This month marks the end of eight years serving proudly as president of our great union. In that time, I’ve been graced to work with leaders who have been part of the union movement for decades. Many would say that it’s the hardest it’s ever been. Though I wasn’t personally around to witness the widespread strikes in the 70s, when teachers made less than car wash attendants, artifacts at our office - court charges against union leaders, newspaper headlines citing their arrest for striking - make me think otherwise.

Our struggles to demand that students and the hard-working women and men who educate them every day have what they need to succeed go back nearly fifty years. And while I may disagree with those who say times are the hardest they’ve ever been, the last eight years have definitely included challenges that - in both breadth and depth - are unlike anything we’ve seen in decades. Many unions justifiably ask themselves what they need to do to survive in times like these. Ours, instead, has chosen to ask what we need to do to thrive in times like these. A thriving union engages its members, seeks always to better serve them, and is committed to its core principals. Though related, surviving and thriving are not two sides of the same coin.

Our strategy for thriving is as much about looking back as it is about looking forward. It’s about knowing what to change and what to protect.  At any given moment, our executive board, committees, reps and office staff are managing a thousand things, but I think some of the priorities must fundamental to our growth in the last few years falls into four main areas:

(1) Involving members

(2) Seeking and creating new opportunities

(3) Cultivating a strong and united team of leaders

(4) Fostering positive and constructive relationships with leaders and stakeholders throughout the district

Looking at the first two, specifically, I’m proud of the work we’ve done to engage members in the union for the last few years. It makes us better. It makes us happier and brings us closer. If you spend a few minutes reading and browsing the thousands of member pictures in our emails, newsletters, digital bulletin boards and Facebook, you’ll see how much we’ve done to get people involved and bring them together. That unity - or solidarity - is part of our defining spirit in the HHHTA.

Despite all our progress and successes, however, we can always do better. I shared at our contract presentation last month a number of new positions and committees we’ll be forming next year. In September, each of you will receive a newsletter highlighting opportunities to get involved. I hope you’ll take time to look at all the opportunities that exist in our Union, and find the one/s that appeal to your strengths. The HHHTA is on loan to each generation of members as we pass through the district. It protects and

provides for us while we are here, and in turn, we protect and provide for it - hopefully making it even stronger for the next generation.

When we break for summer in a few short weeks, we should each take some time to reflect on how fortunate we are to be a part of what we have here in Half Hollow Hills in general and in the HHHTA, specifically. Then let’s think about how we can pay it forward.

All my best for a safe and restful summer vacation!

In service and solidarity,