By Brenda Ortega
MEA Voice Editor
Promising to build the strength and capacity of both MEA and the education professions, Chandra Madafferi was elected president of the statewide association at the MEA Representative Assembly (RA) on Saturday.
Madafferi, a longtime teacher in Novi Community Schools and MEA vice president since 2017, will begin a three-year term as president on July 15.
“We are going to raise up a new generation of educators in this state. It will be a respected profession, and I am humbled and honored to be your future leader,” the president-elect said in her acceptance speech after results were announced.
Also elected this weekend were Brett Smith for vice president, a teacher from Linden Community Schools and MEA’s current secretary-treasurer; and for secretary-treasurer, Aaron Eling, a teacher in Grand Haven Area Public Schools.
In addition to electing officers, RA delegates approved MEA’s budget and dues (which remained steady) for the upcoming fiscal year and passed an amendment to the MEA constitution – with two-thirds approval for immediate effect – which changes the start dates of terms for MEA elected officers and the Board of Directors to July 15 from Sept. 1.
In her campaign for the top job, Madafferi committed to rebuild the profession by focusing on bargaining better wages and working conditions for all public school employees. She also hopes to help improve diversity by assisting students of color and those from under-represented groups to find pathways into education careers.
“As educators we need to find joy in our hearts again, so when kids say they want to be an educator you will say, ‘You’d be great,’ instead of talking them out of it,” Madafferi said. “This comes when we feel respected and appreciated and we’re paid a decent wage, whether in the classroom or on the bus or in the office.”
In remarks delivered before the RA vote, Madafferi pledged to direct more resources into the field and to extend the leadership training program she has led as vice president, known as Presidents’ Academy, to all elected leaders so more members are engaged in building full capacity locals.
“In this role I have been challenging our leaders to improve negative culture, stand up to bullies, build relationships and inspire others to become members of our amazing union,” she said, adding later: “Strong locals are the lifeblood of a strong MEA.”
She pointed to her work over the past five years in developing MEA’s Center for Leadership & Learning to deliver more and better member professional development as a template for expanded work to allow the association to deliver even greater offerings to members.
“We need to be leaders in education innovation, as we prepare our students for a technological world and jobs that have not yet been invented,” she said.
Madafferi said she would promote a campaign to de-privatize support staff jobs and acknowledged the importance of electing leaders who support public education and collective bargaining rights that give educators a voice and strength to press for change.
“Let’s remember it was the work that we all did together that elected the most pro-public education Legislature we have had in over 40 years,” she said.
In her concession speech, MEA President Paula Herbart thanked her supporters and running mates and announced she would retire from education once she leaves office this summer after six years at the helm.
The music teacher from Fraser said she is humbled by the body of work that is her 31-year legacy as an educator and leader. She urged MEA to remain focused on improving diversity, equity and inclusion and for all to support the newly elected officers.
“That is what we do,” she said. “We are a union family. Please honor me with that. Thank you for your dedication to this great organization.”
MEA’s Representative Assembly is the organization’s highest decision making body, made up of more than 500 delegates elected by PreK-12 through higher education employees from across Michigan. The RA elects MEA’s officers, establishes the organization’s budget and dues, and sets policy.