Spotlight on Locals: Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association

MTEA Vice President Amy Mizialko (left) and MTEA President Kim Schroeder (right) stand with WEAC Vice President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen as she presents the MTEA with the WEAC Strong Local Affiliate Recognition Certificate.

By Peggy Wirtz-Olsen, WEAC Vice President

Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association President Kim Schroeder told me that strength of the MTEA comes down to two things: “member involvement and members who are ready to act.”

“Our members understand that the union is them,” Kim said.

This was demonstrated clearly this spring as the MTEA asked members to join together in opposition to budget cuts in the Milwaukee Public Schools. Members and supporters turned out in large numbers at school board meetings and to picket in front of the Milwaukee Public Schools Administration building.

Amy Mizialko, Vice President of the MTEA, echoed Kim’s sentiment as she said, “We are constantly pushing and asking our members to do more. We have decided, in this environment, we never give up on each other or on our profession, and we will not quit on our students.”

Ultimately, this approach was successful in creating a budget that put the needs of students and educators first.

I asked these leaders about MTEA success stories, and Kim said, “Our beating back of the MPS school takeover after it passed into law was one of our successes. It was our members at each building who stood up and said, ‘You’re not taking my building.’  The communities surrounding these schools stood against the takeover and, ultimately, the number of schools taken over in MPS was zero. This victory showed our members, the community, and our parents that when we stand up, we can win.”

Amy said, “Wisconsin educators are writing labor history. Scott Walker doesn’t write the last chapter. We write the last chapter with our parents, our students, our members, and our community.”

Amy shared another victory which happened a year ago when the Milwaukee Public Schools became a sanctuary school district for undocumented students and their families. She said, “It was a proud moment when the MTEA, MPS administration, and the school board declared solidarity with our undocumented students and their families after hearing over two and a half hours of student testimony.”

When I asked about their advice to leaders who are struggling, Kim pointed out, “There are activists in every local and every building. You have to find them and help them to build a team. As a local president, you can’t do it alone. You also can’t be afraid to fail sometimes. Everything that we try doesn’t work, but we learn from it and move on.”

In Milwaukee, there are 137 buildings, and the MTEA is working to locate activists in every building and train them to be leaders in their local. “We are the only organization in this city fighting for the public schools that all of our students deserve,” Kim said.

Amy’s advice: “The MTEA never fights and wins alone. When we fight and win, it is with our local coalition of Schools and Communities United who has grown to become a mighty force in Milwaukee.”

The MTEA has worked closely with many community groups and community partners on behalf of students and families. These partnerships have helped them to create powerful coalitions and, as Amy said, “United, we fight and win.”

Read all of Peggy’s ‘Spotlight On Locals’ columns at weac.org/Spotlight.

Article focusing on Arena, Wisconsin, examines the deep challenges and heartbreak faced by rural schools and communities

A New York Times article focusing on the closing this week of Arena Community Elementary School in the River Valley School District examines the heartbreak felt by students, parents and the community as they lose not only their school but the centerpiece of their community.

“After classes let out last Monday, the school was shuttered permanently by the River Valley School District, whose administrators say that unforgiving budgets, a dearth of students and an aging population have made it impossible to keep the school open. For the first time since the 1800s, the village of Arena has no school,” the article states.

It is a scene being played out in rural Wisconsin and small towns throughout the nation.

“Officials in aging communities with stretched budgets are closing small schools and busing children to larger towns. People worry about losing not just their schools but their town’s future — that the closing will prompt the remaining residents and businesses to drift away and leave the place a ghost town.”

Read the entire article:

School’s Closed in Wisconsin. Forever.

ARENA, Wis. – Ten-year-old Lola Roske grabbed her backpack and headed to elementary school for the last day of class, the final check on her to-do list before the unstructured bliss of summer. At drop-off, her mother, Kellie Roske, was determined not to linger. All around her, parents were hugging their children.

Democrat Caleb Frostman wins Senate District 1 seat

Caleb Frostman

WEAC-recommended candidate Caleb Frostman won election to Senate District 1 in a special election Tuesday. His victory attracted national attention because Frostman, a Democrat, won in a district that went for Donald Trump by more than 17 points two years ago and for Scott Walker by 23 points in 2014. The district has been held by Republicans for over 40 years. Frostman will replace Republican Frank Lasee who resigned to take a job in the Walker administration. Frostman’s victory reduces the Republican majority in the Senate to 18-15. In recommending Frostman, of Sturgeon Bay, WEAC noted that he:

  • Supports investments in our public schools and technical colleges.
  • Advocates for affordable healthcare and childcare for Wisconsin workers.
  • Is a product of Wisconsin’s public schools and universities.
  • Is former Executive Director of the Door County Economic Development Corporation, with experience in commercial real estate finance.

WEAC-recommended candidate Ann Groves Lloyd of Lodi lost in her bid for the Assembly District 42 seat in the June 12 special election. Because both these were special elections, the seats will be up for election again in November.

Northeast Wisconsin Technical College ESS Local wins recertification election, second time around

A new recertification election has proven successful for the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College Educational Support Specialists Local. The initial recertification election in April failed by 2 votes. However, the unit experienced voting difficulties in the first 24 hours of the voting period April 5-6. All of the Social Security numbers were incorrectly entered into the AAA database, but were corrected on the second day of voting. However, some people who reported having difficulty subsequently did not log in to vote. The union challenged the outcome and a new voting period was approved. The new election for the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College Educational Support Specialists Local was held May 18 – June 7, and this time certification was easily approved, with 125 yes votes of 187 eligible voters. Congratulations, NWTC Educational Support Specialists! This means 18 of the 19 WTCS recertification elections this spring were successful! Read more.

Spotlight on Locals: Dodgeville Education Association

WEAC Vice President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen (right) presents the WEAC Strong Local Affiliate Certificate to Dodgeville Education Association’s Leadership Team (left to right), DEA Treasurer Joan Davis, DEA Communication Lead Joe Stodola, DEA President Dennis Baumann (Center), DEA Chief Negotiator Jeff Bradley. DEA Leadership Team Members Gerri Jumbeck and Erin Bavery were unavailable for the photo.

By Peggy Wirtz-Olsen, WEAC Vice President

When asked what makes the Dodgeville Education Association strong, the answer was clear — relationships. DEA President and 5th grade teacher Dennis Baumann said, “We have a strong relationship with the school board and members of the administration. We can talk to them and move on issues through casual conversation. Our relationship was built over years.”

Dodgeville EA Treasurer Joan Davis credits the local’s success with working collaboratively with their pro-education and pro-educator school board. “There’s a small town part of this,” she said. “We know each other, we talk with one another outside of school, and school board members ask us for our input.”

She went on to say, “Having fair, reasonable, and intelligent people making decisions on behalf of your students and colleagues is so helpful.”

“We know that our colleagues value the work that the DEA does, and we are working to get them to join us,” she added. Last fall, the Dodgeville Education Association recruited six new members by asking and engaging them at a new teacher event, and they are planning to continue this approach.

Additionally, the DEA has focused on increasing its visibility. The DEA created local polo shirts this year available for all as a part of fundraising efforts for the local scholarship, which provides funding for one graduating senior who is entering college and planning to study education. The DEA is a part of the community, participating in the roadside clean-up every year, and Dennis wants the community to recognize the DEA as the education association that continues to give back.

Other strengths of the Dodgeville Education Association include the leadership team approach to the local association. Joe Stodola, who serves as a co-chair in member communication, said, “We delegate responsibilities, and we each serve our roles well. That means that we work to put our leaders into the right places by assessing their skills and strengths, and then having them work to those strengths.”

Finally, the Dodgeville Education Association leaders credited some of their success in recruiting new hires to their members who were involved in the university chapters of the Aspiring Educators of Wisconsin. Joan said, “These young leaders have helped us to redefine what it means to be a member in a local association.” And, recruiting has been a challenge for the DEA, as DEA Chief Negotiator Jeff Bradley pointed out, because, “We’ve been hurt by the free agency approach to education. As a rural district, we can’t keep teachers.”

The DEA continues to work on this issue with members of the school board and administration, but hopes that solutions can come at the state level. Despite challenges, which are common struggles across Wisconsin, the Dodgeville Education Association is making steady progress by redefining itself and reaching out to a new generation of educators.

“We do the work (of the association) because of our passion for the profession,” Joan said. “We believe in educators.”

Read all of Peggy’s ‘Spotlight On Locals’ columns at weac.org/Spotlight.