Three Plymouth-Canton teachers traveled together to MEA’s Bargaining, Public Affairs & Professional Development conference last week – but they all carried home different lessons.
Third-grade teacher Heather Colombo, president of the Plymouth-Canton local, said she was happy to bring back contract language for the negotiating team to use in addressing school violence issues.
John Heilman, a district media specialist and local treasurer, said he was pleased to learn more about record-keeping, financial policies, and IRS reporting issues. “It was everything I needed to know and even including a calendar of what to file and when,” Heilman said.
Music teacher Sean Jackman said he was inspired by his first trip to the conference. “It’s important for all of us – including the people who aren’t paying – to understand that together we’re stronger,” Jackman said.
MEA President Paula Herbart echoed those sentiments in her address to conference goers on Thursday. Just as school employees work together as a team every day to help students achieve their highest potential, union members join forces to protect our profession and livelihoods.
“Together as MEA, we are committed to keeping up the fight for what’s right,” Herbart said. “That’s why, for seven long years, we and our allies fought an endless legal battle to get the 3 percent of our wages back that were illegally taken from us. And because we persisted, we won.”
The conference is MEA’s largest of the year, with attendees choosing from sessions covering topics such as lobbying, bargaining, grievances, social justice activism, organizing, member engagement, and communications.
Professional issues are also addressed, including evaluations, seclusion and restraint, third grade reading, and more.
MEA Vice President Chandra Madafferi discussed new initiatives to bring even more professional development to members in all job categories and additional opportunities for rank-and-file members to become active in their local union.
Even more, she delivered a hopeful message on the conference’s final day: “I want to thank you for pushing through when it feels like it’s not worth it some days, because it is,” she said. “I believe it’s going to get better. I’m hopeful for the future.”