Dear Fellow CEA members,

As your Political Action Leader (PAL), here is a summary of the political action taken over the

past year by me as well as our members in the Chicopee Public Schools District:

“No on 2” Campaign

Before the school year began, “Yes on 2” received the endorsement from the most popular

Governor (Charlie Baker) in the U.S. and five (5) ballot question committees raised twice as

much money as the Save Our Public Schools Campaign (the only ballot question committee in

opposition). Polls last spring claimed public opinion was in favor of supporting Ballot Question

#2 and over the course of several months there were several TV advertisements and

newspaper editorials supporting “Yes on 2.”

Over the summer, in preparation for the grassroots effort to inform members of the Chicopee

community about Ballot Question #2, I attended a workshop in Northampton about best

practices for canvassing. CEA President Charles Clark spoke to the assembled faculty on

Convocation Day and requested their active participation in MTA’s grassroots campaign to

defeat Question #2. In Chicopee, our members:

Spent Saturdays over the summer, as well as during the months of September through

November, knocking on doors in various neighborhoods of Chicopee,

Attended phone banks hosted by MTA as well as the CEA,

Spoke to neighbors in their local communities about Ballot Question #2,

Attended Open Houses and manned information booths in order to inform parents about

Question #2.

On Election Day, the results of our members’ hard work were revealed: 62.1% of MA voters

said “No” to allowing state-appointed officials to approve 12 new charter schools every year. Of

the 23,650 Chicopee voters, 15,784 (66.74%) voted No. Our grassroots campaign was

successful in defeating this ballot question in a landslide victory for public schools.

CEA Contract Negotiations

CEA President Clark and the Members of the CEA Negotiation Committees for Units A

(teachers/coaches), B (supervisors/vice principals), D (secretaries/clerks), and E

(paraprofessionals/education support professionals) have worked diligently to negotiate with the

Chicopee School Committee for the learning conditions our students deserve. In order to do

this, the CEA:

Established a “Second Table” Committee: the members of this committee had one-one-
one conversations with CEA members in their respective buildings and reported back to

the CEA Negotiation Teams. The Second Table met periodically to receive updates

about how negotiations were going in order to update their members.

Attended a School Committee Meeting on April 5th

at Bellamy Middle School.

Established a Crisis Team when Unit A requested a mediator as negotiations stalled.

Kara Gauthier (Lambert-Lavoie School) is the leader of the Crisis Team.

In collaboration with Jobs with Justice (a coalition of community, faith and labor groups in

MA), CEA held a Rally for Public Education Forum (on June 6th

) for members the

Chicopee community about how Chicopee compares to other school districts on

spending money from their municipal budget for our students as well as our students’

learning conditions.

Local Political Action

As your PAL, I attended three Legislative Political Action Team Meetings this school year (5

were scheduled but one was cancelled due to inclement weather and I was in Boston during the

last meeting). Local state representatives and senators representing Holyoke, Chicopee,

Ludlow, and Springfield were usually in attendance to hear what educators have to say about

the decisions made by legislators at the state level. The meetings are open to the public and

are held at 1000 Wilbraham Rd (the Springfield Education Association Office), Springfield. I

also attended a Western MA Educator Action Training for PALs and other activists who live in

Western MA on April 29th

. I learned that the MTA recognizes that Chicopee is a very large

district and is willing to pay the stipend for an additional PAL. Are you interested? Speak to our

CEA President about the details.

I also attended a meeting (on May 11th

) with a group of educators, as well as a recent alumnus

of Chicopee Schools (Kelley Nguyen), that spoke to State Representative Joseph Wagner about

what is happening in Chicopee Public Schools. Representative Wagner listened to Kelley as

she described the student learning conditions in Chicopee High School and compared her

public education experience to her private education experience in college. He also listened to

educators describe their working conditions and the difficulty in negotiating with the School

Committee for a fair and equitable contract.

I also attended a meeting (on March 3rd

) held by a coalition of local union workers that met with

Senator Eric Lesser regarding new legislation he is proposing (which he refers to as, “Innovation

Partnership Zones”). The language of the proposed legislation would allow state appointed

officials to create charter schools in any district with a Level 3 or Level 4 school and are not held

accountable to the local school committee. Since 20% of all schools are automatically

designated Level 3, if they are in the bottom 20% based on performance measures tied to state

testing, this legislation could potentially allow charter schools to be allowed in ~370 different

school districts (including Chicopee). This legislation would not change how the charters

receive their funding under the law, so that means public money from taxpayers will be sent to

private education organizations with no accountability to elected representatives. Senator

Lesser states that his legislation is an attempt to provide protection to those schools that are

Level 4 and are under threat of being taken over by the state; he has not changed his opinion

after listening to several teachers’ concerns.

MTA Annual Meeting

The MTA Delegates representing the CEA attended the Annual Meeting of Delegates on May

19th

. The CEA sent the maximum number of delegates allowed by the MTA Bylaws and also

participated in a March for Public Education in Boston on May 20th

. Members of the MTA and

fellow supporters of the public education system in Massachusetts marched from the Hynes

Convention Center, down Boylston Street, to the Boston Common and held a public

demonstration celebrating public education in the Commonwealth. It was a beautiful day!

Respectfully submitted for the Wednesday, June 14th, 2017 Board of Directors Meeting,

Jason Surprise, your PAL.

About Ben Eisen