Members honored with top ESP awards

Attendees at the 2013 MEA ESP Statewide Conference honored three of their own for contributions to the cause of ESP members in Michigan.

Connie Boylan, a 23-year veteran library media paraprofessional and current president of the MEA ESP Caucus, was honored with the 2013 Leon Brunner Award. Given in honor of a late, longtime ESP activist from the Upper Peninsula, Boylan's colleagues bestowed this award in recognition of her commitment to ESP involvement and advocacy, as well as her tireless work for public education.

"From the local level to the MEA and NEA Board of Directors, I'm proud to advocate for ESP, especially in fighting back the threat of privatization on our members," Boylan said. "We're stronger together in fighting back against outsourcing, standing up for school funding, or being successful as a union, even in spite of anti-union efforts like the so-called 'right-to-work.' I've believed that my whole career, and I'm not done advocating for what we believe in."

The runner-up for this year's Brunner Award was Bob Hanchek, president of the U.P.'s North Central ESP Association and a 41-year veteran bus driver. He's spent his entire career on the same route.

"I tell my 17 members all the time that we have to stand together to keep what we have and support each other," Hanchek told the crowd, also sharing that his local had used that unity to negotiate a new three-year contract with its district that week.

The MEA ESP Caucus also chose to honor a member in attendance by inducting him into their ESP Hall of Fame. The recognition came as a complete surprise to the recipient: MEA President Steve Cook.

A longtime ESP leader and the first ever non-teacher to serve as MEA president, Cook was touched by the honor by his colleagues.

"Normally you have to retire or pass away to get an honor like this," Cook joked after his induction. "For the record, I feel fine.

"But I have no intention of going away or stopping the work we have to do together to be a stronger union in these tough times."