written by Dennis Pfennig
In 2004 during the last full year of her Fairfax Education Association (FEA) presidency, Barbara Allen appointed an ad hoc committee of retirees to lay the foundation for a local division of VEA-Retired. She did this based on work laid by two of her predecessors. Mimi Dash, in the last year of her presidency, had strongly suggested to then FEA Executive Director Ken Reinshuttle that such an organization was needed. Her successor Rick Baumgartner saw to it that the FEA Constitution was amended to permit such a formation.
Within one year the committee appointed by Allen, under Dash’s leadership, completed a constitution and by-laws for FEA-Retired. These were then approved by the new organization’s parent organization, the FEA.
In addition to writing governing documents, the organizing committee got FEA to agree that membership in FEA-R would be automatic when one joined as a life-member of NEA-Retired/VEA-Retired. In other words, there would be no additional cost to be member of FEA-R nor would there be any dues. Its expenses would be handled by FEA itself.
In 2005, FEA leadership appointed a nine member FEA-R Council, four of whose members were given one-year terms and five two-year terms. Thus, elections in the future would never replace an entire Council. This Council then elected its first president, Dennis Pfennig, who like his successors, was granted a full voting seat on the FEA Board of Directors. This was done so the FEA-R president could provide the FEA Board institutional memory and guidance when newer Board members faced problems similar to or in some instances the same.
Today, it continues to advise and caution FEA leaders. It does not mandate; it does not insist; it suggests. However, as the Council today consists of four former FEA presidents (Barbara Allen, Mimi Dash, Kathy Davis, and Walt Mika) and one former VEA president (Walt Mika), its advice is carefully considered. In keeping with this role of the Council, the FEA president makes it a habit of attending each of every other month Council meetings.
In January of every year, FEA-Retired along with an independent organization, Fairfax County Retired Educators, provides a bus to take its joint Government Relations Team and supporters to lobby the Richmond state legislature. Every year in May, the Council hosts an all member luncheon meeting. In past years that meeting has been addressed by public officials such as Governor Terry McAuliffe, State Education Secretary Anne Holton, State Senator Richard Saslaw, and 11th Congressional District House Member Jerry Connolly; leaders in the field of public education, former Fairfax County Public School Superintendent Karen Garza; current FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand; and an expert in the area of retirement, FCPS retirement system Executive Director Jeanne Carr.
Today, FEA-Retired is diligently working to ensure that FCPS upholds its end of early bargaining agreements. These past months, its Government Relations Team led by Barbara Allen, assisted by FEA-R vice president Mimi Dash and several other equally distinguished retirees, has interviewed and lobbied nearly every candidate for the School Board and Board of Supervisors as well as those seeking election to the state legislature. In addition, the FEA-R Council has met with Scott Brabrand and members of his staff on regular basis. These meetings are designed to show the school system that we retirees know the importance of personal contact and are willing to work with them to provide the best benefits possible to both active and retired members of the FCPS family.
Retired we may be. Active we certainly are. Almost 15 years have passed since FEA-Retired first appeared. It remains alive and well today.