our colleagues across the country did—walked the line for more than pay but for the students in their schools. They were out on those lines, wearing RedforEd for their students, for more resources, and for much-needed support.”
Across the country, he emphasized, the growing teacher movement prompted hundreds of current and former teachers to run for local, state, and federal office, with many advancing in primaries and—like Connecticut’s own Jahana Hayes, representing the 5th district—winning their races and amplifying teacher voice.
“To build our strength and our power,” Leake said, “we must connect with others, building relationships and coalitions with those who understand that our public schools are the cornerstones of our democracy, not profit centers for the wealthy or politically ambitious—of either party.”
New Business, New Budget
Delegates unanimously adopted a new CEA budget for fiscal year 2019-2020, with no increase in membership dues, and passed three constitutional amendments as well as two amendments to the CEA by-laws.
They also adopted two new business items—one that would pursue a legislative agenda addressing safe learning climates and environments in Connecticut’s public schools (a sick school pilot program in five districts, collecting temperature and humidity data and focusing on infrastructure issues that cause extreme temperatures and humidity levels, poor indoor air quality, mold, and dust that impede learning and teaching conditions), and one that would continue supporting the work of CEA’s Poverty Task Force, with the aim of reducing the impact of poverty on students. The task force would hold a fall conference as well as develop a website with information and avenues for legislative action. Both new business items passed unanimously.
The CEA RA also included reports from CEA’s Commission for Instruction and Professional Development, Ethnic Minority Affairs Commission, Human and Civil Rights Commission, Legislative Commission, and Member Benefits, Public Relations, and Retirement Commissions.