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Teachers Union Provides Forum for Teachers

Post-secondary educational organizations
Image via Wikipedia

Carlie Schwaeber ’12
News Editor

Although unspoken around students, the Westport Education Association (WEA), or Teacher Union, is a significant aspect to Staples High School.

The reason the WEA is usually off the student’s radar screen is because most issues dealt with by the union are confidential, and if often faced with very controversial issues.

The WEA is a non-mandatory union, however, all teachers are a part of it.

Kathy L. Sharp who is a Social Studies teacher, is president of the Teacher Union. She has many responsibilities, such as maintaining and protecting contracts.

In addition, she represents the WEA during meetings or functions. For example, Sharp would represent the WEA at a meeting with the Board of Education.

“I find the work very gratifying. Very few people have the opportunity that I have to work with such a dedicated group of teachers and students every day,” said Sharp.

Working with Sharp is vice president, Diann Drenosky, treasurer, John Horrigan, and secretary, Karen DeFelice.

In addition, Sharp has seven building representatives working with her whose job is to be open for teachers to express their concerns or questions, and to then extend those messages to Mr. Dodig during their meetings.

The results of those meetings are then dispersed to the rest of the faculty.

“As an SHS rep, I can tell you that we have recently discussed, with Mr. Dodig, issues ranging from student and staff parking to teacher attendance/absences, and many things in between,” said Jesse Bauks, English teacher and one of the six representatives of the WEA.

Not only does this union protect the rights of teachers, but it protects students as well.

Without this union, Bauks believes that “the quality of education for students would decline.”

Many meetings are conducted throughout the year to make sure the union is doing its job.

Every two weeks building representatives meet with Mr. Dodig, once a month representatives from all Westport public schools gather, and one meeting in the fall and one meeting in the spring is conducted for all teachers at Staples.

If there is a situation where a meeting is mandatory, then those meetings will happen when needed. These meetings are necessary to maintain a union that works together.

In terms of priorities for this year, Sharp is hoping to make better the “communication and understanding throughout the school district and the town.” She would also like to strengthen the union.

Sharp learns a lot from other presidents and representatives from other districts during their meetings, which helps her to decipher the best way to represent the WEA.

The WEA is part of the National Education Association (NEA) whose website, lists six principles: equal opportunity, a just society, democracy, professionalism, partnership, and collective action.

These values are essential in protecting the interests of teachers, keeping students safe at school, and enhancing education.

The NEA was founded in 1857 and now has 3.2 million members nationwide.

The NEA website refers to the union as “the voice of education professionals” and stresses the importance of equality.

For example, under equal opportunity, the website states that, “We believe public education is the gateway to opportunity. All students have the human and civil right to a quality public education that develops their potential, independence, and character.”

In addition, at the end of the page, it says, “NEA also believes every student in America, regardless of family income or place of residence, deserves a quality education.”

Equality not only pertains to students, but teachers as well. If the teachers of the school are not treated fairly, it would restrict the school from improving education.

These same principles and values apply for the Westport Education Association (WEA).

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