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Local NEA unit using team leadership approach

10/18/2012

By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

The Hays-NEA is taking a team approach to leadership this year.

Though Kim Schneweis and Gay Flax are co-presidents, an administrative council serves as a leadership team.

"We all work together," Schneweis said.

Flax is new to the leadership team, but Schneweis co-chairs the bargaining team and is a member of the labor management committee.

Other members of the administrative council are Ted Foster, Tara O'Connor and Eva Junk.

Members of the teachers union must be certified staff from Hays USD 489, and the membership elects council members in the spring. Their terms rotate, but each serves two years.

"Certain people will take over certain events," Schneweis said.

For instance, Foster organizes the master teacher nominations and elections, and retirement reception. O'Connor works with the membership, and Junk does public relations and organizes the new teacher reception.

"We work communicating with members about labor management meetings, and gathering and sharing information," Schneweis said. "The negotiation process goes on all year."

While the bargaining team is made up of H-NEA members, they represent the bargaining unit, which is all USD 489 certified staff.

"We represent everybody in negotiations because we have to by law," Schneweis said. "We are the voice of the bargaining unit."

The council provides information on issues of interest to educators, said Kathy Rome, director of Cottonwood UniServ of the Kansas NEA. The Cottonwood UniServ covers northwest Kansas.

Each building in the district has at least one representative, and they usually are members' first contact, Foster said.

"We usually are aware of it and communicate with the building rep once a month, but that building rep is their first line if they have any questions or concerns," he said.

"The state election is a big concern to us," Schneweis said. "Based on some of the things that happened to teachers unions in other states, we have reason to believe some of those threats could become reality in Kansas depending on how the election goes next month."

"KNEA is the only teachers association that stands up and fights for the rights of teachers. ... KPERS came out better than it could have because of KNEA and the members who were talking to their legislators," Rome said.

"The union is the group of people. At the local level, they're your teachers that are working," Foster said. "They're not just working their contract time, they're coming in before school, after school meetings. The community needs to know that. There are hard working teachers in this district that put a lot of time and energy into the betterment of our students and the community as a whole."