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From July 3-7, 2019, Medina Delegates Bradley Dalzell, Katie Shaffer, and Stephani Itibrout attended the 2019 National Education Association Representative Assembly in Houston, Texas.  The NEA is the largest labor organization in the United States, and we had about 9,000 people there to prove it. You can read the first and second post by clicking here and here

Today’s post is about one of the most exciting days of the RA: the Presidential Candidates Forum.  Our NEA President, Lily Eskelsen Garcia, had extended invitations to any candidate to talk to our Assembly. Ten Democrats responded to her invitation, and we were able to hear from all of them.  


There were strict rules to follow, and just about every speaker tried to break them, but Lily doesn’t put up with that, so it was great to see that we stayed on schedule. First, the candidate had one minute to say whatever she/he wanted. Then, the candidate had to respond to three questions from our members, and she/he had three minutes per question. Ten minutes per candidate= one hour, forty minutes away from New Business Items (which we had to complete by the end of the RA), so it was very important to keep to the time limits. 

Here is a video of the candidates’ speeches and responses to members’ questions.

We heard from Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Beto O’Rourke, Julian Castro, Amy Klobuchar, Tim Ryan (from Ohio!), Jay Inslee, Bill DeBlasio, and Kamala Harris.  Click here for a recap from the NEAToday Page.


Here are some of my takes from the forum (These are my opinions, and they do not reflect the opinions of my union or my employer):


1. All candidates spoke pretty well considering the time constraint. It isn’t easy to stick to one minute for your platform.


2. Bernie Sanders was the first to speak, and he tried to go over the time limit, even after Lily explained the rules. He said, “Can I say just one more thing?” and she responded, “No, sorry,” and escorted him offstage. He wasn’t the only one who tried, and Lily’s strategy was that when a candidate reached the time limit, we would all clap very loudly to let him/her know that time was up. They all got the hint right away.


3. The floor of the RA looked great! We were all dressed in red to show the #RedforEd movement, and we all had clappers. We were a pretty enthusiastic bunch, with lots of cheering and ovations.


4.  There were a few boos. Beto O’Rourke thought it was appropriate to mention that he supports charter schools.  


5.  Kamala Harris was the last to speak, and she almost didn’t make it. She was flying in at the very last minute, and her car got stuck in traffic, so she jumped out of it and ran through the huge convention hall to the stage.  She was completely out of breath, and I’m pretty sure it threw her off since she didn’t really have time to recover.  She was still good, though.


I was happy to hear from all the candidates at one time because it definitely gave me a firm idea of where they stand and what I would like to research further. It was incredibly exciting to be in that forum, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity.

If you followed our journey at the RA in Boston, you will know that I stalked Lily Eskelsen Garcia until I could get her picture because I admire her so much.

Boston 2017


Another person I greatly admire is our NEA Vice President, Becky Pringle. I made it my mission to get a picture with her this year. To that end, I bugged our Ohio VP (now our President!) to introduce me, and he came through!

Scott DiMauro, Me, Becky Pringle



Here is something else I enjoyed about the Assembly: I wrote in an earlier post that I was on the Communications Committee. What that meant was that I carried cards around our part of the RA floor that reminded members how we voted on New Business Items in our morning caucus. It was a fun job because I got to walk around rather than sit on my butt during voting. It was also tricky because I had to pay attention to our leaders, who were following new language when Items were amended. Often they had to decide quickly on whether the amended language reflected the feeling of our vote in caucus, and then they gave me a signal on which card to carry around. 

These are the cards used to notify the members.
Here I am informing the Ohio members that our leadership recommends voting down an amendment.

There were a LOT of New Business Items, more than 140 of them. We lost quite a bit of time with our Candidates Forum (which was of course totally worth it), so we were all a bit nervous about how we were going to finish the voting before the end of the Assembly. On the last day we had a ton of NBIs still left.

The face you make when you think you will be there forever because there are a bunch of NBIs left.

We did manage to get bogged down for a while in Points of Information and some stubborn insistence of bringing back NBIs we had already rejected.  Then Lily woke us up a bit, and we were able to be more efficient. We finished all NBIs this year with a gavel down well before the deadline!

The face you make when you realize that you are going to finish in time.

All in all, it was an exhausting but fun–and definitely productive–time at the National Education Association 2019 Representative Assembly. I am so grateful to my local, Medina City Teachers Association, for sending me as one of our delegates.


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