Welcome back to the East Windsor Regional School District and the start of another great year! For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Ellen Ogintz, and I’m president of the East Windsor Education Association.
Right now it’s my pleasure to share some thoughts as we begin a new year together.
I’d like to start by introducing the rest of our Association officers right here on YOUR webpage. Just go to the top and find the drop down menu called “About”. That’s the place to learn who everyone is and how they are working for YOU. We are proud to represent you and look forward to a successful school year.
I’d also like to welcome our new colleagues. On the right are “Recent Posts”. Find the “New Member Luncheon” to see all of our fabulous new colleagues, EWEA leadership, and NJEA leadership. We are excited to have you become a part of our Association family. Know that we are here to help you and support you. We have a lot of talented veteran educators in our district, so don’t ever be afraid to reach out for help.
And last but not least, welcome to all of our veteran educators East Windsor Education Association members. It’s so great to see you ready for another year. I hope you had a relaxing summer or some well-deserved time off and are energized for a great year to come.
Let’s take a look at what we accomplished just last year alone.
After almost 100 hours of working together, learning together, researching information, debating as an EWEA team since August 2018, and eating too much Dairy Queen, we reached the Memorandum of Agreement with the Board that has been presented to you. I have no doubt that you vote to ratify it on Friday since it is an excellent deal and one of the best negotiated contracts in the entire state! You spoke…we listened…we made it happen.
I also believe that it is Board and Administration’s RESPECT for our local and what we do day after day that this happened without too much pain!
We didn’t just achieve some amazing things at the local level but at the state level, too.
Last year, our main focus at the state level was to win relief from Ch 78 …the bill that enforces health benefit costs INSTEAD of allowing locals to negotiate these costs. We knew that would be a challenge, but that didn’t stop us.
This September, we have the same goals as last year, but our position is much different and much better. Together, our grassroots campaign and dedicated effort has brought us that much closer to success.
Think about this: At this time last year, we only had this much support for our Ch. 78 bill: 1 sponsor in the Senate and 1 in the Assembly. Today, we have 10 and 39, respectively.
Do you want to know the reason for such a big difference between last September and this September? It’s you. Each and every one of you.
And everyone across our state. That’s what it means to be a part of the biggest and best union in the state and nation. Together, we made the difference.
We called our legislators, we wrote them emails and postcards, we signed petitions, we wore RED in solidarity, we carried signs, we protested in front of their offices, we rallied at the statehouse. We shared with every single legislator that we were worth being listened to and worth being supported by our representatives in Trenton until we garnered their support. And when we didn’t get support from a legislator, we made the case in other ways. It can certainly be said that every legislator knows that “We are worth it!” and our members need affordable health care and justice in their workplace.
As we begin this year, we need to keep focused on the conversation that we created at the grassroots level, combine that with air support from a TV and online campaign to raise more public awareness, and build on that momentum to finish the job and achieve the Ch. 78 relief and Job Justice that NJEA members deserve.
Although the state budget passed in late June, Summer has been a season of progress as we have had extensive conversations with key legislators, including Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin , and the outlines of a very promising Ch. 78 solution have begun to emerge. While not yet introduced as formal legislation, the proposed agreement would provide significant reductions in health care costs for members. More importantly, it would tie those premiums to a percentage of salary, not a percentage of premium, meaning members would no longer be subject to contributions that rise faster than salaries and leave too many taking home less net pay year after year.
Importantly, the proposed solution would also provide savings for the state and local employers, making it much more appealing to lawmakers and much harder to reject at a time when everyone is concerned about rising health care costs.
You can go to www.njea.org to find out how you can get involved and help your 200,000 fellow NJEA members achieve these important wins.
These are important times to be a part of your union, to understand and participate in the conversation that shapes your livelihood, your career.
In fact, that’s the beauty of being in such a strong union. There is a place for everyone to have a voice and be involved.
Be part of the fun with the Early Career Committee! They learn about all of the member benefits they are entitled too, share stories, get support and have fun together. We know that the Mercer County Education Association is having a bowling event for early career folks on November 1st at the Colonial Lanes Bowling Alley! Stay tuned for more info on that via email.
Attend some professional development already set up for you to earn your hours right in the HHS library…with dinner! Help set up the workshops! Workshop dates and topics are listed under professional development.
So when I say “Welcome back”, and “get back to work,” I don’t mean what we all do when we’re employed by EWRSD!
No, I mean, “Are we ready to get back to the work of continuing to unify our association and empowering our members?”
We need to get back to work continuing to make our association stronger and better than ever, and KEEP our reputation as on eof the best and strongest locals in the STATE!
We need to get back to work supporting each other, no matter what we do for our district. We know that when each and every one of us is helping another, we win. You know who else wins when we work together? Our students win.
We need to get back to the work of making sure our communities are safer, and inclusive of all people our communities serve. That’s why we have applied for and received PRIDE and FAST grants from NJEA…grants for OVER $30,000! Come help us at our activities! The first activity is the Hightstown Harvest Fair on October 12th.
We need to get back to work having meaningful conversations with each other, our family, our friends, and our neighbors about making sure that we elect pro-education and pro-labor legislators to represent us from each of our legislative districts.
This work is going to take some effort though, and I need each and every one of you to pitch in and be a part of our progress. Please…get involved—think of belonging to our association like a gym membership, you only see results when you show up and get to work. We need you on our committees, at school board meetings, writing post cards to legislators, and many other things which will not demand much of your time.
Let’s get to work and have a great year together! Thank you.
In Unity and Solidarity,