MTA Annual Meeting delegates elect new leaders

MTA Annual Meeting delegates elect new leaders


Merrie Najimy and Max Page

Merrie Najimy, a Concord kindergarten teacher and former president of the Concord Teachers Association, was elected to be the next president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association today at the association’s 173rd Annual Meeting of Delegates.

Najimy received 915 votes out of 1,683 cast, while current MTA Vice President Erik J. Champy received 761 votes in the contest for president.

Max Page, a professor of architecture at UMass Amherst and former president of the Massachusetts Society of Professors, was elected to serve as MTA vice president, receiving 901 votes of the 1,683 cast.

The delegates also voted by a wide margin during the two-day meeting to strongly support the Fair Share Amendment campaign, as recommended by the MTA Board of Directors. In addition, the delegates filled positions on the Board of Directors and the Retired Members Committee; debated and voted on proposed changes to the association’s bylaws, standing rules and resolutions; acted on a number of new business items; and passed the operating and Public Relations/Organizing Campaign budgets for the next fiscal year.

Najimy will succeed current MTA President Barbara Madeloni, who is nearing the end of her second two-year term and was therefore not eligible to run for re-election. Page will succeed Champy, the MTA’s current vice president. Both Najimy and Page will take office on July 15 and serve two-year terms.

Two other MTA members also ran for vice president: Attleboro Education Association President Adeline Bee, an English teacher at Attleboro High School, who received 455 votes; and Peter Lahey, a history teacher at Everett High School, who received 317.

The delegates who assembled at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston on May 4 and 5 represented more than 110,000 MTA members from throughout Massachusetts.

After the results were in, Madeloni congratulated the newly elected president and vice president.

“In electing Merrie Najimy and Max Page, the delegates have chosen to continue building the MTA as a union that stands strong and organizes for educators, students, public education and our communities,” Madeloni said.

Both, she said, “understand the intersections of teaching, learning and economic and racial justice and will lead the MTA in fighting for all of these.”

“All of us gathered here share some important values,” Najimy said after the election. “We hold public education to be at the very foundation of our society. We demand respect and dignity for our members. We want more funding and the best opportunities for every one of our students. We want member engagement and lively, respectful democracy. We want a society free from racism, free from sexism, free from poverty. We want a world where the joy of our children and our children’s children is more important than tests or profit.”

In addressing the delegates, Page said, “I was motivated by the belief that the direction of the MTA in the last four years has helped to transform our union, involve the members and enable us to win on key issues.” Page later noted that he is particularly looking forward to “working with our allies to win the Fair Share Amendment.”

The delegates approved an operating budget of $43,805,555 for the 2018-19 fiscal year. They also passed a Public Relations/Organizing Campaign budget of $1,598,400.

As the Annual Meeting began on Friday, the delegates observed a moment of silence for fellow educators and all other public servants who died during the past year. They paid special tribute to former MTA President Kathleen Roberts, who died last September at the age of 103.

Springfield educators
Members of the Springfield Education Association addressed the Annual Meeting on Friday.

An issues forum on Friday focused on the association’s All In efforts to continue building power before and after a decision is issued in Janus v. AFSCME, an anti-union case now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. Representatives of local associations from Springfield, Brockton, Everett, Fall River, UMass Boston and Medford shared stories of organizing around specific issues.

Early on the second day of the meeting, the Friend of Education award was presented to retired MTA Training and Professional Learning Specialist George Luse. More than 30 years ago, Luse recalled, a number of MTA members began pushing for more diversity among the association’s staff. “I am part of the legacy of these committed members,” he said, adding: “If you’re dissatisfied with the status quo, organize to change the status quo!”

The Friend of Labor Award was presented to Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards, who has worked on innovative solutions to help the city fight the displacement of tenants being evicted from their homes. Edwards, who has also worked as a public interest attorney, lauded the current wave of educator activism across the country. “When teachers rise up, so do our freedoms and so does democracy,” she said.

North Quincy High School science teacher Cara Pekarcik, the 2018 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year, told the delegates that she had just visited Washington, D.C., to attend events with others who received the honor in their home states. “Teacher voices are strong,” she said. “And teacher voices are being heard — maybe not by the people who are in the public eye every day, but there are people in the background who are listening. Thank you all for continuing to raise teacher voices, giving teachers a place at the table so that they can help make sure that the future of public education is extremely positive.”

"Thank you all for continuing to raise teacher voices ...”

Cara Pekarcik, 2018 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year

The President’s Award was presented to Maurice Cunningham, an associate professor of political science at UMass Boston who has done extensive research on “dark money” — money from anonymous donors used to influence political campaigns — in Massachusetts politics.

Madeloni thanked Cunningham for his commitment to “drawing back the curtain on the secret funders” of the pro-charter Question 2 in 2016. Cunningham recognized “all those in this hall, and the thousands who taught our children by day and then converted themselves into an army on nights and weekends” to canvass, phone bank and talk to neighbors about the ballot question. “Teachers are the real heroes of 2016,” Cunningham said.

MTA Annual Meeting Award Winners
The MTA honored Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards, retired MTA Training and Professional Learning Specialist George Luse, UMass Boston Associate Professor Maurice Cunningham and 2018 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year Cara Pekarcik.

Also during the meeting, 12 educators were recognized for their work as members of the Teacher Leadership Institute, a partnership between the MTA, the NEA, the Center for Teaching Quality and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

In addition, the delegates recognized Kathleen Meltsakos, the 2018 MTA ESP of the Year. Meltsakos is an instructional assistant at Andover High School who has been active for many years in the Andover Education Association, the MTA and the NEA.

In taking action for the Fair Share Amendment, the delegates voted to continue MTA support for a proposal to require an additional 4 percent tax on annual income over $1 million, with the funding going to public education and transportation. The proposal is on track to go before voters in November unless the Supreme Judicial Court rules against its inclusion on the ballot.