By Peggy Wirtz-Olsen, WEAC Vice President
It was clear from my conversation with leaders of the Cudahy Education Association that much of the credit for their success is the ability of their local to reframe their work in a positive light over the past few years. Co-President Curtis Kadow said, “We have spent the last two years focusing on building relationships with administration, our superintendent, our members, and our potential members.” And, clearly, this approach has paid off. Teri Cianciola spoke about the engagement from their building representatives, saying, “Our old school approach wasn’t working. There is a new focus on relationships and membership – and people are joining.”
These leaders made a conscious effort to change the culture of their local. Kerry Beamon, CEA Secretary, said, “Curtis and Christine, as new leadership and Co-Presidents, have moved us to a shared focus and doing this work differently. Having a structure with Co-Presidents seems to be a welcomed change. Our focus is on clear, upbeat communication with members and potential members about the work that is happening and the victories of the CEA.”
Most notably, the Cudahy EA is proud of a school board victory in recent years that has changed the make-up of the school board, and, ultimately, the direction of the district. The association is currently working on the upcoming election for school board on April 3. A second victory is within their salary structure, which was a merit-based system with arbitrary measurements for wage increases. Curtis and Christine were determined to find a way to change this. When the district convened a salary committee, the CEA was involved and engaged in the process. Ultimately, this led to favorable changes and the removal of the Educator Effectiveness scores as a part of the compensation system.
These leaders expressed gratitude for the assistance provided by WEAC Region 7 through their membership chair, Rachel Swick, along with the support network provided through WEAC’s Organizing Institute for Anchor Locals, citing the importance of collaboration. Co-President Christine Janusiak said, “We’ve branched out to connect with others. We’ve started attending meetings with a grassroots organizing group in Cudahy.”
All of this has helped them with their work in the community and on their school board races but, most importantly, as Curtis said, “We are not alone. We are connected to surrounding locals, and we can tap into a network to help us.”
When I asked about advice that the Cudahy Education Association had for other locals out there, Curtis said, “While history is important, we have to find a way to move our association forward in a positive way today.” Christine said, “Our success comes down to three things — persistence, continual communication, and positive collaboration.”
Read all of Peggy’s ‘Spotlight On Locals’ columns at weac.org/Spotlight.