Campus secretary Linda Estrada grew frustrated when school board members tried to appropriate five sick days from employees of the Donna Independent School District in Texas. Determined to fight the effort, she and other educa...
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Campus secretary Linda Estrada grew frustrated when school board members tried to appropriate five sick days from employees of the Donna Independent School District in Texas. Determined to fight the effort, she and other education support professionals (ESPs) confronted board members at a public meeting and won the days back.
“We packed the board room with more than 100 people from the community,” says Estrada, who has worked for the school district in various capacities for 24 years. “Along with those sick days, we were also able to reinstate five contract days that certain employees had lost, and also reinstate librarian and preK aides who had been terminated.”
Currently at Dora M. Sauceda Middle School, Estrada is not one to shy away from a challenge, especially if ESPs are under attack.
“Through the (above-mentioned) accomplishments, we not only improved the lives of the ESPs, but also the quality of education for our students,” says Estrada, who has served as secretary, vice president for ESPs, and president of Donna TSTA/NEA. She was recently re-elected president of the 1,100-member local, and as a board member of the Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA).
Some of Estrada’s success can be attributed to the excellent leadership training she has received through the National Education Association (NEA) and TSTA. She is a graduate of TSTA’s Ambassador Academy, NEA Emerging Leaders Program, and Leaders for Tomorrow, sponsored by NEA’s ESP Quality Department. In addition to her education and experience, Estrada possesses an unwavering dedication to the diverse membership of Donna’s wall-to-wall local.
As president, Estrada argues just as loudly and vigorously for the teachers, principals, assistant principals and administrators who are members as for ESPs.
“We are always advocating for ESPs,” she explains, “but at this time it is teachers who are under attack. Their 30-minute duty free lunch and daily 45-minute conference time is being violated. They are also being asked to tutor students without compensation. We all stand together against these and any violations of the contract.”
When it comes to union solidarity, Estrada is resolute. Last year, she organized her local’s Member Advocacy Team to handle grievances among other duties. It is comprised of five ESPs from various job groups, a teacher, retired member, and an administrator.
“Due to the MAT being in place, we have helped out a lot of ESPs with their job concerns and issues,” she says. “They (ESPs in Donna) are at-will employees and therefore vulnerable in ways that classified members (who have contracts) are not.”
Several years ago, one concern among Texas ESPs was that they had no statewide conference of their own. So, in 2009, Estrada joined forces with TSTA President Rita Haecker and several ESPs to organize the first TSTA ESP conference, which was held in Donna. Since then, annual ESP conferences have been organized across the state with the goal of enhancing the expertise and spotlighting the dedication of TSTA’s 13,000 ESP members. Approximately 68,000 educators belong to TSTA.
“We want a school environment where ESPs are respected and able to demonstrate to the community that they are indeed a very important part of their students’ lives,” Estrada says.
To create this type of awareness, she says, member unity and activism are necessary.
“We now have our (TSTA) legal center assisting us with our grievances against the district,” Estrada says. “Our goal is to win and show ESPs and teachers that it is important to get involved and organized to fight for our rights.”
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