By Peggy Wirtz-Olsen, WEAC Vice President
“Our committed members care about our kids and their colleagues,” Heidi James, a Special Education Teacher and ECAE Building Representative, told me when I asked her what makes the Eau Claire Association of Educators strong. “Members in our buildings trust us.”
Dawn Marcott, ECAE Building Representative, said, “We love our students, and we want to provide a great education for them.” And, when I asked Dawn about recent victories of the ECAE, she cited “our work to add in an additional personal day as a trade from one of our sick days. This has been really helpful in giving flexibility to educators.”
Brian Wiltgen, ECAE Building Representative and Summer Organizer, working to grow the local association, told me, “Our continued success in membership growth has made us stronger.”
Brian is proud of the ten percent membership increase over the past two years. “And we aren’t stopping now,” Brian told his fellow Building Representatives at their meeting this week as the team planned ways to reach out to potential members, including informing them about a recent proposal to make significant changes to employee’s post-retirement benefits. “Our building representatives have honest, one-to-one conversations with potential members about what we have done and how we are improving education for students and our colleagues,” Brian said.
“I am proud of our educators because they spoke up at our school board meeting. It was important that as school board members discussed our retirement benefits, that they be able to look into the eyes of those potentially affected. They saw the passion and commitment that our members have for the students in Eau Claire,” ECAE President Mark Goings said to the ECAE Building Representatives this week. This level of advocacy is part of what makes the ECAE a strong local affiliate. “We also grow strong, committed school board members here in Eau Claire. School board members who work to do what’s best for students and will work with us.”
Heidi offered a little advice to any local leaders who are struggling when she said, “Find out what other educators in your school building or school district care about by sharing a quick survey. Then, take action on what matters most to these colleagues, which will energize and mobilize them to join in.”
ECAE Building Representative and NEA Alternate Director Nick Sirek’s advice to other local leaders is, “We can’t give up. The work is too critical, and even if the tasks seem daunting, our work is too important to our students, our public schools, and our communities.”
Thanks to the Eau Claire Association of Educators for engaging in this important work.
Read all of Peggy’s ‘Spotlight On Locals’ columns at weac.org/Spotlight.