By Peggy Wirtz-Olsen, WEAC Vice President
When I asked leaders of the Monona Grove Education Association about what makes them strong, many said the same thing, relationships. Jennifer Klotzbach, MGEA Secretary, said, “Our ability to work with the district, the school board and to communicate with our administration makes us strong.”
Jennifer referenced a past need for broader district-wide communication saying, “The MGEA stayed ahead of the issue by initiating a successful Community Forum.” To struggling locals out there, Jennifer said, “Start at the ground floor, and talk with your members. Get a pulse of what’s going on and make sure your members know that you are there for them. It will have a positive snowball effect.”
On the topic of MGEA’s strength, Kelly Sullivan, English Language Arts teacher and MGEA Action Chair said, “We have a good relationship with our administrators, school board, our community, and our families. We also work to have an open line of communication in our buildings with our members and colleagues. No one likes surprises, so we work to share out about what the MGEA is doing and ways that they can be involved in this work.” Kelly will again serve as a trainer at this year’s WEAC Summer Leadership Academy.
Brian Frederick, Co-President of the MGEA, said the association’s strength comes down to a strong history of excellent teachers who have served and continue to serve the MGEA. Brian said, “A number of our past leaders continue to be strong advocates for our local, and are legends in our community.”
Brian pointed out that this helps to maintain the association’s strength as these veterans are able to share their stories with the new hires about why membership is important, and this approach works. Last year, MGEA signed up 30 of their 37 new hires at their opening meeting. Brian also said, “Whether we like it or not, we have a political job, and one way to fight for our children is to join our union.” Brian also credits MGEA’s success to collaboration with and guidance from WEAC Region 6 Director, Mendy Dorris.
MGEA’s strength can also be seen in its recertification success as the local continues to recertify the bargaining unit with 95% to 97% support. Brian also discussed how the Monona Grove EA is removing negative stereotypes about what a union is. Brian said, “We work with the district to improve student learning. We are here fighting for kids every day. That means offering relevant professional development opportunities and supports for our colleagues who are pursuing National Board Certification.”
The Monona Grove Education Association was involved during a recent book challenge of the inclusion of the novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee in the district’s English curriculum. The MGEA believes that teachers are professionals who should be given authority to make decisions regarding curriculum. The association also is working to bring true equity for all students in the school district by partnering with WEAC to take the lead on racial and social justice on behalf of all of the students, families, and the communities of Monona Grove and Cottage Grove.
Brian said, “We need to address the opportunity gap. It is our job, and we’re going to be leaders on this.”
Read all of Peggy’s ‘Spotlight On Locals’ columns at weac.org/Spotlight.