Democracy and a Theory of Change

by Nancy Fulton, NSEA President

We are just weeks away from NSEA’s annual Delegate Assembly, where members come to meet friends from across the state, to discuss, debate, and to give voice to the Association’s direction.
Delegate Assembly is the highest decision making body of our Association, and likely the largest democratically-run gathering in the state in any given year. Each delegate is given the time and respect to make his or her opinion heard.

This year’s event will also commemorate and celebrate NSEA’s 150 years of existence with a Sesquicentennial Gala on the Friday night before Saturday’s business meeting.

In 1867, at the first general meeting, a small group of educators, mostly administrators, met in Brownville to establish the Nebraska State Teachers Association.  Many wondered whether the association could sustain the initial interest and commitment of its members. Indeed, it has. Fifteen decades later, your Association is ready to celebrate what has been, and prepare for what will be over the next 150 years.

Theory of Change

NSEA members and leaders have been working through a two-year, organization-wide assessment of our Association strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. From this process, we will develop a plan that will focus our work for the next three to five years. Members at Delegate Assembly will review a comprehensive report from the Strategic Planning Committee that is conducting the assessment, and will then consider revisions and adoption of the final plan.

The plan includes our current vision, mission, and core values, as well as a theory of change statement, with goals and outcomes outlined.

Here is a preview: The theory of change statement says “When we increase the capacity of our Association to effect change through member organizing, political involvement and advancing social justice issues, then our members will be better prepared to advocate for and meet the needs of our students, our profession and public education.”

These are the preliminary goals set forth by the committee:

  • NSEA will advance a culture of social justice by improving educational opportunities for ALL students and building respect for the worth, dignity and equality of every individual in our diverse society.
  • NSEA will partner with national and local affiliates to strengthen our organizational capacity.
  • NSEA will advance the economic well-being and secure the contractual rights of our members.
  • The NSEA supports a political environment that promotes and protects public education.
  • The NSEA will support governance structures that are responsive to the needs of our membership.

There will be more details after Delegate Assembly finalizes the proposal.

An Education Component

NSEA has the honor of being the oldest professional association in Nebraska, being founded just months after Nebraska was granted statehood. The 2014 Nebraska Legislature created a state Sesquicentennial Commission to plan for the State of Nebraska’s 150th anniversary. Early in the planning, the Commission expressed an interest in having a strong education component in the planned activities. Here are some that might be of interest to you as educators:

  • Truckin’ Through Nebraska: A mobile children’s museum will be zigzagging across the state from April to October with stops in 43 communities. Stops were chosen so that it would be within easy driving distance for all Nebraskans.
  • Nebraska 150 Express: A Union Pacific Streamliner locomotive will traverse the state with a three-day whistle stop tour in seven communities on August 4-6.
  • Nebraska Atlas Project: All Nebraska fourth graders will be given a colorful atlas learning about our state, our history, and our people. Curriculum has been developed to use with the atlas.
  • One State/One Book: Every fifth grader will be provided a copy of the book “Chief Standing Bear of the Ponca” by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve. It will be accompanied by a teacher-developed curriculum
  • Great American Eclipse: On Monday, Aug. 21, Nebraskans will be able to experience a total solar eclipse on a diagonal path across the entire state. Many communities are planning events around the rare event.

Other Sesquicentennial activities and events can be found at:

The Greek Said It

How appropriate it is that both our state and our Association celebrate 150 years at the same time. The connection between education and the state is clearly outlined in this quote from the Greek philosopher Dionysius: “The Foundation of Every State is the Education of its Youth.”

Celebrate, both for your state and your Association!