Gathering features call to political action
By Scott McLennan
C alls for political activism resounded through the MTA’s 13th annual Retired Members Gathering.
Neil Clarke, who received the “Honor Our
Own” award at the event — held on Sept. 29 at the
Sheraton Framingham Hotel — reflected on how his
work as an educator in Lee, his union activism and
his current role as a Senate district coordinator in
MTA’s Division of Grassroots Campaigns became
“Throughout all of my experiences, it was the
people I got to know and worked with who made the
difference,” Clarke said. “One lesson I’ve learned
is to connect the dots regarding significant changes
to the art and joy of teaching. Those dots often lead
to the doors of politicians, through legislation or
funding, or to boards that dictate to educators. As a
Senate district coordinator, I’ve once again found
the joy of collegiality and helping achieve positive
Clarke, who attended the ceremony with his
wife, Barbara, taught in Lee for 34 years. He is a
former member of MTA’s Board of Directors and
“Honor Our Own” recognition is awarded each
year by the Retired Members Committee, which
evaluates materials that outline the accomplishments
of nominees. Joshua Hall, one of Clarke’s former
students who is now an educator in the Lee Public
Schools, nominated Clarke.
MTA President Barbara Madeloni, Vice President
Janet Anderson and Executive Director-Treasurer Ann
Clarke thanked the crowd of more than 200 retired
members for their years of service to public education
and their continued involvement in the MTA.
Anderson pointed out the work of former MTA
President Mary Gilmore as an example, explaining
that her advocacy of strong bonds between current
and retired members is vital to the association.
Madeloni urged the retirees to share their stories
about what the profession was like when they were
in the classroom — before standardized testing and
punitive evaluation systems became the norm.
“Our active members don’t get to live out the
hopes and ideals that drew them to teaching, but you
could help make learning joyful again,” Madeloni
said. “You have the expertise, and often the time, to
speak out when our younger members cannot. And
you can’t be fired anymore!”
Kathleen Roberts, co-chair of the Retired
Members Committee, also spoke up for activism.
She cited her recent 100th birthday as a milestone
and asked her colleagues for the “gift” of their
political action in the Nov. 4 election. Each table
at the gathering was adorned with a birthday card
for Roberts that doubled as a signup sheet for MTA
activities aimed at helping to elect Attorney General
Martha Coakley as the state’s next governor.
“Participation in the political process is so
important today, especially to help our younger
teachers,” Roberts told the crowd.
U.S. Senator Edward Markey sent birthday
greetings to Roberts from Washington, D.C., and the
retirees enjoyed a large cake in Roberts’ honor.
Each year, the Retired Members Committee
works with a school in need of educational supplies.
This year, Fonseca Elementary School in Fall River
was chosen. Retirees donated books and classroom
The gathering also featured a variety of
workshops covering topics from financial planning to
technology — as well as a crash course on this year’s
Above from left to right, Kathleen Comer,
Louise Russell, Eileen Cleary and Mary Gilmore
of the Retired Members Committee listen to
speakers at the Sept. 29 event, which drew a
crowd of more than 200. At left, Neil Clarke and
his wife, Barbara, are pictured with the “Honor
Our Own” award. Clarke was given the award
for his many years of service as a teacher in
Lee, his union activism and his work as an
MTA Senate district coordinator. “Participation
in the political process is so important today,
especially to help our younger teachers,”
Retired Members Committee Co-Chair Kathleen
Roberts told the audience.
Photos by Scott McLennan