UFEA President Julie Hagler welcomed UFEA members and the Unit 5 community to the 2022-2023 school year, reminding us our community and students need us more than ever, that we need our community behind us, and that we are Stronger together.
Remarks as prepared
Good morning Unit 5! It’s my pleasure to welcome fellow educators, members of the Unit Five Education Association, Unit 5 staff, administration and school board members to the 2022-23 school year!
My name is Julie Hagler. While I am sad to step out of the classroom for the first time in over 25 years, I am excited to begin my first year serving as the president of UFEA — representing and advocating for our 1,000 members who do the important work of educating nearly 13,000 Unit 5 students each day.
I remember when I first learned about UFEA. It was 1988 (I know, many of my colleagues weren’t even born yet!) and my 8th grade French teacher, Mrs. Rogers, was serving as UFEA President. I was thrilled to be her office assistant and to learn about her union work — advocating for teachers, students and the community.
That was when I first began to recognize how important schools are to a community. Being a destination district providing high quality education does not only benefit the students and schools, but impacts the services a community can provide and the businesses that thrive there.
The members of UFEA are not only investing in students who can think critically and be civically engaged today, we are investing in our community by building up future leaders and citizens for generations to come.
It is equally important that our community invest in our schools and students.
Strong schools and strong communities only happen when we work together.
That’s why I have been so encouraged to see the district and our community engaged these past few months in conversations about how we can invest together in the future of Unit 5.
The truth is we’ve all been bearing the burden of insufficient resources and inadequate funding for several years. We have been doing more with less, working with larger classes and caseloads, agreeing to contracts that provided less compensation than we deserved, and helping the district stretch limited finances as far as we could — all in an effort to continue to provide the absolute best education and opportunities for our students. But we’re at a breaking point. We can no longer do it alone.
The district has decided something must be done. I am excited that it appears there may be enough community support to address those challenges by investing together. The feedback so far indicates our community is willing to support each of us, our classrooms and schools, and our students. But passing a potential referendum will not be easy. It will take all of us working together.
Funding is not the only challenge we face. We also continue to face the challenges of Covid.
The past few years have been difficult. The pandemic cost us all — collectively and individually — in a number of ways. But sticking together through those challenges has also strengthened us and made us better.
That indefinable quality of grit is present in each and every member of UFEA who taught through this pandemic and in the new educators who developed their skills in schools facing covid restrictions.
We have grown through the adversity of the last three years and we have done it together. We have leaned on each other and we have grown closer. We learned new skills in lockdown and even more skills during hybrid. We are keeping the best parts of that experience to help our students and leaving behind the elements that we hope we never need again.
These past few years have also provided a clear picture of how polarized people are. Despite the division that surrounds us, and seeks to separate us as well, educators are, and need to be, more united than ever.
We won’t agree on every issue, but we are unified on the most important issue — serving our students. The students who bring us joy and bring us to tears need us now more than ever, and they need us sticking together as we advocate for their growing and changing needs.
And we can do it! We can advocate for our students. We can create amazing classroom culture. We can make sure they have the supports they need both in and out of our buildings. We can help each student achieve personal excellence and we will do it together this school year.
We can and must advocate for ourselves and our profession as well. Whether it’s at the bargaining table this coming spring or at the ballot box in November and April, we need to stand together and stick together. Public education is foundational to the future of our community, our country and our democracy.
I know we can face the challenges in front of us together because that’s what we do. We are stronger together.
It is my honor to represent you. And I look forward to spending time in all our buildings this school year, seeing all the wonderful work you do, serving you as you serve our students, and speaking up with you as we speak up for our students and schools.
Let’s have a great year — together.