By WEAC Vice-President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen
When I asked Vicki Shaffer, Secretary of the Middleton Education Association (MEA), what makes her local strong, she told me, “the passionate group of leaders who are creating an atmosphere where teachers’ voices are heard is a strength of our local.” Vicki pointed out the importance of building relationships with administration and the school board in advancing their mission.
President of the MEA, Joellen Pauls, shared “our biggest accomplishment has been repairing broken relationships with our board and our administration. We have found ways to work together to develop new policies and new procedures for our school district, and our school board working hand in hand with our leadership was critically important.” Joellen shared that the Middleton Education Association co-presented with their board members at the state education conference. Their school board members have also attended the WEAC Region 6 sponsored training for new school board members. “We believe it is our responsibility to help to recruit strong school board members and to support them in their role. For us, none of this is possible without the strong support of our membership and a core group of building representatives and officers.”
Jerry Moen, Vice President of the MEA, echoed that sentiment saying, “in order to be strong, we had to change our contentious relationship with the school board. Joellen and I attended every school board meeting, and we worked to re-build positive relationships with our school board members. We made school board elections a priority, inviting those running for the school board to talk with us. When the school board changed, we worked to get to know the new board members, always working to be a voice for our members.” This led to the MEA having input on the compensation model and being part of the district handbook committee.
Vicki also shared, “one of our biggest accomplishments is rebuilding our membership; this has been an impressive rebuilding of membership. Due to past decisions, we had to start from the ground up. Our continued growth in membership is because of our outreach and our success.”
As far as advice to other locals out there, Joellen said, “All of this work takes time. It can be disappointing and frustrating that progress doesn’t happen overnight, but you have to keep at it.”
Both Joellen and Vicki also highlighted the importance of local leaders attending trainings offered regionally and by WEAC. “At trainings, we learned even more about how to advocate for our colleagues to ensure that they have what they need to do their jobs well and to be advocates for their public schools and their students. “Attending trainings like WEAC’s Summer Leadership Academy reinvigorates both the local leaders and their local associations,” according to Vicki.
WEAC says thank you to the Middleton Education Association for their leadership and steadfast approach to rebuilding relationships on behalf of their members and their students.