The NJEA Review carries plenty of content over the course of a year: each month there are four to five long-treatment feature articles and nearly 20 regular columns. It’s not easy to predict which pieces of the Review will attract the most attention, but it may not be too difficult to guess which will receive a barely a glance.
As the association’s official publication, the Review is required by the NJEA Constitution and Bylaws or by various long-standing policies to print a summary of the approved association budget, the independent auditors report of the association’s books, the minutes of Delegate Assembly (DA) meetings, proposed amendments to the NJEA Constitution and Bylaws, and the monthly organizational directory, among other required content.
While these routine features often go unnoticed, it is these features that make the rest of the magazine possible and keep the association going. The association requires that they be printed to keep itself accountable to its members. This month’s Review devotes 12 pages to a section that even the most devoted readers will likely skip: DA attendance records from May 15, 2020 through March 27, 2021.
The DA is the association’s policymaking body. Meeting at least five times a year, it is similar to the U.S. House of Representatives with members from each county electing multiple delegates to the DA based on the number of NJEA members employed in the county. Higher education members and retired members also send delegates. The NJEA Preservice president or their designee has a seat on the DA.
The DA attendance report demonstrates that delegates take seriously the accountability to which members hold them. They show up to conduct the association’s business—whether in person during pre-pandemic times or on-screen in the current environment—but they are not alone in their accountability. The NJEA Executive Committee and over 50 association committees—with county, retiree, higher education and preservice representatives—meet regularly to move the association forward. At the county and local levels, thousands more of your fellow members fill officer positions, committees and representative council positions.
And, of course, these members do not simply attend meetings for the purpose of being marked present at a meeting. They negotiate collective bargaining agreements, they plan professional development, they produce Pride in Public Education and FAST programs, they file grievances on behalf of members, they fight for funding for public education, they defend members against unfair treatment, they examine pension policy, they advocate for a healthy pension fund, they advocate for safe and healthy workspaces, they work to create equitable environments for all students and staff, they fight for high-quality public schools, they defend public education against those who seek to exploit it for personal or corporate profit, and much, much more.
This edition of the Review also includes an article that shows a new generation of members are already stepping up to advocate on behalf of NJEA members and students. In “Serving as a Building Rep While Nontenured,” Linden Education Association member Claudia Dolan notes that being an association representative enabled her to grow both personally and professionally. It not only taught her how to be a good advocate, it made her a better teacher.
Fortunately, Claudia isn’t alone. Throughout the state, from preservice through retirement, new and experienced NJEA members take on myriad roles to advocate for their association, their colleagues, their students and their communities.
As we approach the end of another school year and think about the next, now may be a good time to consider what role you can play in your local, county or state association. If you choose to do more, you won’t be left hanging to figure out what to do. At all levels, the association offers training for the various advocacy and service roles members take on. Chief among these is the NJEA Summer Leadership Conference (SLC), which is scheduled for two sessions: Aug. 7-8 and Aug. 9-10. It will continue to be virtual—and free—this year, and it offers a great opportunity to strengthen your skills and network with members from every part of the state. You’ll learn more about SLC in the June edition of the Review.
Every name listed on pages 52 to 63 represents more than a mark on an attendance record. Each name represents someone who has stepped up on behalf of their colleagues and coworkers. If you serve your association in any capacity—thank you! If you are considering becoming more active in your association, there is no better time than the present to begin your association journey.30