After hundreds of arrivals, check-ins, and greetings, the business of NEA’s delegates began in earnest today.
NEA’s standing rules required each caucus to hold one meeting before today. Many states held their first caucuses yesterday in Denver; Ohio is one of a handful of states that hold their first caucus at home, so we met in early June and didn’t need to caucus yesterday. But all the states had caucuses today, and Ohio’s delegates gathered dutifully at 7:30 a.m. in the Marriott’s Colorado ballroom. This actually amounts to “sleeping in”: starting tomorrow, caucuses begin at 7:00.
To make all this happen, many hardy souls are active long before the caucus begins. When President-elect Kim Richards and I arrived at 6:30 this morning, several caucus committees were already working in the ballroom to make sure that information, literature, seating, etc., were all set up properly for a successful meeting.
One important group didn’t meet this morning, but they’ll be about their business at 6:00 tomorrow morning: that’s the Steering Committee, a ten-person group that attempts to preview the hundred or so proposals that are expected to come before the RA and recommend positions for the caucus to take on those items. In fact, much of the caucus’s meeting time will be taken up in hearing those recommendations and then deciding whether to support or oppose the proposals. The Steering Committee won’t begin those 6:00 meetings until tomorrow, so they didn’t have any recommendations for the caucus to hear.
That doesn’t mean that there wasn’t business. Ray Beiersdorfer, a first-time delegate from YSU-OEA, proposed that the delegation introduce a one-sentence NBI (New Business Item): “NEA shall use existing resources and publications to educate its members about the environmental and health dangers of shale gas fracking.” The Ohio delegation voted to do so, and now Ray will go through the process of formally submitting his proposal, and when we see it again it will have an NBI number. Delegates have until noon Friday to submit NBIs, but the sooner the better–NBIs are considered in the order in which they’re received, and delegates tend to get testy later in the four days.
It’s impossible to tell what the dominating theme of the RA will be: NEA is intensely democratic, and delegates are quite capable of setting their own agenda. But a few issues are already clear.
- This will be Dennis Van Roekel’s last RA as President, and delegates will elect his successor. Vice President Lily Eskelsen-Garcia is running for the office and spoke to Ohio delegates today. The election is contested, but we haven’t heard the opposing voices yet.
- The position of Secretary-Treasurer will be open, and two candidates from NEA’s Executive Committee are vying for the opening: Princess Moss of Virginia and Greg Johnson of Oklahoma. As of today, Ohio’s delegates have not endorsed either. Both candidates visited the caucus in June, and both showed up again today.
- What Eskelsen-Garcia decried as “standardization, de-professionalization, and privatization” will probably be a major focus: the atmosphere is not cheery, and the speeches of most candidates we’ve heard have reflected educators’ anger and frustration.
- Delegates and other interested citizens are being encouraged to electronically sign an open letter “from NEA and the Educators of America” by going to nea.org/StopToxicTests. The first NBIs to be considered tomorrow, submitted by the NEA Board of Directors, are titled “NEA Campaign against Toxic Testing” and “Redefining Public School Accountability.”
This blog is read both by delegates and by friends back home! There’s plenty of information on NEA’s website at nea.org/grants/1357.htm, and the GPS Network will be livestreaming the RA at GPSnetwork.org/RA2014. Dennis Van Roekel’s keynote address is the first streaming video event, scheduled for 12:30 on Thursday.