November 14, 2014

BAC Boot Camp sparks members into action

Voice: November 2014 

After four years of fighting back a barrage of bad policies, many members are more passionate than ever about making sure public education is a priority in Pennsylvania. 

But how does one transform member passion into member action?  That question was answered for nearly 50 Building Action Coordinators, or BACs, at the Building Action Coordinator Boot Camp – a special focus of the Organizing/Communications School at the 2014 PSEA Summer Leadership Conference in Gettysburg. The boot camp aimed to teach BACs how to better organize, educate, and activate their colleagues to fight for public education. 

Getting involved
“Despite being a building rep for the past two years, I was never really involved or understood all that my union did,’’ said Heather Bunk, a BAC from the Warren Education Association in the Northwestern Region. “That all changed when I attended BAC Boot Camp this summer, and I realized how powerful PSEA is.”

“These things are absolutely necessary and very important, but we, the union, have a responsibility to advocate for our students. And when we stand together, we are a force to be reckoned with.’’

Bunk’s sentiment was echoed by Jennifer Lynn Cody, a BAC in the State College Area EA.

“The BAC Boot Camp instructors did an amazing job of making personal connections with us as they told their stories about how they came to feel passion for advocating and organizing,’’ said Cody. “Until BAC Boot Camp, I did not feel connected to my local. As a result of BAC Boot Camp, I felt energized to help establish and emphasize personal connections between the members in my school and our union.’’

Meeting face to face
Cody, Liz Cullin, and Ron Meyers, all State College Area EA BACs, attended the Gettysburg program together. When they returned home, they started meeting to figure out how they were going to get the other BACs in their association to make the same connection.

They created a program called 10-minute Tuesdays – a biweekly, face-to-face BAC meeting providing members with updates on public education advocacy issues such as tenure, right-to-work laws, pension reform, collective bargaining, and education funding. 

They also started a Facebook page, “Democracy In Action,’’ to inform the public of efforts to dismantle public education, and are hosting an association viewing of the Robert Reich documentary “Inequality for All.’’

“BAC Boot Camp armed us with tools, resources, and facts to correct misinformation, educate on key issues, and advocate for our profession,’’ Cullin said. “We walked away from BAC Boot Camp with a building-level plan to bring everyone together weekly to discuss key issues in education. The exciting part is that we were able to roll out the program to other buildings and reach many more people through our networking efforts.’’

Turning energy into advocacy
As in State College, the BAC Boot Camp experience spurred action in Warren.

“This school year, my goal was to increase PACE donations in my building,’’ said Bunk. “ I created a short PowerPoint presentation on the importance of donating to PACE. “In conjunction with the presentation, I created a ‘Drive Corbett Out of Office’ contest where members earn chances for a gas card by donating to PACE, being registered to vote, signing up for yard signs, attending a rep council meeting when a state representative candidate is speaking, signing people up for Partners for Public Education, and voting on Nov. 4.’’

The effort is something she wouldn’t have imagined two years ago, said Bunk.

“I never felt comfortable or confident discussing political issues, even those dealing with educational reform policies,’’ she said. “My fellow participants and the amazing BAC Boot Camp instructors gave me that confidence. The school inspired me and gave me the motivation to want to make a difference.’’

Meyers said he would encourage other BACs to attend BAC Boot Camp. 

“The Region Advocacy Coordinators and BACs brought into focus the scope of what is happening around the state and what others are doing to stand up against the attacks,’’ he said. “It was time well spent and educational.’’





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