FEA-Retired E-advocate, Fall 2017







President’s Message

– Marilyn Warner

Lily Eskelsen-Garcia, President of NEA, said, “Racial Justice is everyone’s business and we all have the responsibility to challenge a system of inequality that is ongoing and reinforcing in so many ways.”  With the realization that there is a need to continue fighting for human rights and social justice, one of the main programs of NEA is Institutional Racism.

We are seeing a rise in diversity in our schools and communities, but we are also seeing a rise in racial tensions.  Many people have been targeted for hate crimes including, but not limited to, American Indian, Alaskan Natives, People of Color, Hispanic and LBGTQ.  NEA is working to (1) increase awareness of the issues, (2) capacity building by creating resources and tools, and (3) encouraging our members to take action. NEA is striving to help “Members redefine their practices and empower them to lead the movement to end systemic patterns of inequality – racism and educational injustice – that affect our students.”

Think about the changes we have seen over the years.  We have been through segregated schools, race riots, and the Civil Rights Movement to name a few. I grew up in Montgomery, Alabama, and remember Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus strike, the activity of the KKK, and Martin Luther King Jr. leading the walk over the Edmund Pettus Bridge.  My sister and I recently spoke about this and, as she said, “We did not grow up in a prejudiced house, but we did grow up in a prejudiced community.”  What was the situation in the area where you were raised?

Yes, there has been a lot of change in our lives, but it has not gone far enough and that is the crux of Institutional Racism.  As FEA-Retired, we need to be actively involved in this program.  Our backgrounds, experience and personal knowledge of the past make us valuable participants as we work with hand-in-hand with NEA to stamp out injustice and hatred.  We must work to pave the way for our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

At our FEA-Retired Annual Meeting, Fed Ingram, Vice-President of FEA, will be our guest speaker and he will be addressing Institutional Racism so that we will have the information to take back to our locals.  By becoming informed about the steps FEA and NEA are taking, we can most effectively be a part of this important fight.

Joseph Fort Newton wrote, “Men build too many walls and not enough bridges.”  As we learn more about Institutional Racism and how it affects us and those around us, we can help build bridges that will lead to a more accepting America.

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Mattie Johnson

FEA-Retired Vice President

We as members of FEA-Retired are:

Resourceful    Eager    Timely    Intuitive    Realist    Experienced    Dedicated

The work of each retiree is continuous as we volunteer in our schools and communities. With the representation of FEA –R members in our schools and communities, volunteering shows the effect that we have on public education. Our visibility is very important as we work to increase membership.    

The FEA-R Vice President has several duties which I am listing:

  • The collection of volunteer hours continues throughout the year.
  • FEA-R offers an opportunity for FEA members to purchase tickets for a drawing toward Life Membership.  This drawing is held at the FEA Delegate Assembly in October.
  • The Silent Auction is another way the FEA-R members obtain funding to help in the awarding of Education Grants which help with projects that FEA members propose.
  • I participate in the M.O.R.E (Mobilize, Organize, Recruit, and Engage) Program, assist with the logistics of the FEA-R Executive Board and Annual meetings, and attend FEA-R Leadership Trainings.
  • I assisted in obtaining retired volunteers for the NEA Leadership Summit held during February in Orlando.
  • I serve as one of the FEA-R representatives for the Florida Alliance of Retired Americans (FLARA) attending meetings and conventions,  serve on the FEA Human and Civil Rights Committee and am a member of the executive board of the Orange CTA/OESPA Retired.

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From Artie Leichner

UTD member

Hello to you all from the Redland as we enjoy the passions and pleasures that are the hallmark of a stable and secure retirement.  This year I turned 64 and am biding my time until I join most of you on Medicare and ultimately take Social Security at 66. My wife Susan,  is an even younger retiree, having completed her 35th year while she was only 56. I bring this up all because I want to discuss the future of retirement for our colleagues who are still working in Florida’s schools.

When most of us started we were guaranteed a pension which was basically 48% of the average of our highest 5 years of salary.  When added to Social Security it provided stability and a reasonable living which we could supplement as necessary.  Unlike Social Security it had a built in COLA, cost of living adjustment, which arrives at the end of each July.  No longer did we wait and see, like our working peers, who are currently waiting for the conclusion of our local unions to reach the annual agreement with the District.

On July 1 2011 several major changes took place.  Public employees in Florida, including teachers and staff, were required to contribute 3% of their salaries (mine included) toward their pensions.  DROP was no longer paying 6.5% but was paying only 1.3%, and payouts began to shrink.  There was one change that was unconscionable.  New teacher pensions no longer included ANY cost of living adjustment.  When they make it to retirement what they start with will never change.  Current teachers had their COLAs frozen, using a formula which locked their COLAs (AKA raises) in place.  I am a good example.  On that ominous date I had completed 29 years and 1 month.  My future COLA went from the 3% which had been in place since 1974 to 2.91%.  It doesn’t seem like a big difference, but imagine a teacher with 10 years at that point- 1.0 percent or 20 years – or 2.0 %, and so on.  Consider the last few years when Social Security had little or no increase if you hadn’t gotten your annual raise to your pension.

So we are looking at a retirement that is far brighter than those who now struggle under all of the new work rules and testing while looking at vanishing step systems, replaced with performance pay.  I’m certain that it sickens all of you as much as it does me.  What scares me more than the reality is the number of educators who are unaware that their financial income and stability in retirement has been changed.  I attended the FEA convention two years ago and surveyed many of the activists who participated.  They generally had no idea what their pension originally was, let alone how it has been systematically reduced.  Most of us are teachers.  Imparting knowledge was what we are all about.  I believe that it has become an obligation upon all of us to make sure our working colleagues know what has happened.  We need to help make them aware that every vote they cast is critical toward restoring not just respect, but the lives they are “EARNING” in retirement.

This needs to become our mantra.  We all want our children to have better lives than we did.  Shouldn’t we work on behalf of our colleagues as well? Let activism become a part of our legacy.  At the very least we need to share what we all know about retirement and the importance of being aware of what is going on.


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The FEA-Retired Annual Meeting will be held on Thursday, October 26, at the Rosen Centre, Orlando.

You are invited to join your retired friends for a Dutch treat lunch at the Café Gauguin located at the Rosen Centre at 11:30. 

There will be a short Executive Board Meeting beginning at 1:00.  Following that, we will begin our Annual Meeting where we will:

  • Elect an FEA-Retired Secretary for the next two years
  • Elect District Directors from odd-numbered districts for the next two years
  • Present awards to FEA-Retired locals for membership, newsletter and
  • volunteer hours


The following are proposed bylaw changes presented by the FEA-Retired Executive Board:

Article IV, FEA-Retired Executive Board C, be amended to read:

  1.  The Executive Board shall, every third year, present for approval to the FEA Governance Board a plan which establishes director’s districts.
  2. Districts shall, as nearly as possible, guarantee the one-person/one vote concept.
  3. The Executive Board shall allocate district’s seats based on one-tenth of the FEA-Retired members per district based on membership as n January 15 of that year.
  4. Each of the districts must be contiguous, (Add: except for one statewide district for UFF Retired members.
  5. Directors shall run and be seated by the delegates within the district in which they reside.
  6. Directors from even-numbered districts shall be elected at the Annual Meeting in even years.  Directors from odd-numbered districts shall be elected at the Annual Meeting in odd years.

Article V – FEA-Retired Officers, G. Directors

  1. Add: In the case of too many missed meetings, the FEA-R President should send a letter to the board member stating that the member has missed too many meetings, and that the member would be replaced. However, the Executive Board member can appeal in writing and the appeal will be heard at the next Executive Board meeting.

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Florida Education Association Delegate Assembly


The FEA DA begins following our Annual Meeting.  We are proud to support our active and student educators at this meeting.  Please remember to:

  • Donate items to our Silent Auction.  Monies raised help our Innovative Grant Program.
  • Sell Raffle tickets for a lifetime membership.  These sales also fund our Grant Program.
  • Donate new and gently used books for classroom libraries which we give to the FYRE (Florida’s Young Remarkable Educators)

Congratulations to FEA-Retired members elected to represent us at the DA!

Automatic Delegates: B Grassel, Mattie Johnson, Daneen Regna, Marilyn Warner

Elected Delegates:

Ulysses Floyd

Kathy Bell

Bonnie Smith

Carolyn Underwood

Nancy Johnson

Jim Roney

Artie Leichner

Ruby Strickland

Jana Maples

Cecily Cain

Sheila Cootes

Rhea McKinney

Sophia Youngberg

Ethelstine Harris

Barbara Kaste

Ken Carpenter

Charles Moskowitz

Fran Pizza

Gerry Tiziani

Carole Apfel

Harrietta Willis

Phylllis Compton

Janet Portnow

Frank Roder

William Turner

Shirley Lloyd

Claudia Echelberger

Sara Fidel Burns

Felicia Bruce

Kathy Schenato

Pam Perry

Alternates in order of votes  Betsy Christy, Arlene Packard, Donna Wilker, Imani Betts, Mary Pellerin DeRossett, Rick Reece

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From Cecily Cain and Shelia Cootes, Innovative Grant Chairs

If you are not aware of our incredible Innovative Grant Program, please pay attention. This is FEA/R’s way of reminding teachers that when we leave the classroom, we really don’t go far. There are 2 grants available for each of our 10 districts, and they are awarded to any FEA members who come up with a creative use of $100 that will benefit their students. We are always amazed by the results. Several of our Districts have been so excited with their entries that they have made additional grants available. The grant application is very simple, and we are open to any suggestions to improve it. We have a form letter available that will thank those who did not win, and encourage them to try again. The application is available on our website, so just get the PR out!

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Marilyn Warner


This year the meetings were held in Boston.  Your delegates were Ulysses Floyd, Bonnie Smith, Ruby Strickland and me.  We enjoyed the business of the meetings and being together as we represented FEA-Retired.


NEA-Retired Annual Meeting

This was a two day meeting and everyone knew Florida was there!  Flamingos and palm trees decorated our table.


The three NEA Officers addressed the delegates.  President Lily Eskelsen –Garcia spoke to us, saying, “We are talking about some really tough stuff.  We need to figure out how to lead our members through the brutality of the times. Trump and DeVos have cut many programs beneficial to all of us….We need to face the brutal realities with no blinders.  Finding a moderate Republican is like finding an unicorn in Congress…Our work is cut out for us.  We need to keep hope alive; we will leave here knowing how we will fight and how we are going to organize…You are not our past; you are our current inspiration. Students have a union to join because of the legacy retirees have built.  Retirees are here fighting with us.  Our country is in danger.  Everything we love about our freedoms is in danger.  God bless you for not going away.”

Princess Moss, NEA Secretary/Treasurer gave us good news that retired membership is up over 4,000 members since last year.  The three major priorities of the NEA budget are Racial Justice, Education Voice, and Educator Engagement.

Becky Pringle, NEA Vice-President, praised retirees saying, “How courageous it is that retirees have members who will advance the work of the organization.  We cannot let the nightmare of this administration continue…I ask of you: Continue to share your expertise and experience with other members.  Share with people at home.  Contact legislators.  Share your stories.  We must get the word out and educate others... Retirees play a pivotal role in NEA’s priorities.  I am inspired by the depth of commitment of retirees to take on the priorities of NEA.  We are doing what is right for students.  We have no choice; we must stand up and speak out for what we know is right…  NEA-Retired, you may have stopped working, but your job is not done. We need you!”

Tom Curran, President of NEA-Retired, was term-limited this year.  In his address, he said, “The election is over.  You know what we have to do.  We have to fight harder than ever before.”  Tom mentioned Ulysses as one of Tom’s best friends and asked Ulysses to stand to be acknowledged.  He continued his speech saying, “I have made friends, best friends, with people all over the country.  Friendships are terribly important.  Keep that in mind as you meet new people…We must stick together to overcome the problems that lie ahead.”

Jim Testerman, Senior Director, NEA Center for Organizing, spoke about the M.O.R.E. program in Florida and how it has helped growth and involvement.  He also mentioned our retirees and their work with the New Education Campaign.

This year, FEA-Retired donated $1000+ to the Jack Kinnaman Scholarship Fund which was one of the largest donations from states. The total collected for the Kinnaman Fund was $9,332.  This is used for scholarships to college students.

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Big News!!!!  FEA-Retired received an award as the runner-up for the largest percentage increase in membership this year!!!


Sue Jones, NEA-R Executive Board, Marilyn, Ulysses, and Tom Curran, NEA-R President

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NEA Representative Assembly

What a thrill it is to walk in the RA!!  Over 10,000 educators were there to do the business of the union and to work together for what is best for our educators and students.

In her presidential message, Lily Eskelsen-Garcia said, “The election is over and we must find ways to cooperate with this administration…I will not allow this organization to be used by Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos…We will find common ground with many Republicans and Democrats…We come into this room unafraid to face the brute reality.  The most important question is, ‘What are we going to do about it?’…we can win; we have power and they know it.  We are a threat to them.  They will try to silence us.  We are there to fight and we know the power of our mission…We give this world the American Dream. This is what democracy looks like.”

Saul Ramos was chosen as the Education Support Professional of the Year.  He is a para-educator from Worchester, MA.  He was very passionate as he spoke about his profession, telling us, “It all began with hopes and dreams for my students…We don’t choose which students we work with.  ESP is the heart of education.  We do everything for the betterment of our students.  We don’t only change lives; we save lives. We are your connections to the students and parents.  We—teachers and ESP—must continue to work together for our students…When you have a calling, there is no stopping you.”

LeVar Burton was selected as the Friend of Education for this year.  He said, “I do not believe you get the support nor the compensation or support for this job…I do not understand the thinking of this administration.  It seems to be punitive and puny.  It does not make sense to me…I believe that what you have to offer is essential to this nation…Unless we support you in the best way, we do not get this job done…If we are going to turn this around, we need to be advocates for ourselves.  We must make our voices heard…I love you; I love what you do.”

Lily Eskelsen-Garcia, Becky Pringle and Princess Moss were reelected as NEA Officers.


New Business Items

More than 150 New Business Items were presented at the RA.  Some of the ones that passed were:

  • Advancing the rights of LGBTQ
  • Drafting legislation that can be used by every state to address concerns such as gerrymandering,reversing right to work and preserving pensions

NEA create articles and/or toolkits informing members of:

  • Detrimental effects of student random searches
  • Strong opposition to forced migration and deportations
  • Successful practices by states and locals to recruit and retain minority educators
  • Methods of creating outreach opportunities and building partnerships
  • Combating hate speech and actions
  • Foster school environment that affirm the gender diversity of students
  • Statement encouraging inclusion of anti-bias training as a component of teacher preparation programs
  • Information about the complex issue of human trafficking
  • NEA will oppose deportations and state that public school staff will decline cooperation with ICE officials or any official seeking immigration information
  • Urge members and public to join in efforts to demand Betsy DeVos answer questions posed by NEA President, Lily Eskelson-Garcia
  • Several NBIs promoting aspiring educators for future leadership roles
  • NEA mount a media campaign advocating preservation and extension of public schools and community college libraries be staffed with professionally trained librarians
  • NEA call for an immediate moratorium on charter school expansion
  • NEA will publicize our support of the right to Universal Health Care
  • Fund trainers for Applied Suicide Intervention Skills
  • Oppose Trump’s Muslim Travel ban
  • Request the resignation of Betsy DeVos
  • Direct NEA to look into the economic effect of establishing a dues structure based on the income for all members


Human and Civil Rights Dinner

One of the highlights of the RA was the HCR dinner.  This is a formal affair with about 1800 people attending.  The award winners were a phenomenal group of people who have made a difference in the lives of people all over the US.  It was an honor to meet them.


Ulysses and me at the HCR Dinner Your four representatives enjoying lobster!!


Hopefully, this report will let you know more about our days in Boston.  It was a pleasure to represent FEA-Retired at these meetings. 

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NEA Retired Annual Meeting and NEA-RA 2017 in Boston MA

By Dr. Gloria Bonnie Smith


First, I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to represent you this year! I will be following up on Marilyn's comprehensive report and will be adding some of my observations. We converged on downtown Boston following in the footsteps of our fearless leaders Marilyn and Ulysses! We were up at 7a.m. decorating our Florida table and preparing for our two day meeting.  Our messages from President Lily, Vice President Becky and Treasurer Moss had a common theme: These are dangerous times and we need to figure out how to lead.  NEA needs to stand together and strengthen the voices of the students from K-graduate school. We need to take action and not just focus on the defense. Educators need to make plans and join in at the web site myvoice@nea.org. Mary Kusler from the NEA advocacy center spoke on DeVos Education plan saying it had cut 14% of the educational budget, 22 federal educational programs would be cut, and more public money would go to private schools.  She urged everyone to continue putting pressure on Congress! On a high note, Florida was awarded the runner up award for percentage increase in membership. We had a 5.99% increase!

At the end of the meeting we had to gather together all of our belongings and move to the "Florida" headquarter hotel at the airport. Between RA's we were able to explore the cradle of freedom, see a Red Sox game and enjoy the Boston Pop's celebration.

Each morning we started with a FL. Caucus from 7-9AM then loaded on a bus to go to the NEA-RA meetings. Elections were held and Lily, Becky,  and Princess were re-elected. The NEA went over policy statements for Charter Schools giving the background, impact, overview, and acceptable policy. The policy passed that NEA would support public charter schools that are authorized and held accountable by the public school districts. Florida ranked in the top 5 states for charter students in 2014-15 with 251,825 students. The NEA-RA opened with a rousing fanfare from the Boston firefighters Pipes and Drum Corp and the Boston firefighters honor guard along with inspirational poetry reading by Boston students. During the four day events we went through 154 new business items,  11 standard rule amendments, 8 legislative amendments, 31 resolutions and  the new budget. Your team stayed throughout the meetings, sometime not returning to the hotel until after 8PM. We boarded our flights on Thursday ready for a rest but feeling proud that we had a chance to represent FEAR!

After all we are retired! (Aren't we?)


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