Stage 1: Educators Meet Legislators
The original idea for Educators Meet Legislators came from Mike Sewall, Political Outreach Chair, who has attended many OCBOL meetings as a representative of the PA. A brainstorming session in February 2002 solidified plans, and invitations to participate were distributed to our members. Nearly a dozen PA members immediately signed up, so we knew that we were onto something. The eagerness and enthusiasm with which people responded to our invitations says much about their desire to have their voices heard on the county level.
We agreed that each PA member would speak for a few minutes on their positions at the college and the innovative projects taking place in their departments or offices. We kept our focus on the positive things that the faculty and staff of MVCC bring to our communities. By scheduling a few PA members to speak at each public open-mic session, we hoped that our county legislators–who have a significant say in the college’s funding–would be better educated about the myriad ways in which our institution contributes to the betterment of the region.
President Searles sent a formal letter of introduction to the Chair of the Board of Legislators, the following excerpt of which clarifies our goals:
“The PA is rightfully proud of the many initiatives and accomplishments of our members–the faculty and professional staff of MVCC. Some legislators may not be aware of MVCC’s extraordinary range and depth. Others might like to know about the fine educational backgrounds and specialized training of our faculty and staff. Creative writers, award-winning coaches, textbook authors, officers of international professional organizations, widely-respected artists, psychologists, engineers, and economists, among others, are working at MVCC. And we’ll help you to get acquainted with these professionals one by one. Many good things happen every semester at MVCC. We’re looking forward to sharing some of them with you.”
The first presentations were made in May 2002. At that legislative session, MVCC President Michael Schafer explained the project to the legislators and introduced PA President Ellis Searles. Ellis addressed the group and then introduced our first presenters. Well over a dozen PA members in total have addressed the OCBOL, showcasing the vast expertise, achievements, and accomplishments of our PA members.
Seeing how well Educators Meet Legislators was received on the local level, the PA submitted an entry about this creative political-outreach project for the Public Relations Program category in the AFT Communications Association Journalism Competition and won a first-place award. In the judges’ commentaries provided to our local, we were pleased to see that one judge praised us for helping our own members to speak out, to represent themselves, and to have a say in the local politics that most directly affect their worklives.