Using MSEA’s Innovative Engagement and Organizing (IEO) Grant as a catalyst, Frederick County teachers have jump-started a member-to-member outreach program that pairs experienced activists with newly ignited members for school-based organizing and mobilizing.
“Now,” says grant writer Jonathan Araujo, chair of the Frederick County Teachers Association’s (FCTA) school representative committee, “we can show less-active members the power of a one-on-one meeting with members and non- members. And it builds on our base of members for future visits.
By connecting one-on-one with a wider range of members from varying backgrounds and grade levels, we are building a stronger base for all of our campaigns and initiatives.”
The organizing group does some great advance work to set the stage for the outreach, using a Google Docs questionnaire to ask teachers about their interests and concerns, their teaching experience, and their connection with FCTA. With one-on-one meetings as the goal, the questionnaire provides individual members’ data so that FCTA visitors can connect with teachers in a meaningful, genuine way during their meeting. The questionnaire also offers an option to set up a specific meeting time during the school visit. “Scheduled visits,” Araujo said, “add even more purpose to our visits by allowing us to zero in on a member’s specific interests and issues.”
There are more plans on the horizon, including Contract 101, a quarterly training where school representatives would be trained—for the first time, or as a review—in FCTA’s negotiated agreement. “We are finding that many members are bypassing our school reps and going directly to our president or UniServ directors for minor issues that are explained in our contract,” Araujo said. “While we regularly have a general school rep training at the beginning of each year, this program would be more comprehensive. We want members to be more knowledgeable, and thus empowered, when faced with questions about their contract.”
Outreach to the full FCTA membership includes a series of short videos on a password protected YouTube channel that answers frequently asked questions about school rep duties and the contract, and provides tips on how reps can respond to some frequently occurring situations. IEO Grant funding purchased the camera that members will use to shoot the videos and for other social media.
FCTA’s goal is ambitious and doable, says Justin Heid, chair of FCTA’s membership committee. “We hope for a 10-15% increase at our targeted schools for at least one after-school volunteer activity— it could be phone banking, canvassing, or attendance and/or participation in 10-minute meetings. Our plans are to incorporate these practices into the organization and reach all members and all schools within the next three years.”