So, it appears that I'm on the Ohio Education Association's Board of Directors.
Near the beginning of the school year, one of my coworkers asked me if I would be interested in filling a vacant position on the Board. Apparently the previous office holder had been lucky enough to retire from a local school district and was henceforth no longer eligible to be on the Board.
I'd been saying for a few years that I wanted to get more involved in union (technically Association in Princeton) business, and I know I'm not well cut from a cloth that makes me good for building-level negotiations and mediations. I turn far too quickly toward combat and not nearly enough toward compromise and understanding. Knowing that local route is likely closed to me, I was at least interested in the higher position within the union hierarchy. So I gave a hearty maybe...
I made it to a Board of Directors meeting, sitting as a guest in the sideline seats. Then I said yes and attended another meeting (there are about nine a year, all in Columbus at the OEA building, at which I was elected to fill the position until the next local Representative Assembly, at which the position would be officially elected. The local Rep Assembly has now come and gone, and I was elected to serve out the balance of Haven's three-year term - unopposed, not even needing a paper ballot. I'm apparently a Board member for at least a year - after which I can run (probably unopposed again) for two three-year terms.
From there I've gone to two local council meetings at which the presidents a dozen local associations pass along and respond to the issues of the day, passing their opinions and challenges along to me and an OEA labor relations consultant (LRC) so that the LRC can try to solve the problems and I can represent their positions appropriately at the state level.
It's been interesting so far, and I'm looking forward to a few more interesting years.
Thoughts so far...
- I'm honored to have been invited. I know I got tapped because a state-connected PHS staffer was impressed with what I did back in the Issue 2/SB 5 fight. Lots of people who came before me sacrificed a lot to get me the contracts and protections that I have. I can certainly attend a few meetings over the next year(s) as my turn in the barrel.
- The protocol of the meetings is fascinating. Each time there's an agenda, a motion to accept the agenda with flexibility, and a series of motions, seconds, discussions, votes, and all sorts of Robert's Rules issues. Some part of me wants to chuckle at the absurdity of five people sitting at a table running through Robert's Rules of Order to say 'hey, how's life in your district,' but I do understand that one of the major goals (and legal requirements) here is absolute transparency for the membership, so I don't chuckle aloud.
- I'm becoming far more educated in everything Union-related. Man, the learning curve is steep because so many of the people are long-timers who know all the acronyms and histories, but there's just so much to learn. I'm in heaven with that aspect.
- Everybody I speak to seems to have most of the same issues. We're all wigged out over Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES) pressure, Common Core curricular changes, decreased funding, increased class sizes, the impending Right to Work fight, increased health care costs alongside frozen pay scales. So many of our issues aren't local, and that's the case all over the state.
- Some of the issues do continue to be local, and there are clearly dozens of radically different ways to solve the problems that we all have. Some districts fight for school safety with more resource officers; others choose to arm individual teachers with handguns; still others lock guns in fingerprint-protected safes at the end of academic hallways. It's all for the same problem: keep the kids safe; but those are shockingly different ways to solve that same problem.