Spotlight on Locals: Beaver Dam Education Association

WEAC Vice President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen presents the WEAC Strong Local Affiliate Certificate to members of the Beaver Dam Education Association (BDEA). Pictured from Left to Right are Ali Bohl, Kris Schumacher-Rasmussen, Peggy Wirtz-Olsen, Lisa Schleicher, Mark Lefeber, Jen Vinz, Betsy Ramsdale, and Glen Milleville. 

By Peggy Wirtz-Olsen, WEAC Vice President

“Communication and outreach are keys,” Lisa Schleicher, President of the Beaver Dam Education Association (BDEA), told me when asked about the success of the BDEA. “We readily share information with our building representatives from our six elementary buildings, middle school, high school, and alternative school. It is important to keep people knowledgeable at all levels of our association. We work to ensure that our home email addresses are up to date and that we are sharing information on our BDEA Facebook page because if our members aren’t informed of the work that we are doing, it can all fall apart.”

Kris Schumacher, middle school art teacher and past president of the Beaver Dam Education Association, echoed that sentiment saying, “Constant communication is so important between BDEA leaders and our members. It is also important among our group of leaders who reach out to each other often. We are also actively engaged with the BDEA Facebook page. We use this as a space for communication about relevant events and professional articles on education from local, state, and national perspectives. We also share out information from attending our local school board meetings. We work to educate our members on how to be an active member and how to get involved on the district level.”

Lisa said, “Last year, we needed to quickly mobilize when the BDEA was made aware of a substantial school schedule change right before summer break began. Since this change would impact our students, families, and members for the following school year, the Beaver Dam Education Association educated parents and members about the proposal. In response, over twenty people spoke at the school board meeting, putting this change on hold for a year and allowing more conversation to find a solution that was a better fit for the school district.” 

There were other victories that resulted from this organizing work. Lisa shared: “A parent advisory committee was formed that continues to meet with the district superintendent, and a candidate for the local school board also emerged.” Again, showing that the BDEA is not only lifting up its members’ voices, but also helping parents and members of the community find their voices to keep their schools strong for students and families.

Kris also pointed to the BDEA’s organizing success last year saying, “Our local was able to reconnect on advocacy, working with parents for shared goals and opportunities for students. We also have been advocates on the legislative front hosting a BDEA member meet-and-greet with Elisha Barudin, candidate for State Assembly back in September.”

As far as successes, Betsy Ramsdale, Beaver Dam Education Association’s president-elect, shared, “Our recertification election results have been excellent with 82% of our colleagues supporting the Beaver Dam Education Association and our work.” Betsy also highlighted the supportive members in the BDEA and their ability to quickly mobilize. 

Lisa is planning to retire at the end of this school year, and she shared with me that Betsy, the vice president and also the president-elect, is ready to step in as the next president.  “The BDEA is in good hands considering Betsy’s experience as an organized leader who motivates others and has served 10 years in the district,” Lisa said. Again, demonstrating the strength of the BDEA in having other educators who are stepping into smaller roles and attending trainings to ensure that there is a team of leaders working together on behalf of the students and members in their community.  

Betsy said, “While I am new to this role, I am continuing to learn. Attending the WEAC Organizing Institute for Anchor Locals in January was a great opportunity to meet and learn from other leaders across the state. I want to keep learning and growing as a leader.”

Lisa’s advice to other local leaders across Wisconsin: “Keep one-to-one conversations going with members and potential members. When people know you, know what you represent, who you represent, then they understand what the union can do. That’s how they learn to join with us.”

Read all of Peggy’s ‘Spotlight On Locals’ columns at weac.org/Spotlight.