|You can see dozens of RA photos on the MEA-MFT Facebook page!|
|Above: A lighter moment at RA.|
|Members of the Year Mary Verploegen, Kevin Bock, & Deana Elder.|
|Cecil B. Crawford has Scott Stiegler cut off his braids to donate for cancer patients.|
|Crawford hands his braids to Stiegler, as RA delegates give him a thunderous standing ovation.|
“Super-informative & super-encouraging”
“Energy, excitement — people were buzzing.”
“Like a family reunion.”
“It makes you feel proud of what you have done in your union and what your union can do for everyone.”
That’s how some delegates characterized the 2014 MEA-MFT Representative Assembly, held in Helena March 28-29.
Scott McKenzie, president of Hellgate Elementary Education Association, called it “wonderful, fulfilling, and uplifting.”
He went on to say, “I think everyone came away moved, motivated, and fired up to do the work that needs to be done.”
That was pretty much the consensus among the more than 300 locally elected MEA-MFT members who served as RA delegates. Delegates spent two packed days conducting the business of their state union, celebrating successes, and gearing up for the work ahead.
Here are some RA highlights:
Delegates re-elected Eric Feaver, President; Tammy Pilcher, Vice President, Rich Aarstad, Secretary-Treasurer. They elected John Bercier as Director at Large. John takes over for Cecil B. Crawford, who stepped down after serving several years as Director at Large.
Delegates elected Dee Henderson, a Head Start member in Great Falls, as state delegate to the NEA Representative Assembly in July. They also elected even-numbered district chairs and vice chairs and elected Garth Cox as chair of Retired MEA-MFT and Kendra Smith as Student Delegate to NEA RA.
Delegates passed dues and budget proposals. They also debated several new business items, including one dedicating MEA-MFT to support Medicaid Expansion.
Delegates were addressed by several dignitaries, elected officials, and MEA-MFT endorsed candidates, including:
Maury Koffman, NEA Executive Committee member
Lt. Governor and MEA-MFT member Angela McLean
Supt. of Public Instruction Denise Juneau
U.S. Senator John Walsh
U.S. House of Representatives candidate John Lewis
Montana AFL-CIO Executive Director Al Ekblad
You can see a video of John Walsh & John Lewis here (following a short ad).
And you can see a video of Angela McLean’s presentation here.
Members of the Year:
On Friday night, delegates gathered for the MEA-MFT Members of the Year celebration and banquet. Members of the Year include:
Deana Elder, a computer specialist for the Billings Public Schools: Education Support Professional of the Year
Kevin Bock of Helena, a state employee at the Dept. of Revenue: Public Employee Member of the Year
Mary Verploegen of Havre: a professor at Montana State University Northern: Faculty Member of the Year
Healthy Montana Initiative – Medicaid Expansion:
Kim Abbott of the Montana Human Rights Network talked about I-170, the Healthy Montana Initiative that would accept federal funds to expand health care coverage for some 70,000 low-income Montanans through Medicaid.
After hearing about I-170, delegates lined up to sign the petition putting I-170 on the November ballot. Several dozen agreed to help collect signatures.
Point of personal privilege – hair for cancer patients:
In one of the more moving moments of RA, delegate Scott Stiegler told delegates he is growing his hair to donate for cancer patients. Stiegler, president of the Florence-Carlton Education Association, is embarking on this project in honor of a close family friend who is in the last stages of cancer.
He said 39 people have joined him in growing their hair to make wigs for cancer patients, and he invited other MEA-MFT delegates to join this effort too.
When he finished, Cecil B. Crawford, a member of the Blackfeet Nation, got up and said that his daughter had been diagnosed with cancer and was given three months to live. “That was three years ago,” he said.
Crawford and other family members did sweats and prayers, he said, “and now Mayo Clinic wants to know what happened. She’s in complete remission.”
Crawford then announced that he wanted to donate his braids, right then and there, for Scott Stieger’s project. Someone produced a pair of scissors, and to the thunderous cheers and standing ovation of fellow delegates, Stiegler cut off the braids and gave them to Crawford, who promptly handed them back.
There weren’t many dry eyes in the house.
Later, Crawford said, “That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Our hair is sacred.”
Stiegler said several other RA delegates told him they’re joining his efforts, too.
Want to know more? Contact Scott Stiegler at [email protected]