Spotlight on Locals: Wausau Education Association

WEAC Vice President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen presents Wausau Education Association (WEA) President John Masanz with the WEAC Strong Local Affiliate Certificate. WEA Members pictured (left to right) WEA Summer Organizers Deb Albee and Sue Wurzer, along with WEA Vice President Deb Foster, and WEA Treasurer Tom McCormick.

By Peggy Wirtz-Olsen, WEAC Vice President

Deb Foster, high school social studies and sociology teacher and vice president of the Wausau Education Association, told me, “The strength of the Wausau EA is in the diverse perspectives and experiences of the leaders from all levels, many different buildings, and a variety of roles in their school buildings. Beyond that, we take time to ensure that our leaders are well-trained to do the important work of our local.”  

Wausau Education Association President John Masanz echoed this sentiment, saying, “We have a great leadership team made up of a strong core of leaders who are networking and strengthening communication and outreach to our members.”  

Wausau Education Association’s biggest success has been in membership growth, showing 48 sign-ups of new or returning members since last spring.  “Our summer organizers Deb Albee, Sue Wurzer, and Dana Peas-Parlier set clear goals for membership growth and adhered to them,” John shared.

“Our work in membership growth has been a collaborative effort. We’d like to thank the National Education Association (NEA), the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC), and Region 2 for investing in our local for the organizing project to grow our membership. Your confidence in us has made all the difference in our success,” Deb said.

Another notable success for Wausau’s EA is movement toward a salary schedule that is fairer and is working to benefit all teachers. “While the result of this work isn’t perfect, it’s a marked improvement from our previous model. We will continue to work to build a climate across the district for students and teachers to excel,” Deb shared.  

Tom McCormick, high school math teacher, WEA treasurer and a negotiator, shared, “Getting out from under a bad compensation model has been good for educators because they now have more time to spend with their families. While there are many flaws in the salary model, we are working with our administration and school board to repair the punitive measures taken against our educators in the past.”  

Wausau’s work in membership and organizing has also led to handbook changes including more latitude in the dress code to fit with their clientele and their daily schedule. Deb shared that “creating an atmosphere for productive conversations took a great deal of work, but it is making the difference for our students and our members.”

Finally, Wausau EA hasn’t forgotten about the important needs of their community. Through the leadership of their secretary, Rob Hughes, WEA raised over $6,000 last year for their annual turkey drive to help families in need. They challenged other groups to get involved in this important need in their community, and expanded their outreach and efforts.  

As far as advice to local leaders in the state, Deb advised, “Be willing to take the risk to lead. We need good people who want to do good things for kids.”  Deb also reminded leaders “to set your own ego aside by choosing the best person to address a topic, not letting titles get in the way.” 

Tom shared, “Be a pitbull when it comes to doing what’s best for kids. As educators, we know what our students need, and we are the ones who need to take hold and make sure that everyone involved with education puts our students first.”

WEAC says thank you to the Wausau Education Association for their hard work and dedication on behalf of their students and their members.  

Read all of Peggy’s ‘Spotlight On Locals’ columns at weac.org/Spotlight.