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Emergence of a President: Leadership of Teachers’ Union Shifts in Recent Election

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For the Westport Education Association’s president-elect Kathy Sharp, experience within the inner workings of unions began with her employment at a fruit cocktail cannery.

“My decision to run for [President of the WEA] was influenced by many early experiences, from working at a fruit cocktail cannery during summers to help pay for college, and seeing how the factory union helped the workers, to studying labor law, management, and economics as an undergraduate and graduate student. Plus, I was raised by a single, working mother with three children. All of these experiences gave me a perspective and an appreciation of unions and workers that I have carried with me throughout my life,” said Sharp.

The WEA, which is the official teachers’ union for the Westport Public School District, held elections on June 1 to determine its cabinet for period of 2010-2013. The cabinet contains the offices of President, Vice President, Treasurer, and Secretary. The incumbent cabinet members will retain their positions under Sharp’s presidency, which commences on July 1. They are Diann Drenosky, John Horrigan, and Karen DeFelice, respectively.

However the election of Sharp to the office of President displaced one current cabinet member, incumbent WEA President Ed Huydic. Prior to June 1, Huydic had held that office for ten years.

In an introductory presentation given to the WEA which outlined her campaign platform, Sharp stated that she had “recognition of [Huydic’s] commitment and service to the WEA for many years,” and that “As a WEA Building Representative and Negotiating Team member, I have seen [Huydic’s] work on our behalf,” Sharp said.

Even though Sharp praised Huydic’s service to the WEA, she believes that running against him in the election was worthwhile.

“Periodic leadership change strengthens organizations and makes them more effective. After consultations with my colleagues, I [decided] to run for the WEA presidency to bring about change and strengthen the union,” said Sharp.

Sharp, who currently teaches Social Studies classes including U.S. History, Western Humanities, and A.P. Economics, has many additional qualifications for the position of WEA President- in both education and work experience. After attaining an undergraduate economics degree from Stanford, Sharp received a law and business degree from Stanford, and went though the Connecticut Secondary Teaching Certification Program in order to teach Social Studies and History.

In addition to accumulating several graduate degrees, Sharp has worked in the fields of business and finance in New York and Los Angeles, for the federal government as an economist, and a member of the Board of Directors of Public Advocates- a Californian organization that Sharp describes as “a public interest law firm that specializes in civil and labor rights.”

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