SWEA President John Hackett’s address to members at this years convocation.

Good morning,

Again, it is my pleasure and honor to address you as your SWEA president.

Since last year, much has changed.

At the national level, President Trump has broken the mold for providing moral authority to our nation on many fronts, but especially for us, in education.

His Sec. of Education never set foot in a public school as either a student or a parent, and she is determined to take taxpayer money from public schools and send it to private, for-profit schools in an attempt to dismantle the public education system that has made our nation so great.

At the state level, we enter the fall without a state budget, billions of dollars in debt, and with the specter of millions in state aid being taken from South Windsor.  As, or even more troubling, our teachers’ pensions are being targeted for radical revisions in the way they are funded.

Right here in South Windsor, while we celebrate the opening of the new Orchard Hill School, I also know that scores of you are in new positions or at new schools, and that these changes come with new challenges.

Many of you, like me, at times feel discouraged and powerless against all of these forces arrayed against us, but this does not have to be so.

You DO have power, as a member of the NEA, an organization founded 160 years ago, that today is nearly 3 million strong!

You DO have power as a member of the CEA, an organization founded 169 years ago, that today is over 40,000 strong!

And most importantly, you DO have power as a member of SWEA, an organization founded 51 years ago, that today has over 375 members!

These organizations, to which YOU belong, FIGHT to keep public education PUBLIC!

They FIGHT to make education more meaningful than a mere test score!

They FIGHT to keep the politicians from balancing the state budget on the backs of educators!

They FIGHT to ensure that your voice as a professional is heard above the din of critics with ulterior motives!

They FIGHT the concerted attacks on your pensions!

They FIGHT to negotiate a fair contract for you!

They FIGHT to make sure you are treated as a professional!

To paraphrase what President John F. Kennedy once said at another moment of public uncertainty, “Ask not what your union can do for you, ask what you can do for your union!”

Colleagues, WE are only as strong as you are engaged- our struggle today has to have you actively involved with what WE do!

Since I became your president in 2005, I have never seen a more perilous time in education that needs YOU to become more actively involved with SWEA. 

This year I will likely call on you – PERSONALLY- to make a call, write a letter, attend a meeting, or join a rally on behalf of what WE stand for, and be heard whenever policy decisions that impact teachers and what WE do is in jeopardy.

Keeping in mind the challenges ahead of us, I hope all of you have a great year teaching the students of our town so they can dream, achieve, and inspire!  It is what WE have been doing for over a century and a half!