Although it’s been around since the late 1980s, the Queen Creek Education Association is taking a more active presence this school year.
The group elected board officers for the first time in seven years in September and is seeking more Queen Creek Unified School District teachers and support staff to become members, said Jennifer Holland, the association’s president.
The new board members attended last week’s school board meeting. The Queen Creek group, which has 53 members, wants to be available to assist the district with any issues that may arise.
“Right now we’re trying to get information to our district and to our teachers, specifically about No Child Left Behind and the new and ever-changing English Language Learner laws,” said Holland, an eighth-grade language arts teacher at Queen Creek Middle School. “We want to eventually start bargaining for teacher’s salaries. We want to keep Queen Creek attractive to educators.”
The education association is a professional organization that’s as close to a union as staff can get in this state, said Jim Ireland, the association’s middle school vice president.
“My goal is to work with our administration and all the teachers and make a better atmosphere,” said Ireland, a seventh-grade science teacher at Queen Creek Middle School. “This is a big deal for us to be well accepted in the community. Our goal is to make the educational environment better. If you have happy teachers, you have happy classrooms.”
The association’s officers also include: high school vice president Sandy Sundstrom, a Queen Creek High School orchestra teacher; secretaries Sandy Fite and Robin Arnold, history teachers at Queen Creek Middle School; and treasurer Kathy Olmstead, an eighth-grade language arts teacher at the middle school.
Members pay monthly dues for the voluntary association. Available benefits include health and auto insurance, vacation discounts, educational materials, legal protection, networking opportunities and bargaining processes for salaries and working conditions.
The Queen Creek Education Association is a local branch of the Arizona Education Association, which is under the National Education Association. Deb Hilmoe-Jurgens, an organizational consultant employed by the state association, is assigned to work with Queen Creek’s group.
“Usually when an organization forms, it’s because teachers want a say or want to be a part of the decision-making process in the local school district,” she said. “I’m just so proud of them (Queen Creek) that they’re trying to build their own professional organization.”
As Queen Creek grows, so have many of the East Valley education associations in the last few years, Hilmoe-Jurgens said. For example, the Higley Education Association had just seven members four years ago and now has more than 300 members.
The next meeting of the Queen Creek Education Association will be at 4 p.m. Dec. 11 in room C-4 at Queen Creek Middle School, 20435 S. Ellsworth Road. For information, call (602) 614-3595 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.