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Empowering Educators: Colorado Leaders at the 2024 NEA National Leadership Summit

Empowering Educators: Colorado Leaders at the 2024 NEA National Leadership Summit

 

Education. Democracy. Freedom. Our Right! Our Responsibility! These guiding principles inspired over 1,600 passionate educators who gathered in Chicago from March 1-3 for the 2024 NEA National Leadership Summit. Among them were leaders from across Colorado, eager to gain knowledge, skills, and abilities essential for leading thriving unions and excelling in their professions.

Throughout the summit, Colorado members actively engaged in interactive breakout sessions led by member leaders from around the country. From advocacy to social-emotional intelligence, these sessions weren’t just about imparting knowledge; they were about empowering educators to become leaders for change in their communities.

We were proud to have Colorado members lead several sessions at this summit. Jefferson County Education Association member Michelle Moehlis and CEA Director of Digital Communications, Sydney Slifka, delivered an impactful session titled “Bringing Everyone to the Table: Engaging Members and Community in Collective Bargaining.” Their presentation, backed by expertise and experience, addressed a critical question: How do we ensure every member is involved in collective bargaining, thereby strengthening our union and amplifying our collective voice? Moehlis and Slifka outlined actionable steps, including messaging plans, escalation strategies, and innovative organizing tactics, that resonated deeply with attendees.

 

CEA President Amie Baca-Oehlert also made a significant contribution to the summit by presenting on “Leadership Development for State Affiliate Presidents: Best Practices for Supporting Leaders.” In this session, she emphasized the pivotal role of state affiliate presidents in NEA’s new emphasis on budgeting resources and rethinking strategies to build an effective system of leadership development. Baca-Oehlert underscored the importance of transitioning from the traditional role of a “hero” leader to that of a “host,” fostering engagement and sustainability within a network of leaders at all levels. The session provided state presidents with invaluable insights and tools to elevate their leadership and empower members to drive positive change within their communities.

Beyond structured sessions, the summit buzzed with energy as educators from Colorado connected during caucus and council meetings, state connection sessions, and networking opportunities. These informal interactions fostered collaboration and solidarity, reinforcing the collective power of educators in driving positive change.

                        

In retrospect, the 2024 NEA National Leadership Summit was more than a conference for Colorado educators; it was a transformative experience. It underscored the vital role of leadership and collaboration in advancing the cause of public education. As they return to their communities, Colorado educators carry not just knowledge but also a renewed sense of purpose and determination to effect positive change. Together, they are committed to upholding the principles of education, democracy, and freedom—for they are not just rights but also responsibilities we all share in building a brighter future for generations to come.

 

 

Standing Up for Colorado Educators: Labor Roundtable with Doug Emhoff

Standing Up for Colorado Educators: Labor Roundtable with Doug Emhoff

In a step towards tackling the pressing issues in public education across Colorado, members of the Colorado Education Association recently engaged in a crucial conversation at the Colorado Labor Leaders Roundtable, joined by Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff. This meeting served as a platform to shed light on the challenges faced by public workers around the state, including educators, healthcare workers, and public service employees, emphasizing the urgent need for action and engaging in productive dialogue about solutions and support.

 

During conversation, Amber Wilson, Secretary-Treasurer of the CEA, stressed the crucial role educators play in shaping the future. She shared concerning statistics from the CEA’s State of Education report: 58% of educators are considering leaving the profession, with 55% citing inadequate pay and benefits, and 50% struggling to afford housing. Wilson’s remarks highlight the pressing need to address these challenges, ensuring educators feel valued and supported in their vital work.

We extend our gratitude to the Colorado Democratic Party for providing this opportunity for educators voices to be heard, and to Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff for his time and involvement with the Biden-Harris administration’s work in Colorado.

Kicking Off Read Across America at Denver Green School

Kicking Off Read Across America at Denver Green School

Kicking Off Read Across America at Denver Green School

Today, we celebrated diversity and the joy of reading at Denver Green School as the Colorado Education Association and the Denver Classroom Teacher Association (DCTA) joined the nationwide celebration of Read Across America by visiting classrooms to read aloud diverse books and will be gifting every student with a book. This event was made possible through a Read Across America grant awarded to CEA. NEA’s Read Across America program aims to foster a love for reading among children and teenagers throughout the year through monthly themed books, teaching resources, various events, and author partnerships.


CEA President and high school counselor Amie Baca-Oehlert read one of her favorite childhood books and one she has shared with her own children to a kindergarten class, The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush by Tomie DePaola, “What i love about this book is it’s timeless message of embracing being who you are and celebrating your own unique talents. It’s a story that resonates with readers of all ages, reminding us that each of us has something special to offer the world.”

Read Across America is not just about encouraging reading; it’s about ensuring that all students have access to diverse literature that reflects their experiences and expands their understanding of the world. Baca-Oehlert emphasizes, “There’s a growing need for schools and libraries to include and promote diverse books. Students need books that provide both windows and mirrors if we are going to create more readers, writers, and people who feel included and recognized and who understand that the world is far richer than just their experiences alone.”


Kim Manning Ursetta, DCTA member currently serving as DCTA’s Member and Community Specialist, emphasizes the significance of this initiative, particularly for a school like Denver Green School that has welcomed many new-to-country students. She states, “This is a school that has received many of our new-to-country students, and giving them a book is not just a gift; it’s an invitation into the world of reading where they can find stories that resonate with their own experiences and cultures, and where they can explore new perspectives and possibilities.”

The books students will be receiving encompass a wide range of stories and voices, ensuring that every student can find something to resonate with. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • For Grades K-2:
    • An American Story by Christopher L. Harris
    • La Selva de Zonia by Juana Martinez-Neal
    • I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes
    • Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
    • The I Love You Book/El libro de los te amo by Todd Parr
  • For Grades 3-5:
    • You Are Here by Kylie Pax
    • Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina
    • Mananaland by Pam Muñoz Ryan
    • Not an Easy Win by Valerie M. Russo
  • For Grades 6-8:
    • New Kid by Jerry Craft
    • Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
    • Clean Getaway by Nic Stone
    • Smile by Raina Telgemeier

These books offer a diverse array of narratives, characters, and themes, ensuring that students can find themselves represented and explore worlds beyond their own experiences.

Kevin Vick, CEA vice president and high school social studies teacher, shares his excitement about today’s event, saying, “It’s fantastic to see our students light up with joy as they receive these books. We’re not just handing out books; we’re opening doors to new worlds and possibilities. Reading should be fun and exciting, and events like these make it happen.

Other community members who participated in the event included Lea Steed, Director of Equity Great Ed, and Jorge Montriel, Lead Organizer of Coloradans for the Common Good.

As we celebrate Read Across America, let’s also remember that reading is a year-round endeavor. To discover more diverse books and resources throughout the year, visit coloea.org/ReadAcrossAmerica

Let’s continue to promote literacy and cultivate a love for reading among our youth, ensuring that every child has the opportunity to see themselves reflected in the pages of a book and to explore the vast richness of the world through literature.

 

8 Surprising Things Your Kid’s Teacher Wants For the Holidays

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The holidays are here, and you’re probably on the lookout for the best gifts for your kids and family. But what about your child’s teacher?  We can never truly thank teachers for everything they do, but we can try with these thoughtful gift ideas. We chatted with teachers across the state to see what they’re hoping to receive this holiday season and these were the top eight things they asked for.

educator holiday wish list

 

Our public educators know best what is needed to make sure every child in Colorado has the best opportunity to learn and grow. In the spirit of the holiday season, let’s talk about what we’re hopeful for this upcoming year for our students, our schools, and ourselves.
  • Take a moment to write what you wish for your students, your school, and yourself in 2023 to foster the joy of learning and teaching.
  • CEA will gather the wish lists and produce New Year’s resolutions for school board members/legislators in January.

Submit your wish list items here: coloea.org/educatorwishlist 

Election 2022: Recommended Candidates and Ballot Initiatives Results

2022 CEA Recommended Candidates and Ballot Initiatives Results

Key:

  • 🟢 – Candidate Won / Ballot Measure Passed
  • 🟡 – Waiting on Results
  • 🔴 – Candidate Lost / Ballot Measure Lost

Federal Candidates

  • US Senate – Michael Bennet 🟢
  • House CD1 – Diana DeGette 🟢
  • House CD2 – Joe Neguse 🟢
  • House CD6 – Jason Crow 🟢
  • House CD7 – Brittany Pettersen 🟢
  • House CD8 – Yadira Caraveo 🟢

State and Legislative Candidates

  • Secretary of State – Jena Griswold 🟢
  • State Treasurer – Dave Young 🟢
  • State Attorney General – Phil Weiser 🟢
  • Governor – Jared Polis 🟢
  • State Board of Education – Kathy Plomer 🟢
  • State Board of Education CD6 – Rebecca McClellan 🟢
  • State Board of Education CD8 – Rhonda Solis 🟢
  • State SD3 – Nick Hinrichsen 🟢
  • State SD8 – Dylan Roberts 🟢
  • State SD9 – Arik Dougherty 🔴
  • State SD11 – Tony Exum 🟢
  • State SD15 – Janice Marchman 🟢
  • State SD20 – Lisa A. Cutter 🟢
  • State SD22 – Jessie Danielson 🟢
  • State SD24 – Kyle Mullica 🟢
  • State SD25 – Faith Winter 🟢
  • State SD27 – Tom Sullivan 🟢
  • State SD30 – Braeden Miguel 🔴
  • State SD32 – Robert Rodriguez 🟢
  • State SD34 – Julie C. Gonzales 🟢
  • State HD1 – Javier Mabrey 🟢
  • State HD2 – Steven Woodrow 🟢
  • State HD3 – Meg Froelich 🟢
  • State HD4 – Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez 🟢
  • State HD6 – Elisabeth Epps 🟢
  • State HD7 – Jennifer Bacon 🟢
  • State HD9 – Emily Sirota 🟢
  • State HD10 – Junie Joseph 🟢
  • State HD11 – Karen McCormick 🟢
  • State HD12 – Tracey Bernett 🟢
  • State HD13 – Julie McCluskie 🟢
  • State HD14 – Rob Rogers 🔴
  • State HD16 – Stephanie Vigil 🟢
  • State HD17 – Regina English 🟢
  • State HD18 – Marc Snyder 🟢
  • State HD19 – Jennifer Lea Parenti 🟢
  • State HD23 – Monica Irasema Duran 🟢
  • State HD24 – Lindsey N. Daugherty 🟢
  • State HD25 – Tammy Story 🟢
  • State HD26 – Meghan Lukens 🟢
  • State HD27 – Brianna Titone 🟢
  • State HD28 – Sheila Lieder 🟢
  • State HD29 – Shannon Bird 🟢
  • State HD30 – Chris Kennedy 🟢
  • State HD31 – Said Sharbini 🟢
  • State HD32 – Dafna Michaelson Jenet 🟢
  • State HD33 – William Lindstedt 🟢
  • State HD34 – Jenny Willford 🟢
  • State HD36 – Mike Weissman 🟢
  • State HD37 – Ruby Dickson 🟢
  • State HD38 – David Ortiz 🟢
  • State HD39 – Eric Brody 🔴
  • State HD41 – Iman M. Jodeh 🟢
  • State HD42 – Mandy Lindsay 🟢
  • State HD43 – Robert “Bob” Marshall 🟢
  • State HD46 – Tisha Lyn Mauro 🟢
  • State HD47 – Edwin Dean Ormiston 🔴
  • State HD49 – Judy Amabile 🟢
  • State HD50 – Mary Young 🟢
  • State HD52 – Cathy Kipp 🟢
  • State HD53 – Andrew Boesenecker 🟢
  • State HD57 – Elizabeth Velasco 🟢
  • State HD59 – Barbara McLachlan 🟢
  • State HD60 – Kathryn Green 🔴
  • State HD61 – Eliza Hamrick 🟢
  • State HD62 – Matthew Martinez 🟢
  • State HD65 –  Lisa Chollet 🔴

STATEWIDE BALLOT MEASURES

  • Support – Proposition GG (formerly SB 222) “Amount of Tax Owed Table for Initiatives” 🟢
  • Support – Proposition FF (formerly HB 1414) “Healthy Meals for All Public School Students” 🟢
  • Support – Proposition 123 (formerly Initiative #108) “Dedicate Revenue for Affordable Housing Programs” 🟢
  • Opposed – Proposition 121 (formerly Initiative #31) “State Income Tax Rate Reduction” 🔴 

LOCAL BALLOT MEASURES 

  • Support– ALL Local Mill Levy Override / Bond Measures
    • Brighton 27J 5B 🟢
    • Boulder Valley 5A 🟢 
    • Platte Canyon #1 (Park Co) 4A 🔴
    • Weld RE-4 Windsor 4C 🟢
    • Mapleton 4A 🟢
    • Greeley-Evans 4A 🟢
    • Lewis Palmer 4A 🔴
Fighting for Union Recognition

Fighting for Union Recognition

Last December, we profiled a brave group of educators from the New America School charter system. They’re seeking to become the first charter school educators to unionize in the state of Colorado. Since then, bus assistants from Cherry Creek and Deaf/Hard of Hearing Interpreters from Littleton have joined in calling for their districts to recognize them as a union and immediately begin bargaining with them.

Cherry Creek Bus Assistants are vital in making sure our students arrive at school and return home safely every day. They are responsible for making sure the most at-risk students arrive at and depart school safely. Currently, bus assistants in the Cherry Creek School District start at a little over $14 per hour, which is nearly $2 less than the minimum wage in Denver, and $1.50 less per hour than their counterparts in Aurora and Littleton. For context, the King Soopers workers who won their strike against the grocery chain this past year negotiated a starting wage of $16 per hour in 2022.

In addition to the low pay, experienced assistants have not seen their pay increase even as the starting wage has increased. The most senior Bus Assistant with over 20 years of experience in the Cherry Creek School District makes less than $20/hr.

Bus Assistants are demanding that the Cherry Creek School District show respect by voluntarily recognizing them as a union, giving them a seat at the table. They demand that the district work with their union on pay, benefits and working conditions. They demand that their pay be competitive with other metro area school districts and that they be reclassified as Bus Assistants rather than as paraprofessionals as they are now.

In March, Deaf/Hard of Hearing Interpreters (all seven of them!) unanimously agreed to form a union and ask the Littleton School Board for recognition. The Interpreters are vital in making sure that all students are able to learn in a safe and welcoming environment, and are able to learn the skills they need to advocate for themselves in life. Yet, they are treated as disposable by the district, with little input in how they do their jobs and support their students, extremely high turnover rates, and little pay.

“All educators and public employees should have the fundamental right to form a union in the state of Colorado,” said Amie Baca-Oehlert, high school counselor and CEA president. “We’re at a tipping point in time where educators are ready to leave the profession and not having a say in their workplace is a big reason. The 39,000 members of the CEA stand in solidarity with the educators in NAS, bus assistants in Cherry Creek and the interpreters in Littleton and we pledge to support in any way we can to help them achieve recognition.”

All three groups have an incredibly uphill battle to fight to win recognition as unions. The New America School board has already rejected the NAS teachers’ bid to become a union and they are moving into the next phase of their organizing plan. Both the Cherry Creek and Littleton school districts are dragging their feet in hopes that the Bus Assistants and Sign Language Interpreters lose their will to continue.

Furthermore, in this year’s legislative session, a watered-down collective bargaining bill for Colorado county workers made its way through the Colorado state legislature but it does not include K-12 entities and actually strips some protections away from county employees such as the right to strike.

The time to stand with our colleagues and fight is now. Please watch your social media and CEA communications for opportunities to take action to support these brave educators.

Collage of photos from different actions organized by Littleton interpreters, Cherry Creek bus assistants, and New America School educators