‘It’s about respect,’ WEAC President Martin says in address to annual Representative Assembly

WEAC President Ron Martin addresses delegates at the 2018 WEAC Representative Assembly.

The 2018 WEAC Representative Assembly was held April 28 in La Crosse. Highlights include:

  • Kim Schroeder, currently president of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, was elected WEAC Secretary Treasurer. He will succeed Arlene Braden, who is retiring. It was the only contested officer election this year.
  • Others elected unopposed were Nick Sirek, Eau Claire, Alternate NEA Director; and Scott Ellingson, Hudson, NEA Director. WEAC President Ron Martin, an Eau Claire teacher, and Peggy Wirtz-Olsen, a Marshfield teacher, are completing the second year of three-year terms and so were not up for election this year.
  • Arlene Braden was honored for her many years of dedicated service as a WEAC and local association leader. (See more below.)
  • Delegates approved a Constitution and Bylaws amendment changing the procedure for electing Education Support Personnel representatives to the WEAC Board of Directors.
  • Scroll below for New Business Items approved by delegates, and well as award presentations and officer speeches.

In Wisconsin, and across the nation, it’s about restoring respect to the education profession, Martin says

WEAC President Ron Martin

Whether educators are striking in West Virginia or Arizona or Colorado or picketing alongside families in Milwaukee or working tirelessly to elect pro-public education policymakers to public office, it’s all about one thing, WEAC President Ron Martin said in his keynote address to the 2018 WEAC Representative Assembly: It’s about respect for educators and students.

“The evidence is in,” he said to hundreds of delegates at the annual RA in La Crosse. “Educators overwhelmingly say we need to bring respect back to our profession.”

“Scott Walker says we’re acting out of anger. Impulsive – mad. Those who don’t understand the heart of an educator might confuse that for anger. But they are dead wrong,” Martin said. “It’s just the opposite. When educators act, we act out of love. We organize because we care about those students who everyone else ignores.”

In Wisconsin, he said, educators have united through their union to stand up for public education and students, and we have had big successes, including the election of Judge Rebecca Dallet to the State Supreme Court. Also, for example, he said, “In Wausau, defeating a confusing pay structure. In St. Croix Falls, keeping staff in decision-making. In Janesville, scrapping merit pay based on Educator Effectiveness. In Racine, getting Meet and Confer in the handbook. In River Falls, achieving a successful bargain.”

We have united locally to support our members and students and nationally to support our colleagues in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona and Colorado, as well as supporting the students in Parkland, Florida, who are standing up for themselves and students throughout the nation, Martin said.

Martin noted that WEAC is working hard and launching new initiatives to connect with and meet the needs of aspiring educators and early career educators because the future of education is in their hands. Whether it is addressing the causes of school violence or working to overcome the impact of poverty on our students, we are rising up together to pass legislation that supports educators, public schools and students and to defeat efforts to undermine public education.

“WEAC, our time is on the horizon,” he said. “We’ve been pushed back and we’re doing what needs to be done to dig deep and strengthen. We are on the verge of it – and I want to thank each and every one of you here for doing your part.”

New Business Items approved by the 2018 WEAC Representative Assembly:

HORTONVILLE: In 1974, while engaged in a bitter strike, 84 members of the Hortonville Education Association, an affiliate of WEAC-Fox Valley/WEAC/NEA, were unjustly fired and unduly replaced by their school district. WEAC condemns the strikebreakers who crossed the picket line in Hortonville. WEAC honors the Hortonville Education Association members who pulled together to improve learning conditions for students and working conditions for educators everywhere. True, they sacrificed their jobs – but they sacrificed much more than that. After their struggle, no one could ever deny collective bargaining is a fundamental right. Let us honor the Hortonville 84 by emulating their resolve. Let us respect the courage of the HEA by “pulling together” and restoring our rights. This policy is to be reviewed annually by the WEAC Representative Assembly.

COMMUNITY ALLY MEMBERSHIP PILOT: WEAC will conduct pilot(s) for local(s) that begin a Community Ally membership category for persons interested in advancing the cause of public education and who are not eligible for any other category of membership. The pilot will be in alignment with the NEA proposed bylaw and pilot local(s) will report their findings to the WEAC Board of Directors.

COLLECTIVE BARGAINING RIGHTS: The WEAC will launch a campaign calling for the restoration of collective bargaining rights for all public employees. The campaign will include the WEAC President writing a letter to all candidates for the state legislature, as well as all major news outlets in the state outlining the damage Act 10 has done to our public schools and utilizing the data from the most recent educator survey conducted by DPI. Following the November 2018 election, the WEAC President will reach out to key legislative leaders to outline a plan to restore collective bargaining as well as work with grassroots organizations and the House of Labor in building public and lawmaker support. In addition, WEAC will use a sustained electronic media campaign (email, website & social media) to inform members about the damage Act 10 has inflicted on public education, and ask our members to write letters to the editor in their local newspapers calling for the restoration of educators’ voices in Wisconsin schools.

TEACHER PREPARATION PROGRAMS: The Aspiring Educators will work with the Quality Education Standing Committee of WEAC to develop recommendations related to teacher preparation programs offered throughout the state to be provided to the WEAC President. With the information provided by the submitted recommendations, the WEAC President will work with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction on program changes related to teacher preparation programs.

NON-DISCRIMINATION POLICIES: WEAC President will write a letter requesting school districts in Wisconsin that have not changed their student non-discrimination policy to include “gender identity/expression” as part of their school student non-discrimination policy. WEAC will encourage local education associations to work with the School District Administrations and School Boards to fix their non-discrimination policy to include “gender identity/expression.”

TEACHER CERTIFICATION STANDARDS: WEAC will develop a written strategic plan to restore rigorous teacher certification standards that include teacher education at a post-secondary institution and student teaching (or similar residency experience). The strategic plan will be formulated by a committee made up of representatives of all the regions and urbans that choose to participate. Each region and urban local will decide on its participant. In addition, the state organization may designate staff and/or officers to participate. A draft plan will be submitted to the WEAC Board of Directors by no later than the September meeting. Meetings will be held via teleconference. (By concurrence of the delegate who submitted this NBI along with the delegate who seconded said NBI and with unanimous concurrence of the RA body this NBI is referred to the Quality Education Committee and the Aspiring Educators for their deliberation and action.)

ALTERNATIVE LICENSING PROGRAM: The Wisconsin Education Association Council denounces the alternative licensing program that was approved in the state budget and not supported by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. WEAC calls on our partner organizations to the do the same. WEAC will also create a sample resolution school boards can adopt to pledge to not hire anyone with this shady credential.

TRAUMA SENSITIVE SCHOOLS: WEAC, though the Quality Education Committee, will support the efforts of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction to promote its program for Trauma Sensitive Schools.

SCHOOL FUNDING: WEAC leadership and staff will work with coalition partners to develop a list of demands that will outline what needs to be done to fully and fairly fund Wisconsin public schools. This list of demands will be released publicly on a statewide day of action in the Fall of 2018. Demands should include, but not limited to:

  • Sunset of voucher program by 2023
  • Per pupil minimum of $15,000
  • Removal of all takeover and segregation legislation
  • Dissolution of the state charter authority
  • Fix the flawed state funding formula

COMMON SENSE GUN CONTROL LEGISLATION: WEAC will advocate and provide resources as well as support in its literature and communications advocacy for common sense gun control legislation such as banning large capacity magazines (those that hold six or more rounds) for semi-automatic weapons that fire high velocity rounds, accessories that simulate automatic weapons, including every military-style item, be it the best spotting scope around, or a high-cap magazine, and establishing a database of gun sales and universal background checks as well as close gun show and secondhand sales and loopholes. We direct WEAC to make public statements connecting the relationship between lack of gun control laws and mass shootings in our schools and communities. We direct WEAC to support locals who organize collective action around Wisconsin who are working towards the above initiatives.

WEAC awards presented at 2018 RA:

Friend of Education: G-Safe

The WEAC Friend of Education Award goes to an organization that makes a difference for educators and students – G-Safe. G-Safe is a champion, creating schools where all LGBTQ youth and students can thrive. Co-director Brian Juchems and board member Evelyn Gildrie-Voyles with her son, Isaac, accepted the award. (Juchems and Gildrie-Voyles are shown here with Racine delegate Jeanne Schierstedt.) Brian works closely with outreach to educators and leads policy work with school districts.

In presenting the award, WEAC President Ron Martin said:

“WEAC partnered with G-Safe this January for first-ever train-the-trainer programs on creating safe and welcoming schools for our LGBTQ students. It was a huge success, and look for more opportunities coming soon.

“In fact, G-Safe was founded by educators leading in their district. Oftentimes, we’re the first adults an LBGTQ student might come out to. There are simple steps we can take to make the journey better for them – whether the intentional choice of words or being encouraging.

“G-Safe knows we educators are on the ground, day-to-day, doing the work to make things better for all students. G-SAFE knows it’s important for us to be empowered. Youth are looking to us to create those safe spaces, and our union is committed to foster leaders to make that happen. We are proud to stand with G-Safe and to honor you with the 2016 Friend of Education Award.”

Richard J. Lewandowski Award for humanitarian service:

E-Ben Grisby

The Lewandowski Award was presented to Green Bay teacher E-Ben Grisby.

In presenting the award, WEAC President Ron Martin said:

“Today, we honor a man who fosters partnerships to help others embrace the broad spectrum of diversity in the Fox Cities and beyond. E-Ben is a teacher at Green Bay West High School and member of the GBEA. Through his work with students and in the community, he speaks up where there is injustice and leads change. A true leader.

“He is a longtime activist at Celebrate Diversity Fox Cities, even serving as its Chairman of the Board, and also within our union ranks. He says diversity is more than just a catch phrase – it is a way of life.

“Above all, E-Ben is a voice for the voiceless. He believes public education rises above political affiliations and stands up for the most vulnerable of our students when they are threatened by policymakers on either side of the aisle.

“E-Ben, our thanks to you – and congratulations on your accomplishments.”

Education Support Professional Award: Tammy Erickson

Tammy Erickson

The winner of the 2018 WEAC Education Support Professional of the Year Award is Tammy Erickson, a ParaPRO in the Glenwood City School District.

In presenting the award, WEAC President Ron Martin said:

“Tammy is a budding activist and willing to step up, in any way, to elevate Education Support Professionals. Her commitment to her community schools spans her 21-year career. She worked in the same classroom that whole time. She came in as a sub, and she never left. Parents and teachers depend on her before, during and after school.

“Tammy is an anchor. She’s the first to say she’s not unique. Wisconsin Public School Education Support Professionals transport the kids, feed them, nurture them, keep them safe and connect with them. And while we show our appreciation to all support professionals, Tammy Erickson, you are our ESP of the Year.”

Cunningham, Dickinson, Watson Staff Award:

WEAC Executive Director Bob Baxter presents the WEAC staff award to Jeff Baas and Sue Sarbacker.

The winners of the 2018 WEAC staff award are Jeff Baas, WEAC Instruction and Professional Development Consultant, and Sue Sarbacker, WEAC Staff Assistant and Information Systems Technician. The Cunningham, Dickinson, Watson Award is given to a staff person for “initiatives, ideas, actions, or consistent performance that has enabled members in Wisconsin to better themselves and advance public education.”

WEAC Scholarships

WEAC Scholarships are presented to high school seniors who plan to pursue a career in education and are children of WEAC members. Applications are reviewed by and winners are selected by the WEAC Community Outreach and Family Involvement Committee.The winners of the 2018 WEAC Scholarships are:


Here is a video of the Scholarship winners:

RA honors retiring WEAC Secretary Treasurer Arlene Braden:

In her address to the RA, Braden cited her family history of union activism, the important role of education support professionals and retired members, and the need to continue the fight for union strength and quality public education through unity.

“There is no end to the good that can come when we are UNITED in our focus, determination and courage,” she said. “But what we can do depends on not only our people power, but also our bottom line. And that bottom line is MEMBERSHIP.

“I hope each of you does as my grandpa did. Believe in the Common Good. Build membership committed to excellence. We’re a family above all else. A family in union. And this is our work to spread.”

Don’t let politicians off the hook, Vice President Wirtz-Olsen says

WEAC Vice President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen recounted her visits to 78 local associations in the last year and her commitment to WEAC’s goal of Building Strong Locals.

“We are listening to you and your needs and connecting you with resources and training through our visits,” she said. “We work with locals to self-assess, identifying your areas of strength and struggle and build plans for the future.”

Most educators don’t go into the profession to be political, she said, but it quickly becomes clear that you can’t separate politics from education.

“Our students and public education WIN when we connect the dots on how – although we didn’t go into teaching to be political – politicians make all of the decisions about our schools, our profession, and our livelihood. If you care about kids, you have to care about that. When politicians are connected to us, know us, and know our stories, they can make informed decisions about what is best for students, educators, our schools, and public education. And then, WEAC, let’s hold them accountable for those decisions.

“Whether on our local school board, in Madison, or in Washington D.C., we can’t let a single one of them off the hook when they haven’t supported our kids and our schools.”

President Martin presents Presidential and Rising Star Awards

At the RA, WEAC President Ron Martin showed the video below of recent awards he presented in the field to special WEAC members.

President’s Award recipients are:

  • Dianne Lang
  • Anastasia Bouras
  • Tammy Johnson
  • Kelly Patschull
  • Tara Leithold
  • Sarah Schnuelle

Rising Award recipients are:

  • Jeanine Ferguson
  • Josh Jackson

‘Inspiring teachers change students’ lives’

Delegates also heard from Marvell Reed, a sophomore at Barack Obama High School in Milwaukee who organized a walkout in his school and has been organizing for common sense gun laws since the February shootings in Parkland, Florida.

Marvell said he has been inspired by many teachers who work long hours for students both in the classroom and the community. “Most have inspired me because of the tireless work they do for their students,” he said.

Marvell said his teachers have always been there for him “when I need an extra push or need help with issues or something troubling in my personal life or just need guidance.”

“Whatever the situation is, as a student, an inspiring teacher has been there to help me excel or make critical life-changing decisions,” he said. “And an inspired student like myself now understands that a fundamental aspect ensuring my success has been their encouragement.”