Persistence and engagement spell success for North Hanover Township EA

By Ani McHugh, NJEA Communications Consultant 

Situated on and near Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in Burlington County, North Hanover Township’s three Pre-K to sixth-grade schools host a unique population: approximately 50% of the district’s students are children of active duty military personnel, and many staff members are either military spouses or retired military members themselves.  

While the transient nature of military life results in more staff turnover at North Hanover than in many other districts, NHTEA’s membership numbers are strong and steady—largely because of the hard work and persistence of membership chair Jodie Carson. 

Persistence and follow-up 

Carson is a Pre-K educational assistant who has served as the association’s membership chair for nine years. NHTEA’s co-presidents, Wynter Scammell and Tammy Jensen, credit Carson with the local’s success at attracting and retaining new members.  

“Jodie is very persistent,” says Scammell, “and she’s really good at following up with potential members to answer their questions and encourage them to become a part of the association.” 

In the past three years, the local has welcomed more than 130 new members. Carson, who goes to every board meeting to know when new staff are hired, makes a point to prepare for and attend new teacher orientation each year so she can personally meet and begin a relationship with potential members. This year, she was joined by Burlington County Education Association President Anthony Rizzo, and together, the two spoke about the benefits of membership.  

“I’m very honest with potential members about the instances when staff might need union support,” says Carson, who notes that the district has an especially high percentage of students with significant needs. As an experienced member herself, Carson tells potential members to consider membership as an insurance policy—and reminds them how important it is to have reliable, knowledgeable and experienced representation should they ever need it. 

It’s also important, Carson notes, to remind potential and existing members of all the things the association has fought for over the years—like working conditions, preparation time and the salary guide.  

Organization and delegation 

From a logistical standpoint, Carson’s organizational skills help her get new members signed up quickly and efficiently. She prepares membership paperwork in advance, and she keeps meticulous track of who has returned their forms and with whom she needs to follow up.  

Given that it is difficult to be present in buildings other than her own, Carson enlists other members—many of whom are also ESPs—to serve as helpers for her and points of contact for existing and potential members across the district. Some of these helpers are newer members themselves, and Carson notes that these new roles have fostered a renewed enthusiasm in and understanding of the workings of the association. 

Keeping members engaged 

Once new members are on board, NHTEA leadership makes sure they feel connected to and part of the association. They make concerted efforts to communicate with members regularly, both through email and in-person meetings, and they ask for feedback from members regarding the workings of the association.  

The association also onboarded two new social chairs who have sought unique ways to engage and connect members. They formed an after-school walking club at a nearby park, they organize fall and spring happy hours, and they continue to find ways to promote unity among staff.