By Bill Guy
Steele Canyon Charter Education Association members (left to right) Joseph Schramm, Dominic Dirksen and Mike Ritter engage in a workshop at the organizing seminar in San Diego.
“Our goal in coming to this seminar is to learn strategies for helping our members see the value in our association, so that when we need to activate or motivate them, the infrastructure is already in place,” said Dominic Dirksen, president of the Steele Canyon Charter Education Association (SCCEA), about his local’s participation in the Region 4 Organizing Seminar held Feb. 19-20 in San Diego, the ninth annual such event in the region.
SCCEA members Joseph Schramm, Mike Ritter and Dirksen met with colleagues from all over the region, including the Association of Colton Educators, the Coachella Valley Teachers Association, the Corona-Norco Teachers Association, the Lake Elsinore Teachers Association, the Ocean View Teachers Association, the Redlands Teachers Association, the Rialto Education Association, the San Bernardino Teachers Association, and the Santa Ana Educators Association.
Members — along with their CTA primary contact staff persons — joined together for this organizing seminar designed to help teams of local association leaders tackle specific organizing challenges typically faced by chapters.
Participants from the Rialto Education Association, including Deborah McKenzie, Penny Robinson, Rebecca Barbee and Laura Kelly, said their objective was to get back to the basics of organizing a more involved association, rather than organizing around specific crises that events of the last few years have necessitated. “We were able to help elect three new board members last fall, resulting in the resignation of a hostile superintendent the very next day,” said Robinson, “and now we hope to mend some fences as well as build on the momentum to strengthen our association overall.”
Funded by a CTA special projects grant with additional support this year from CTA’s Community Outreach Department, the seminar was coordinated by a group of Region 4 staff headed by Region 4 organizer Tim Hill. The agenda included the presentation of a variety of topics designed to give participants cutting-edge tools, coupled with plenty of time for them to work together as teams on their self-selected organizing projects. Part of the extended process includes regular follow-ups to assess and make adjustments toward achieving their goals.
Denise Loera and Robert Rodriguez, participants from the San Bernardino Teachers Association, agreed that the seminar was extremely beneficial in helping them to clarify and plan for achieving their goal of empowering their local’s site reps in locations where they work with hostile administrators. Said Loera, “Being able to share ideas with colleagues in meetings like this is very validating.”