LCEA at the NEA RA

All you ever wanted to know about National Education Association Representative Assembly, an annual gathering held in the first weeks of July.

Friday, July 21, 2006

My notes

I think this will be my final post. Follow the link below for a PDF of the notes I took during the week. There isn't a lot of detail since I couldn't really keep up with the varying and sometimes-lengthy arguments for and against, but if members have questions feel free to contact me. I also have the final "RA Today" that gives more detail on the items adopted.

NEA RA 2006 notes

Friday, July 14, 2006

Just say "NO!"

A delegate votes down a motion.

Now discuss...

NEA Director Elizabeth Nahl and OEA President Larry Wolf discuss strategy.


Every morning delegates received the "RA Today" newspaper, which had all the New Business Item (NBI) information, legislative amendments, etc. It was basically the guide to the day's business. NBIs go through the most discussion, debate and revision during the assembly.

Mic check

The Oregon Delegation was pretty active in the discussion and debate and the making of motions. There were over 30 mic podiums scattered throughout the hall, which were used to address the assembly. Anyone recognized at the podium gets picked up by the video cameras and projected onto the screens for everyone to see. The telephone is used to call in the motion to a team on stage that gets the requests to the chair. For perspective, the OEA RA only uses six microphones and no phones.

Signs of the times

Signs were used to inform the delegation on how to vote on various issues. The "L" stands for leadership position; the "C" for caucus position. If the arrow is pointed sideways it means there is no position. Regardless of the leadership or caucus positions, delegates still have the right to vote how they please (and they do!).

The Oregon Delegation

View from the top of the Oregon Delegation seating area. The floor seats immediately in front of us were occupied by the California Delegation. Note: The picture only shows about one-third of the assembly.

Lots o' people

View from the forward corner of the assembly hall.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Back in Eugene and decompression

More Oregon Caucus activity (and, yes, resting is an activity).

I was hoping to post a final "at the RA" entry yesterday, but by the time I got to the computer stations they were packing things up.

The RA ended at a reasonable hour - 6:54PM was the official time, called by General Counsel Bob Chianin (or as I like to call him "The Consiglieri"). Following tradition the Oregon Delegation had a pool going on what the end time would be. I was way off with 8:32PM. Even though I didn't win, finishing 90 minutes earlier than I expected was worth it!

So now that I'm back home what are my thoughts? Well, RA is A LOT OF WORK! But believe it or not, I'd like to go again (if members let me). Why? Well, it's a little hard to explain unless you go, but one reason is RA is probably the greatest example I've ever seen of democracy in action and it's exciting and honoring to be a part of that. It's amazing what actually gets accomplished by 10,000 people over the course of four days (you'll see from my notes pretty soon). And of course it's nice to be able to travel to new places and meet new people, although the smart delegates go early or stay late to actually go see the sites. Jeri and I only managed to go to Epcot for a few hours during our time there. Once RA starts it's pretty much impossible to go out for recreation, unless you choose to give up sleep.

So coming up in future posts will be photographs and notes on what happened at RA.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

NEA's Independence Day Celebration

My Independence Days have always been pretty uneventful, but thanks to the NEA RA I can now say different! I was very impressed with NEA's Independence Day celebration, which featured delegates representing various groups that make up this country. I couldn't help but be inspired by the stories these people had to tell, which ultimately contribute to the story of the nation itself. I don't think I've felt more honored or appreciative to be an American.

My favorite quotation comes from the delegate who represented Asian Americans:

"Only in America can a woman of Filipino descent have a name like Dixie Johansen. I am Dixie Johansen and this is my country!"

Day Five: July 4, 2006

Internet access is all fee for service out here, except for email stations provided by NEA. So getting my blog entries posted has not been too convenient, but I am keeping plenty of notes, which will be posted when I get back.

For now I can give some overall impressions. The days have been very long, starting at 7AM with our delegate meetings to go over committee recommendations and caucus positions on New Business Items, NEA Constitutional Amendments, Legislative Objectives, etc. From there we go to the Orange County Convention Center for the full RA. The last few days of RA have ended past 6PM, so it's a good 12 hour day once we get back to the hotel.

As expected there are a variety of issues in circulation, some straightforward, others not so much. Some issues which seem like "no brainers" wind up producing lively and lengthy debate. No one can accuse NEA members for being dispassionate!

Tonight a small group of us from Lane County will be celebrating a casual Independence Day. Here's hoping all of you have a good one!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Day Two: July 1, 2006

Members of the Oregon Caucus debate and discuss New Business Items.

We started bright and early this morning at 7AM with our state delegation meeting. We'll be meeting each morning this week before going over to the assembly hall at the convention center.

A representative from NEA addressed us about "NEA's Positive Agenda for the ESEA Reauthorization," a document covering NEA's plan for addressing the issues around ESEA AKA "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB). The bill will be expiring in 2007 but will be reauthorized, providing an opportunity to change some of the requirements that have been barriers to teaching for so many educators across the country.

This afternoon there are open hearings on the budget, legislative program and constitution/bylaws amendments. Keith Ayres, a delegate from Beaverton Education Association, invited us to join the Constitution/Bylaws Committee. He told us it's a low-key way to be involved as a first-time delegate, so we took him up on the offer.

Day One: June 30, 2006

The view from my hotel room at Hilton Walt Disney World.

Our plane touched down in Orlando at 5PM ET yesterday and we didn't get to our hotel until 7:30PM. Needless to say it took awhile for us to leave the airport with the wait for baggage and the hotel shuttle. Everything was on time though and went smoothly. Some other Oregon delegates didn't get in until quite late after delays and cancellations in Dallas, so our experience was comparatively relaxing.

This morning Jeri and I went to the Orange County Convention Center for registration. The center is HUGE - I would say at least twice as large as the Oregon Convention Center. The rumor is there will be 10,000 delegates in attendance. We'll get the official numbers when the RA is underway; the Oregon delegation numbers around 150.

I think the biggest question about RA - whether state or national - is what goes on there. This is my first time at the national RA, but if it's anything like the state RA then the bulk of the activity concerns the goals and direction of the organization. So basically we are the decision-making body for the NEA, which numbers over 2 million members!

The RA won't be called to order until Sunday. Most of our time prior to it will be spent with our delegation, looking over and discussing the issues that will be formally brought before the body beginning Sunday. Given the numbers of delegates and differences of opinion that exist among people in general, debate and discussion can become quite lengthy and involved. This sort of dynamic exists even the state level, where delegates represent rural and urban communities, from K12 to community colleges to retired educators. When every delegate from diverse backgrounds has a say and a vote, democracy can become very messy - but I don't think any delegate would want it any other way.