Tales of a Road Warrior

Summertime, and the living is easy…

Was it an easy summer? Did you take time to relax? I hope so. We all need to rest and rejuvenate. 

Between road trips criss-crossing the state, I was able to squeeze in a bit of quality time with my family. Seven grandkids keep this Gram busy and blessed. 

Chances are you also spent time working, preparing and thinking about the school year ahead. NSEA staff and leaders were working ahead as well, on your behalf, this past summer. 

I want to start this school year by sharing thoughts on some of the activities NSEA has undertaken and preparations we have made over the summer that will strengthen our leaders and assist our members in the work they do.

Executive Director Maddie Fennell and I attended, along with several staff and leaders, the Nebraska School Mental Health Conference in Kearney in June. NSEA will continue to work to develop and provide training to help members understand and build trauma sensitive schools. We will also continue to encourage policymakers to provide more mental health resources for students, families and educators. Check the story on page 9 to see some of our members at work in that regard.

Across the State
The NSEA Board of Directors met this summer, with one agenda item covering plans for the coming year. NSEA is divided into six governance districts, and each district has a board of directors. In June, July and August, I found time to attend district board meetings in Alliance, Valentine, Norfolk, Kearney and Lincoln. 

More than 70 members from across Nebraska were in Houston in July for the National Education Association’s annual NEA Representative Assembly. Nearly 8,000 NEA members gathered to discuss, debate and set the Association direction for the coming year. Nebraska delegates were an active, dedicated group. Maddie and I presented at the NEA conference on Racial and Social Justice and shared NSEA’s work with Educators Rising chapters (see page 14) and Praxis preparation. 

I attended NEA convenings on Disrupted Learning and Racial Justice. Our leadership team of Maddie, Vice President Paul Schulte and NEA Director Linda Freye led a team of members to a conference on ESSA implementation. Other members attended Challenging Racism and Just Schools trainings. Our other NEA director, Tracy Hartman-Bradley, was an NEA delegate to Education International in Thailand. 

Our very first NSEA University was incredibly successful and is highlighted on pages 12-13 of the September Voice. At a pre-conference activity, I hosted an officer training for nearly 50 local association leaders at NSEA Headquarters.

That was a busy summer, but we are not resting. We plan to provide even more professional development and trainings across the state in the future!
Media Blitz
The past few weeks continued the annual “back to school” media and membership road tour. I have been to scores of membership events across the state, greeting new hires and new teachers with the message of the good work our Association does. We’ve had a highly successful start to the school year in that regard.

The amazing communications team at NSEA set up a media tour that put me through 18 media interviews in eight communities in four days. As I write this article in the car (no, I am not driving!), I am on my way to Thedford. My schedule today will include a member event at Thedford, a Sandhills District Board meeting, a stop in my North Platte hometown, a Dr. Seuss reading at a Medicine Valley classroom, and three more media stops in McCook and Curtis. 

In brief rest stops at home in Lincoln, I participated in our first ESP Task Force meeting, as directed by members at Delegate Assembly. We are working on a plan to better serve the Education Support Professional sector of membership. I also met recently with leadership teams from several local associations as they work to revise their bylaws.

Pride in Our Schools
Finally, I serve on the EHA Board of Directors and the Educators Rising Board of Directors. An NSEA committee is planning a gala for the NSEA Children’s Fund (page 7). Our New Educator Committee is planning year-round membership engagement and recruitment activities in local associations across Nebraska. 

As I visit with members, stakeholders and the media, it is quite clear Nebraskans are proud of our public schools. With that knowledge in hand, I look forward to sharing more details this year of our continued work on your behalf. Thank you for all you do, please do not hesitate to contact me. Have a great year!