At this year’s Annual Meeting and Representative Assembly, NEA delegates will gather in Boston, Mass., to vote on issues facing public education and to set the organization’s policies and priorities for the upcoming year.
The theme for this year’s meeting is “Uniting Our Members and the Nation for Strong Communities.” More than 7,500 educators are expected to participate in NEA’s 154th Annual Meeting and 95th Representative Assembly (RA) June 25–July 5 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.
Among the many business items to be voted on, the RA will consider a revised NEA policy statement on charter schools. Developed by a task force of nearly two dozen educators over the past year, the statement makes clear NEA’s support for public charter schools that are held accountable for their students’ success while decrying their privately managed, unaccountable counterparts. Delegates can learn more about the proposed statement during an open hearing on Saturday, July 1.
The Representative Assembly (RA) is the top decision-making body for the nearly 3 million-member National Education Association, where delegates adopt the strategic plan and budget, resolutions, the legislative program and other policies of the organization.
Following are more highlights from this year’s meeting.
Wednesday, June 28 and Thursday, June 29
The NEA Human and Civil Rights Department will host the 2017 Conference on Racial and Social Justice (formerly, the Joint Conference on the Concerns of Minorities and Women).
The annual conference brings together educators, students, parents and families, organizers, community members and leaders to talk about how to advance racial and social justice in public education. Through interactive workshops, sessions, panels and plenaries, participants will debate the issues that limit educational opportunities for communities of color, LGBTQ, and girls and women and create strategies for addressing them.
On Thursday, June 29, NEA will announce the 2017 Social Justice Activist of the Year during the closing luncheon of the Conference on Racial and Social Justice. The award recognizes members who demonstrate the ability to lead, organize, and engage educators, parents, and the community to advocate on social justice issues that affect the lives of students, fellow educators, and their communities. For a list of this year’s finalists, please click here.
NEA-Retired members will also gather for their annual meeting on June 28, when they will voting for NEA-Retired candidates, present the NEA-Retired Distinguished Service Award and the NEA-Retired Jack Kinnaman Scholarship Award. Members will also discuss and vote on new business items pertinent to retired educator members.
Thursday, June 29
The NEA Student Program will present the second annual Leaders Empowering Grassroots Advocacy for Communities and Youth (LEGACY) Project, which brings future educators together to volunteer in a school community. Hundreds of these future educators will arrive in Boston days before the Annual Meeting and RA for these volunteer efforts
Along with NEA-Retired members, community members and visitors, the educators will participate in several activities intended to uplift students and families in the Everett Public School District, a community north of Boston. Activities include a “Ninja Warrior” style obstacle course, signing up students for library cards, and interacting with animals from Stone Zoo. NEA and Everett Public Schools leaders, as well as elected officials, will participate and answer questions about the LEGACY Project throughout the day.
Saturday, July 1
NEA will host the 50th Human and Civil Rights Awards Dinner in the Grand Ballroom of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. This year, the theme is “Living the Legacy: After 50 Years, Still We Rise.” Twelve human and civil rights heroes will be recognized for their inspiring contributions to build a more just society.
Sunday, July 2
NEA President Lily Eskelsen García will open the National Education Association’s four-day Representative Assembly with her keynote address at approximately 10:30a.m. on July 2. Eskelsen García, who started her education career as a cafeteria worker before becoming the 1989 Utah Teacher of the Year, is serving her third year as president of the nation’s largest labor union. She is the first-ever Latina elected to head the organization, which represents 3 million educators.
Monday, July 3
The 2017 NEA Education Support Professional of the Year Saul Ramos, who lives in the Boston area, will address the NEA Representative Assembly. The self-taught braillist and advocate for the visually impaired has a special education career spanning nearly two decades. Ramos works as a paraeducator at Burncoat High Schoolin the Worcester Public School system in Massachusetts. He was honored for his dedication this past year with the Red Sox Most Valuable Educator Award and he also has been inducted into the Educator Hall of Fame.
The 2017 National Teacher of the Year Sydney Chaffee, another Boston local, will also address the RA on July 3. As a humanities teacher at Codman Academy public charter school in Boston, Sydney strives every day to improve learning for all of her students. In the classroom, she creates lessons that demonstrate how education can be a transformative tool for social justice, and she encourages her students to see themselves as having the power to make change in the world based on lessons from the past.
Also on July 3 the NEA will present the 2017 Friend of Education Award — the organization’s highest honor — to actor LeVar Burton for his leadership and decades of work to build a generation of readers. Burton hosts the long-running PBS children’s series “Reading Rainbow” and portrayed Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge in “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and the young Kunta Kinte in the 1977 award-winning, trailblazing miniseries “Roots.” Through the relaunch of Reading Rainbow in an online format, Burton is continuing to have a positive impact on children’s literacy.
Tuesday, July 4
The 2017 Social Justice Activist of the Year, announced on June 29, will be honored on the 4th of July. NEA has a long and proud history of social justice activism, and members in every state advocate for the opportunity all students, regardless of where they live or who they are, deserve to be inspired and challenged in public schools. Education advocacy and social justice advocacy go hand in hand in our increasingly diverse communities, and all students and school professionals must feel welcome in schools across the nation.
A complete agenda for this year’s Annual Meeting and Representative Assembly can be found at: nea.org/ra