Educators from around the country are beginning to arrive in Orlando, Florida, where they will take part in the world’s largest democratic deliberative body at the National Education Association’s 153rd Annual Meeting and 94th Representative Assembly (RA) June 26 – July 6. More than 7,000 delegates will gather to set public education policy and establish priorities that will improve teaching and learning conditions in our public schools, tackling complex issues with far-reaching implications for the profession, from the future of testing to equity in education.
The RA is the top decision-making body for the nearly 3 million-member NEA, and sets Association policy for the coming year. Delegates adopt the strategic plan and budget, resolutions, the legislative program, and other policies of the Association. By secret ballot, they vote on proposed amendments to NEA’s Constitution and Bylaws. The NEA convention is visiting Orlando for the first time since 2006, bringing an estimated $35 million to the local economy.
The annual meeting kicks off with the Joint Conference on Concerns of Minorities and Women, whose theme is “Organize, Educate and Lead: Empowering Our Diversity Through Action.”
The opening plenary will be given by Marissa Franco, the lead organizer of the #Not1More Campaign for the National Day Laborers Organizing Network, which calls for “Not one more deportation. Not one more family separated. Not one more day of inaction.” The daughter of Mexican immigrants and the product of public education, Franco’s message to educators is: “You are powerful! The movement for social justice in our country needs you.”
On June 30, hundreds of educators will attend NEA’s Leaders Empowering Grassroots Advocacy for Communities and Youth (LEGACY) Project. Nearly 800 elementary-age students will join volunteers from the NEA Student Program and Osceola County Education Association at a community fair at Osceola High School and Thacker Avenue Elementary School.
All 14 branches of the Orange County Library System will host free summer reading events throughout the metro area beginning June 29, as part of NEA’s Read Across America program. Research shows that summer reading is instrumental in fighting the “summer reading slump” or “summer reading slide,” which is the cumulative effect of summer learning differences that are viewed as a primary cause of widening achievement gaps between students of lower and higher socioeconomic levels. Award-winning Read Across America summer reading packets and kits will be distributed to branch libraries, slated to host events throughout the week. On July 1, NEA will host the signature “Read Across Orlando” read-in at the Orlando Public Library with nearly 200 local students. In this high-energy event, students will be treated to a “Seuss-tastic” morning of readings, activities, and entertainment, and a special visit from the Cat in the Hat and his friends, Thing 1 and Thing 2.
Thursday, July 2, is Empowered Educators Day and will showcase the work of educator innovators who are leading the way for quality instruction and student success. More than 750 educator leaders and RA delegates will participate in this event, moderated by Roland S. Martin, host and managing editor of TV One’s NewsOne Now, syndicated columnist, and former CNN contributor. A TEACHTalks session—modeled after the well-known TED Talks—will feature voices from the field, including students. The event will be held at the Orlando Convention Center and will highlight innovative projects and leadership journeys that reflect successful students, empowered educators, and dynamic collaborations.
Outstanding educators will also be honored at the annual meeting, including the 2015 NEA Education Support Professional (ESP) of the Year, awarded to Janet Eberhardt, a paraeducator at San Francisco United School District in California. Eberhardt was named to the post at the NEA ESP Conference held in March in New Orleans. She is a member of the California Teachers Association and United Educators of San Francisco, NEA’s state and local affiliates, respectively.
On Monday, July 6, the last day of the RA, Shanna Peeples, the 2015 National Teacher of the Year, and an English high school teacher in Amarillo, Texas, will address delegates. The 12-year classroom veteran and NEA member teaches students from diverse backgrounds in a city that is among several across the nation that helps refugees find new paths in life and gain access to critical resources.
For complete coverage of this year’s Annual Meeting and RA, visit nea.org/ra.