Spotlight on Locals: Reedsburg Education Association

WEAC Vice President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen presents Reedsburg Education Association President Rachel Burkel with the WEAC Strong Local Affiliate Recognition Certificate. They are joined by Reedsburg Education Association leaders (left to right) Corrine Fish, Ann Schmitt, Chris Christensen, Debbie Schell, Trista Henke, Sarah Speich, and Jenny Fish.

By Peggy Wirtz-Olsen, WEAC Vice President

Trista Henke, seventh-grade social studies teacher and Reedsburg Education Association past president, told me, “The strength of the Reedsburg Education Association is its foundation. Labor conflicts between the Reedsburg School Board and the Reedsburg Education Association dating back to the 1960s and 1970s built the base of our union. Leaders before me, like Bill Gronley and Joe Ketter, deserve credit for building this solid foundation. Now, it’s up to us to keep it strong.”

“We stay strong as a local because we support each other,” said Ann Schmitt who has had many roles in the district in her 28 years there, but currently serves as an interventionist; she is also the Reedsburg Education Association’s current treasurer. “While we may not be the largest local in Wisconsin, we continue to support one another, which keeps us strong,” Ann told me.

“Our membership is just over 50%,” Trista said, “and there is room for us to grow as a local association.” The Reedsburg Education Association recognizes that membership growth requires trained leaders, and they have taken advantage of free trainings offered by WEAC by attending WEAC’s Organizing Institute for Anchor Locals last January. They are building plans for their future and finding ways to create membership growth.

As far as successes for the Reedsburg Education Association go, Trista said that maintaining their seat at the table is important.  Trista shared, “We continue to meet monthly with our administration to discuss our needs and concerns, and they listen.”

Ann echoed that sentiment saying, “We have a good relationship with administration and our school board. They listen to us. And while we don’t always see eye to eye, they hear us. Many of our members who teach here, also live here. Many of us grew up in this community or nearby. We care about our students and this community.”

Another strength of the Reedsburg Education Association is its connection to the community. During recent flooding, Ann said, “The members volunteered their time in the areas surrounding Reedsburg by helping local businesses and the library in filling sandbags and removing books and other items before the waters rose. This led to much less damage in many areas.”

“In our area, the school is the core of the community,” Ann added, “and it extends out from there. Our teachers are known and recognized in our community as an integral part.”

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