The UEA House of Delegates met virtually on Saturday, April 24, to conduct association business as required by UEA Bylaws. At the House, delegates heard reports on the status of the Association, discussed and adopted the UEA Legislative Platform and budget and approved policies to govern the Association. More than 200 delegates, elected by their peers in each of the state’s local associations, participated in the 2021 House.
The House of Delegates is the UEA’s highest governing body, meeting annually to determine the policies to be carried out by the Board of Directors and to conduct other business. The House consists of the UEA Board of Directors and elected delegates representing each local association, each UniServ, UEA retired members and the UEA student program. Each attending delegate is entitled to one vote.
Report by NEA State Directors Mike Harman and Mindy Layton
NEA State Directors from Utah Mike Harman and Mindy Layton shared a few national education highlights from the past year.
“We are happy to report that an increase in funding is coming, through the American Rescue Plan,” said Layton. “This included additional relief to working families, extended unemployment insurance benefits, rent and mortgage relief for those who may have gotten behind due to COVID related factors, increases in SNAP benefits, and funding to help schools re-open safely. I am especially excited about the $800 million to support students experiencing homelessness, some of whom were severely impacted by the pandemic,” she said.
As part of their official duties, the directors meet with members of the Utah Congressional delegation. Harman and Layton said topics discussed with elected representatives included justice in policing, the homework gap and Internet access, immigration reform, ESSA testing waivers and voting rights and protections.
“This year also brought us a new Secretary of Education, Dr. Miguel Cardona, an educator, who replaces Betsy DeVoss,” said Harman. “Dr. Cardona is a first-generation college graduate who was a fourth-grade teacher at the same Connecticut elementary school he attended as a child. His supporters describe him as a lifelong advocate for students, educators, and public schools.”
“We are humbled and honored to represent you, and your colleagues on the National Education Association Board of Directors serving as your NEA State Directors,” concluded Layton. “Thank you again for being members of the largest employee union in this country.”
Report by UEA President Heidi Matthews
“For this President’s report to the 2021 UEA House of Delegates, I will be presenting in the format of a Pecha Kucha,” began UEA President Heidi Matthews, calling the format a “solution to what we may call ‘death by PowerPoint’…a presentation of 20 slides of 20 seconds each.”
Matthews introduced the theme for the 2021 House, #TheDifferenceYouMake. “In this report I am honored to acknowledge you, celebrate you and thank you for the differences you have made in this past year for public education – and that you make every single day for our students, our profession and our UEA,” she said.
The UEA president shared thoughts on the difference delegate educators make for their students, families, communities and colleagues. “What a difference you make for your students. In this pandemic year especially, you have born a great load, have demonstrated strength, resilience and huge heart. Our students may not remember the all of academic lessons, but they will remember YOU…showing up every day, be it with your cheery mask and fully sanitized hands or in a zoom box on the screen.”
Matthews concluded her remarks with a tribute to former UEA President Pat Rusk. “We lost Pat a few weeks ago to cancer. I can’t imagine that there is a lot of injustice in heaven, but if there is, Pat will be there with a picket sign, a signature book, a hug, a kick in the behind, or maybe an encouraging word as she organizes the angels. On this day where we conduct our UEA business and celebrate the #The DifferenceYouMake…Let us all honor Pat Rusk. Our UEA president from 2002-2006, a lifetime as an educator, a leader, a wife, mom, grandma, friend…Pat Rusk, oh, the difference you have made.”
Report by UEA Co-interim Deputy Executive Directors Jay Blain and Heather Shepherd
Serving in the role of UEA interim deputy executive directors following the departure of former Executive Director Brad Bartels in December, Heather Shepherd and Jay Blain addressed the UEA House of Delegates for the first time.
Shepherd began by sharing four pillars on which the UEA will build for the foreseeable future:
- SOCIAL AND RACIAL JUSTICE – as we Work to eradicate institutional discriminatory practices and support equitable outcomes for all.
- PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND SUPPORT – as we advocate for teaching as a sustainable career.
- QUALITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS – as we work to Improve public schools by developing partnerships that lead to better student outcomes, while elevating the teaching profession.
- ORGANIZATIONAL GROWTH AND CAPACITY – as we Engage in and support state and local efforts to grow our organizational capacity to fulfill our mission for our students and the betterment of public education.
“Our proposed budget and our staff are poised to support these objectives and successfully execute on this strategic plan,” she said.
“Your dedicated staff who have stuck with us throughout this year of pandemic challenges are still yearning to give our members the support they need,” noted Shepherd. “UEA and UniServ staff and local leaders all spent time brainstorming on the tactics and activities to achieve these objectives. And we continue learning which ones are most relevant to our members and what is still needed to promote the value of membership and build our strength through continued growth.”
Shephard talked about challenges related to construction of a new UEA headquarters building. “It was with great disappointment that we paused, just a few weeks ago, construction of the new headquarter building,” she said. “Because of changes in construction costs and appraisal trends directly related to the pandemic, new construction under current conditions was no longer the best path for the UEA and your precious dues dollars.” Blain spoke about the UEA’s continued work during the pandemic, including successes with the Utah State Legislature and also the search for a new UEA executive director.
Report by NEA Secretary Treasurer Noel Candelaria
“You have truly been heroes during this pandemic,” said NEA Secretary Treasurer Noel Candelaria as he addressed the UEA House of Delegates. “Regardless of our roles in our public schools, everyone has made sacrifices beyond anything we ever imagined. I can’t think of a greater time in our organizations history when it was more important than ever for every adult sharing the same space within our public schools to work together to ensure the safety and well-being of our students and each other.”
“We have a Secretary of Education who knows first had the challenges and opportunities within our public schools,” said Candelaria. “If you tuned in (on April 21) to see the conversation with NEA President Becky Pringle and Secretary (of Education Miguel) Cardona, you witnessed the power and importance of the partnership and relationship we have with the White House administration. It’s been a while since we’ve had this kind of relationship, where our voices are in the room as decisions are being made about assessments, community schools, school funding, college costs and student debt, labor management collaboration, equity, and racial and social justice,” he said.
Stressing the importance of building relationships, Candelaria added, “if you can’t have a conversation with decision makers, many great ideas and needs will often go unnoticed or even ignored. This is the kind of partnership we must continue to organize for in every state and every community with all of our members, including right here in Utah.”
The 2021 UEA House of Delegates adopted the 2022 UEA Legislative Platform, one amendment to the UEA Bylaws, UEA Resolutions, three New Business Items and the 2021-22 UEA budget.
UEA Legislative Platform, Support Positions and Priorities—
Delegates at the House approved the UEA Legislative Platform & Support Positions and Legislative Priorities for 2022 with minor updates. An amendment from the floor added language to support legislation that “ensures protections against discrimination based on natural hair.”
UEA Bylaws and Resolutions—
Each year, the House may adopt amendments to the UEA Bylaws and UEA Resolutions to state the official UEA position on various topics. The House approved an amendment to the UEA Bylaws to “condense and streamline” the charge of the Ethnic Minority Affairs Committee. Delegates also voted to adopt four amendments to the UEA Resolutions. These amendments add the following to the existing Resolutions:
- “Gender identity” to a list of differences that must be respected;
- A statement to support civility in public discourse and “strongly discourages demeaning characterizations of people in relation to their race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, political affiliation, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, physical characteristics, or disability;”
- A statement about the elimination of discrimination (including toward “natural hairstyles”; and
- A call for discontinuing the use of “names, symbols, caricatures, emblems, logos, and mascots that promote prejudice.”
New Business Items—
Three new business items were proposed and adopted by the House of Delegates:
- New Business Item No. 1 creates a “Unity Committee” to explore a more formalized collaborative alliance between the Utah School Employees Association (USEA) and the Utah Education Association (UEA). “This exploratory process is intended to provide research and analysis to determine what a formal partnership could look like and what the benefits would be to our organizations,” said UEA Board member Michelle Jones in presenting the NBI.
- New Business Item No. 2 establishes a new program to honor an Association Representative (AR)/Association Building Leader (ABL) of the Year beginning in the 2022 UEA Membership Year and include a cash prize.
- New Business Item No. 3 directs the UEA to begin each meeting with a land acknowledgment and provides suggested phrasing. “Acknowledgments raise awareness about histories that are often suppressed or forgotten,” said UEA Board member Denise Lake in presenting the NBI. “It was their land first and we need to give them the proper respect they deserve.”
2021-22 UEA Budget—
UEA Vice President Renee Pinkney provided a detailed overview of the proposed 2021-22 UEA budget, which was available to each delegate prior to attendance. “The budget is constructed on budgetary priorities having to do with the UEA’s increased focus on racial and social justice, educational equity for our members, the children they teach, and the communities in which they live,” said Pinkney during her presentation. “The UEA Board of Directors is confident we have constructed a strong budgetary foundation, and has voted to recommend this budget to you, the members of the House of Delegates.”
Previously approved by the UEA Budget and Audit Committee and the UEA Board of Directors, the proposed budget was adopted by the House of Delegates.