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Nominations and Speeches at WVEA Delegate Assembly 2020

Emily Tanzey's Speech Nominating Jay O'Neal for WVEA President

It is my honor and privilege to nominate Jay O’Neal for President of WVEA. Even though Jay and I may work in communities hours away from each other, we share common goals: to make our state better, our schools safer, our profession more respected, and our union stronger. 

Jay has served our community of educators in many roles. He has worked as a Special Ed Aide, and has taught both English and Social Studies. He has served as treasurer of the Kanawha County Education Association since 2016, and has grown his local. When Jay first arrived at his middle school, there was only one other WVEA member. Now, there are 27.

Jay is an organizer who has a deep understanding of the needs of workers within our school system, and a profound ability to bring people from many walks of life together.

In 2017, he recognized that our county and union lines were dividing us, and created the WV Public Employees United Facebook group. This group brought thousands of teachers, service personnel, and retirees together, to push for a state-wide work stoppage. Without the communication that Jay enabled, it’s very likely that we’d be paying a lot more for PEIA right now. 

Jay’s vision of organizing helped kick off a movement that reached beyond our state. After our strike, he worked with Arizona educators to create & manage their own social media groups that became the cornerstone of their labor action. Since then, he has spoken with groups of educators nationally and globally, about the power of unions and the strength of solidarity. 

As recognition for being one of the “thinkers, doers and visionaries whose ideas are driving politics,” Jay was named to Politico Magazine’s ”Politico 50” in 2018, and, in 2019, was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the world. 

But truthfully, Jay has remained passionate about strengthening the voices of education professionals here at home. Through his work with the WV United Caucus, he helped put together the state’s first Troublemakers School, offering organizing training for members of ANY union.  He helped organize the 2019 State of the Schools Walk-Ins, highlighting the need for more mental health services in our schools. In June of 2019, when the House debuted their “new” omnibus bill, and rushed to push it through, Jay stepped up and called for the public hearing on the bill. 

And COVID-19 hasn’t slowed him down—since this pandemic started, he’s helped organize zoom forums about counseling students, supporting students in poverty, collective bargaining, and the impending budget crisis.

Jay is a fighter who works tirelessly toward his vision of bringing educators together, to strengthen & empower our voices. 

In 2020, I can think of no one better to lead our organization into the future than Jay O’Neal. 

Jay O'Neal's Speech Accepting the Nomination for WVEA President

Thank you, Emily, and I accept your nomination.

I’m running for president because I want the WVEA to be powerful. How do we get back to a much bigger WVEA with more engaged members? We follow the lessons from our 2018 strike.

In 2018, we had a battle to fight. PEIA rates were going to almost double for many of us. We had been lobbying the legislature year after year, but were getting nowhere. We decided to step up and do something about it. We organized. We talked to co-workers about the cuts, planned Red for Ed days and walk-ins before school, and we had informational pickets around our counties. Before long, the entire state knew there was a problem with PEIA because of the work we did. We were united. Not just within WVEA, within our entire community of teachers and service personnel. After years of watching the legislature play our unions against each other, we knew this fight was going to take all of us. In every county - WVEA, AFT, WVSSPA, and unaffiliated teachers and service personnel worked TOGETHER - our affiliations didn’t matter because we were all facing the same problem. We were led from the bottom-up. In early 2018, we didn’t wait on someone else to save us. We called meetings, and we decided upon action. You in our southern counties led the way when you took votes and walked out. Soon, the rest of us followed. And when leadership made a deal to end the strike without consulting the members, we led the way again. We called meetings, talked to teachers and service personnel in our counties, and decided to stay out until the bill was signed into law. It was the right call, and it saved the strike.

Now, we’re facing a pandemic that’s going to have giant ramifications for our schools. There are already huge budget shortfalls that mean cuts for schools, services, and PEIA. We have a battle to fight, and I know that WVEA teachers and service personnel can lead the way. If we follow the lessons from the strike, we will win. It’s not time to go back to the pre-strike ways of doing things. We need change, and we’ve got to be an organizing union. I’m running for president to be the “organizer in chief”— I will work to bring us all together to fight the impending cuts and attempts to privatize our schools through charters and virtual programs.

We know what a powerful union is because we experienced it. Let’s build on the momentum of our strikes to empower our locals and lead from the bottom-up. Please vote for me, Nicole, Jenny, Leslie, and Daniel as we move WVEA into a stronger future. Thank you.

Adam Culver's Speech Nominating Nicole McCormick for WVEA Vice President

I would like to make a nomination for Vice President.

The teacher I am nominating is highly regarded by her local EA, having served in every leadership position during the course of her 10 year career. She received the Heart award from her local for recruiting the most members, and for her overall dedication to the union. She organizes events and chairs committees. She is extremely active in her county PAC. Her local, Mercer County EA, has elected her as delegate to our Delegate Assembly multiple times; and she has also been elected to represent WVEA at the NEA Representative Assembly on multiple occasions. She currently serves on WVEA’s PAC steering committee, and is present today as both delegate and President of Mercer County Education Association. She is Nicole McCormick, and I nominate her for the position of Vice President of WVEA.

To know Nicole is to be inspired by her. Perhaps it is because of her work as a music teacher and talented vocalist, her training while gaining her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Concord University, or her experiences as a mother of four, that make Nicole such an effective and impassioned speaker. Nicole lifts those around her to be their best selves, and enables them to do so through her positivity and drive. She is not afraid to show her emotions, and she understands the power in doing so, and has the skills to harness that power. This particular quality has led to Nicole being invited to conferences around the globe to share the story of WV educators and our historic strikes. It has also made her a powerful voice for us here at home in the fight against privatization and austerity cuts. She does. Not. Back. Down.

Beyond her passion for music, family, and our union, Nicole is a highly organized leader (One has to be in order to lead a group of middle school musicians). Membership and communication within Mercer EA have grown under Nicole’s watch, leading to a more informed and more active local. Being a Mercer County native, I’m particularly proud of what she has helped cultivate there.

All of that being said, I am proud to nominate a proud, career-long WVEA member, Public Education Advocate, and Musical Mountain Momma, Nicole McCormick to the position of Vice President.

Nicole McCormick's Speech Accepting the Nomination for WVEA Vice President

Thank you, Adam, for nominating me with such a kind and thoughtful speech. I truly appreciate your friendship, and your commitment to WVEA.

My very first day of teaching, I knew to find my building rep so I could join the union. I knew this because my grandpa was a UMWA member. After surviving my first two years of teaching, I became more than just a dues-paying member. A friend asked me to be a building rep because I was the music teacher and I got to see everyone.

I love people, I love my students, and I love our profession, so WVEA was the perfect home for me. That’s what our union is to me… it’s my home. And that’s why I’m running for Vice President. During times of uncertainty and strife I’ve been able to cling to the strength our union provides.

In the summer of 2017, I was drowning. After years of serving my local in every leadership position available, and fighting alongside my union brothers and sisters, I was tired. I felt hopeless, that things were only going to get worse and we were helpless to stop it. Then something amazing and unexpected happened. PEIA rolled out their new plan to get their money, and WV public employees started talking to each other.

Sharing those things that we were all afraid to talk about: how we don’t really make it payday to payday, how we are forced deny our kids the lessons and special things they want because we simply can’t afford it, that we don’t go to the doctor when we need to because the $20 co-pay is just too much. I always thought it was a personal failing, that I was broken one. But it’s hard to believe that 20,000 other people are broken too.

I woke up. I knew we weren’t the problem… the system was broken. Because of our pain, our honesty, really our bravery we stood together and made history. Our WV Educators Strike of 2018 changed my life. I realized that my voice and voices of the thousands of other educators were important. I knew that I couldn’t go back to hopelessness because now I not only had the 20,000 plus WV educators with me, I had the world at my back.

We will NEVER have the money that politicians and public education destroying groups like ALEC have, but we will ALWAYS have more people. We are the many and they are the few. Our power lies in talking to each other: sharing our struggles, our anger, our grief and even our desperation, but most importantly our power is found within us fighting together. We will no longer be silent. We will fight, and we will WIN!

I am talking to the most powerful people I know, the people who are willing to fight, and that know our union is strongest when we listen to each other.

My name is Nicole McCormick. I’m a proud West Virginian, teacher, mother, and WVEA member. I would be HONORED to serve as your Vice President. Thank you.

Brendan Muckian-Bates' Speech Nominating Jenny Craig for WVEA Executive Committee

Delegates and fellow educators.

I am speaking to you today to nominate my friend and my local president, Jenny Craig, for WVEA Executive Committee.

Jenny is a passionate, committed leader who, simply put, won’t quit. I first met Jenny soon after the 2018 strike when I was leading a discussion in Wheeling about the effects the strike had on us as educators and what we wanted to see the PEIA Task Force complete. Jenny was eager to assist and began reaching out to our group to see how she could do more.

From then on, Jenny has been an active member in the Ohio Valley, in our caucus, and in WVEA. During a strike at a local factory in Glen Dale, Jenny worked with local labor organizations to raise money for grocery gift cards as well as backpacks and supplies for striking workers’ children as they returned to school in August. She has worked closely with the local Central Labor Council, despite not being a member herself, because Jenny embodies the belief that, “An injury to one is an injury to all.”

She led an amazing team of volunteer organizers to oust Senator Ryan Ferns in the midterm elections and has brought together a coalition of unions in the Ohio Valley to canvass, find common ground, and raise money for charitable causes.

Not only is Jenny an amazing organizer, she is also an indefatigable leader. Jenny has given talks across the US, emphasizing the work that West Virginia’s educators are doing to protect our students and improve public schools. She has worked diligently to connect educators from Seattle to Chicago and from Virginia to Los Angeles, always focused on the task of building bridges and finding common ground.

As a local president, Jenny is a fearless leader fighting against a bulwark of vindictive board members. Jenny ensures that members are routinely updated about board meetings, she works to get more and more members out to meetings to keep a union presence always at the ready, and checks in personally with all members to see how they’re doing.

Jenny is personable and passionate, tireless and tactful, graceful and gritty. If we’re fortunate, we have the opportunity to meet a Jenny once in our lifetimes. Luckily for us, we have the chance to elect her as a leader in our association. I am forever grateful that I have met Jenny and believe within my heart of hearts that her passion will be a guiding light for rank-and-file members eager to participate but afraid that they’re alone.

It is my honor and my privilege to nominate Jenny Craig for WVEA executive committee.

Jenny Craig's Speech Accepting the Nomination for WVEA Executive Committee

My name is Jenny Craig and I’m a proud WVEA member. In my time serving our union I have served as building rep, PAC committee member, delegate to DA, and a representative to the NEA-RA. I have been the Ohio County Education Association president for the past two years and was re-elected to serve this coming year.

I became local president after helping to organize Ohio County during the 2018 strike because I saw a tremendous opportunity to serve my union and make our local even stronger. I wanted increase not only membership and participation, but our influence to our board of education and larger community.

I am proud of that work that we have been doing. Since becoming president, I have also collaborated with other local trade and labor unions and OCEA now attends and contributes to our monthly Central Labor Council meetings. The solidarity and cooperation that our local has with AFT, WVSSPA, and local unions has been invaluable; we have supported other unions on strike, worked extremely hard to get pro-labor and pro-education candidates elected, and have raised money for many community organizations. I would love to see this grow statewide.

I would also love to see real ground level organizing work being done on the county level to support each local. The power and strength of a union comes from strong members and locals. If elected, I would work to make sure each county has to tools, supports, and resources needed to support its members, from school level issues to board of education level conflicts. I want to a way forward that further empowers members to become leaders in their locals and at the state level. I would love to visit counties to talk to and check in with members to hear their concerns and I’ll work to find ways to support our overworked ODS.

I would also like to help implement better means of communication within WVEA, from updating information, increasing the use of technology, creating a process for increased member engagement like opening opportunities for members to attend the many conferences, trainings, committees, and that WVEA and NEA have to offer. I know that it takes all of us, I know that it takes all of us to rise up and to step up, because we all are the union, that it takes all of us working together, and that is our power.

I am running for executive committee because I love WVEA and want to help make it even stronger.

Rachel Reardon's Speech Nominating Leslie Haynes for WVEA Executive Committee

My name is Rachel Reardon, and I am a proud nine-year member of WVEA from Brooke County. It is my privilege to nominate Dr. Leslie Haynes, a Title 1 Reading Specialist from Jackson County, for the position of at-large delegate to the executive committee.

I first met Leslie in 2016 when, having never even met me in person, she offered to drive me to NEA Representative Assembly in Washington DC after I was stuck in a transportation conflict. Along with our West Virginia cohort, we shared a great learning experience during our time in DC. Even though we live close to three hours apart, we have remained friends ever since. 

Leslie moved to West Virginia from New York in 1996, which is the same year she became a WVEA member. She has served our association and the students of Jackson County for 24 years. Leslie holds a Master's Degree, Doctorate in Education, and National Board Certification. 

In regard to WVEA, Leslie is an active local member of Jackson County Education Association. In the past, she has served as an Association Representative, Secretary, and President and currently serves as the local Vice President. At the state level, Leslie has gained valuable experience from serving on both the Member Rights & Responsibilities, PAC Steering, and Budget Committees. Leslie has represented Jackson County at past Delegate Assemblies and the state of West Virginia at two NEA Representative Assemblies. Leslie is a regular lobbyist at the Capitol in Charleston, and she assisted in organizing the teacher strikes in Jackson County in 2018 and 2019. 

Leslie hopes to serve WVEA members at a higher level by being elected to the Executive Committee. Given her current and past experience, she is excited about this next step. Leslie wants to engage with individual members and locals across the state to help them have a more powerful voice. Leslie hopes to help locals activate and engage their members in order to increase unity and strength. Additionally, Leslie wants to use her organizing experience to increase member and local cohesiveness across the entire state. 

Once again, it is my privilege to nominate Dr. Leslie Haynes for the position of at-large delegate to the Executive Committee.

Leslie Haynes' Speech Accepting the Nomination for WVEA Executive Committee

Thank you, Rachel, for your nomination. Your words are humbling and your friendship and confidence mean the world to me.

Thank you, as well, to our current leadership, as you have faced many challenges and you have persevered through the anti-public education climate that we continue to battle. I am proud to be a member of the West Virginia Education Association.

I am running for Executive Committee because I love my union and want to work for our membership in a larger capacity. My vision is for an even stronger WVEA.

In listening to our members across the state, I have been awakened to member needs and priorities. We need ALL of our members to be most effective. ALL of our members are valuable and important. We need to represent all walks of life because the diversity of our membership is stunning and inspiring.

In 2018, we showed the world what we can do when we unite to fight for public education and the students we prioritize with such determination, and I couldn’t have been more awed at the work we accomplished, from getting the attention of our lawmakers to gaining the respect of the public to setting off the fireworks of the education labor movement across the world. The image of the wave of red shirts at our State House is forever seared in my memory. Right now this strength is merely hibernating. Together, we can make our state, our beautiful West Virginia, the very best place for our children – and our children’s children - to grow up. Together, we can show our legislature that we are, indeed, for our children first, whether we are addressing employee salaries and benefits, school funding, policy, academics, or safety.

I believe our association must be member-driven and that together we are stronger. If you choose to elect me to our Executive Committee, I promise I will be your voice. Even if I were to disagree with you, and I am certain there will be those times, I will listen and discuss any situation or perspective, and strive to make your voice heard at all levels of our association.

If you choose to elect me, I will help grow the WVEA through rank-and-file, bottom-up leadership. I believe in strengthening and uniting locals and that public education should not suffer funding cuts from the current Covid-19 pandemic or for any other reason. Because members should propel the direction of the union, I will be accessible to all members at any time and will work diligently to resolve issues as they arise.

Without the active participation of our members, our association becomes stagnant, and we are simply too good for that. I am eager to speak for you and to support your work to ensure that we are the best WVEA we can be.

I would be honored to earn your confidence. Please consider voting for me, Leslie Haynes, for the WVEA Executive Committee. I am ready to serve you. Thank you.

Sara Ballengee's Speech Nominating Daniel Hodges for WVEA Executive Committee

It is my privilege to nominate Daniel Hodges for the WVEA Executive Committee. Daniel has served the Mercer County Education Association as a multi term vice president, PAC chair, former PAC treasurer, building representative, and the vice chair of the levy support committee.

Daniel has also served as a delegate at the delegate assembly and representative assembly. Daniel has been teaching since 2012 and is certified in science, biology, library media, and as a technology integration specialist. He has a master’s degree in education and STEM. He sponsors an in-school news station and robotics club. Daniel is very active in his school community and makes it a point to attend as many school events as possible.

Daniel has many strengths, but his biggest strength is his drive to find a solution, set up a plan, and to execute the solution. Daniel does not procrastinate; he does not hope problems will go away on their own. He is an individual that wants to help make things better. Daniel is a technology integration specialist. He hopes to transfer those skills to helping WVEA advance technology use including updating our website, creating a membership portal, and provide more tools to support local education associations.

WVEA is a strong organization with an active membership, an honorable mission, and the opportunity to continue to grow and evolve. Daniel Hodges will be an asset to WVEA and its membership as a member of the WVEA executive committee.

Daniel Hodges' Speech Accepting the Nomination for WVEA Executive Committee

I am not one to brag on myself and want to thank Sara Ballengee for the nomination and the wonderful introduction. I accept her nomination of myself for Executive Committee.

Instead, what I would like to do is describe how technology could improve local Education Associations.

Imagine each LEA with their own webpage listing each school and workplace with building reps contact information, with local presidents and officers contact information. Imagine constitutions and bylaws online and readily accessible. Imagine new officers having online access to toolkits that describe their positions and help guide their efforts.

Imagine that the WVEA spearheads these efforts on behalf of our local LEAs. That is what I wish to do, and with your vote, I will pledge to work with the Executive Committee to bring these changes into being.

Once again, thank you Sara Ballengee for the nomination, and thank you to the other members of the West Virginia United Caucus slate - Jay O’Neal, Nicole McCormick, Jenny Craig, and Leslie Haynes - for allowing me to be a part of their slate. Embrace technology and our slate of candidates for a positive change. Thank you for your time!

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