NH teachers have Jill Biden’s ear on education issues

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Educators from NH pose for s photo with former Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden. Photo/Pat Grossmith

MANCHESTER, NH  Former Second Lady  Dr. Jill Biden came to The Bookery Monday afternoon to find out what her fellow teachers wanted Vice President Joe Biden to do for education if he is elected President of the United States.

Dr. Jill Biden met with 11 educators, all members of the National Education Association (NEA) – New Hampshire, which has 17,000 members statewide.

“You may like another candidate better but you have to look at who can win,”  Biden said. 

Dr. Biden was graduated from the University of Delaware and then became an English teacher in a public school and at a psychiatric hospital.  She earned two master’s degrees and in 2006 went back to school and earned a doctorate in education from the University of Delaware.

Seven days after the Obama inauguration, she told the New Hampshire teachers that she returned to the classroom.  As Second Lady, she worked full-time as a professor at Northern Virginia Community College.

In education for more than 30 years, she said her husband is well-versed about what teachers face in the classroom each day.

Dr. Jill Biden, right, in navy blue jacket and red blouse, talks with fellow educators at The Bookery Monday afternoon. Courtesy Photo

The educators touched on a number of subjects including the expansion of charter schools which, Kimberly Sychterz, a teacher in the Plymouth area, said is siphoning needed dollars from her rural school district.

Sychterz said the number of charter schools has doubled since 2007.  “Will your husband continue to support the expansion of charter schools?” she asked.

“No, Joe supports public education,” Dr. Biden said.

She said her state of Delaware does have charter schools but, she said, they are specific to the arts — music, theater and art — which Joe supports. 

Sitting to her right was Maxine Mosley, a Manchester middle school counselor and vice president of the Manchester NEA chapter.  She said she had followed Joe Biden “forever” and knows him for his work in civil rights and social justice. What she wants him to do now, she said, is bring “that justice warrior out and bring education as a social justice issue.”

When it comes to LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community), teacher Patrick Cogan of ConVal School District agrees with Biden that more therapists and counselors were needed but he was looking “for a leader to show it’s acceptable.”

He said he does not doubt that Joe is a proponent for equality, in answer to a question posed by Dr. Biden. 

Mosley, after the nearly hour-long meeting ended, said the educators want more funding for schools and teachers;  want resources, including technology, provided to all students, no matter the zip code where the student lives; and want to know what type of person he intends to appoint to head the Department of Education.

She said the NEA would like to see its president Lilly Eskelson Garcia replace the current director, Betsy DeVos.  Garcia, she said, knows every aspect of education, having started out as a lunch lady, becoming a teacher and ultimately coming to lead the NEA nationally and its 3 million members. 

“He should be very specific about the kind of person he would put in there,” Mosley said.  

Neither the national union nor the NH affiliate has made an endorsement for President.  Mosley said there are just too many candidates at the moment.

Also meeting with Dr. Biden were Anne McQuade, a middle school English Language Learner teacher, Ashley Dion, an elementary teacher, and Benjamin Dion, a high school social studies teacher, all from Manchester; Susan Sweed, high school family and consumer science teacher from Bedford, and Diana Griffin and Muriel Hall, both retired educators.

Johanna Dickson of Hooksett, an elementary school teacher, was unable to make the meeting because she was working her second job and couldn’t find someone to replace her, Mosley said.