Birth of a Local Retired Chapter

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                                             By Wes Hanna – CD2 Director, Education Minnesota Retired

Helen Keller once wrote, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”  

It has been a winding road but, with the support of our local and state chapters, retired teachers in the south metro have formed an organization dedicated to making our lives, the schools, and the community better.

Many retirees often feel disconnected from the union once they retire.  Conversely, the union loses the talents and energy of retired members.  The Burnsville Education Association (BEA), an affiliate of Education Minnesota, initiated a retired position on its Executive Board in the late 1990’s.  Paul Berge, a fellow retiree, and I asked BEA president Wendy Drugge-Wuensch to appoint us to the vacant retiree representative position on the BEA Executive Board.  Both of us had been active at both the local and state level of the union.  The motivations were many: political activity, community outreach, senior issues activism, and historical leadership perspective among them.  We were enthusiastically welcomed by the President and the Executive Board.  Wendy took the time to meet with us, asked for our input on bargaining issues, and offered to support our organizing activities.

We planned a fall social to help locate and organize fellow BEA retirees.  The BEA paid the costs of the mailings and the social itself.  We attracted a group of about seventy-five retirees using mailing lists that spanned ten years and person to person contact.  Those who attended were enthused about the get-together and were interested to hear about the latest news regarding the school district.

Paul and I decided, with the BEA Board and President, that we needed to continue organizing.  The BEA could no longer help fund us so we decided on a Spring Social with a fee charged.  The same mailing list, though updated, was used along with the email addresses we had.  At that Spring Social we did a short survey and collected emails in a much more organized manner.  We had forty attendees and we recruited retirees to serve on a steering committee.

Our organizing efforts have continued with grants from Education Minnesota Retired and dues collected at our bi-annual meetings.  We have managed to lengthen and refine our email list, an important aspect to keeping retirees involved.  We have designed the spring meeting to be mostly social with a limited amount of information shared and the meeting in the fall has become our business and program meeting.  Our meeting programs have included pension presentations, political appearances, a “student mentorship in the schools” initiative, and continuing presentations on the current and future operations and in ISD 191along with current news.  Our group has also been interested in being informed on future plans in the school district.

At the fall meeting in 2017, we become official by ratifying a constitution and by-laws and electing officers (President and Vice President.)  We have since obtained a charter from Education Minnesota Retired and appointed a treasurer as well.

Our goals, operations, and membership have evolved.  We have decided to be both a political and service-oriented organization.  We will continue to provide social opportunities for members but wish to be defined by our political and social activism.  The numbers at our bi-annual meeting have become stable at between 30 and 40 attendees.  We have been active in political campaigns and BEA work actions and events.  We have found that our members are most interested in keeping up with their former schools and colleagues, and with their fellow retirees.  We know we have the potential to have a positive impact at the local community and school level, and also at a wider state and national level.  We are excited for the opportunity to make a difference in retirement.