Convention Reports

Breakout Sessions: AAUW Ohio Equity Day and Convention, May, 2017

Karen Duncan and Kali Lawrence, Presenters
Springfield Branch Spotlight: People for Safe Water

AAUW members and the local activist group PfSW (People for Safe Water) have been working to eradicate a severe pollution threat to the aquifer that serves the Springfield area and flows south towards Dayton, Cincinnati and the Ohio River. Members have been putting pressure on the Waste Management Company, the EPA and other agencies to remove or neutralize the effects caused from 55-gallon drums of hazardous industrial waste being deposited in the 1970’s in a landfill on the outskirts of the city and just 3 miles from Springfield’s well heads. Close to finalizing a solution which will extend protection with added liners and fill, the citizens group, Springfield Promise, reported on steps taken up to this point. Duncan offered this advice to citizens groups:
1. Be fearless and “do your homework”
2. Persevere – you can be in it for the long term
3. Celebrate any successes, victories, however small they may be
While the group and the City of Springfield are on the verge of finalizing a compromise with the EPA, no one is certain that when the plan is approved and finally placed on the “National Priorities List” for government support, the funding will be available to effect the change.

Joanie Calem, Presenter : Concert Conversations on Autism and Inclusion

Joanie Calem

Joanie Calem used song – accompanying her original songs with guitar – to create a message about the “invisible disability” of autism. After her son was born, Calem knew that he did not have a neurotypical brain; he processed words, thoughts, and sensations in a different way from most people. When her son was three years old, she moved her family from Israel to the U.S. because she was led to believe that science here was on the verge of finding “cures” for autism. Now that her son is in is 20’s, she knows that there was no cure, but rather there were only ways to find paths to trigger better understanding. Calem’s songs, including “The Deer Know”, “You Have No Idea”, and “Everybody’s Good at Something”, are an attempt to teach compassion to all – not just to those with special needs. “We need to develop an introspective culture,” she said, “to try to understand what those of us who see things differently are going through.” She travels extensively on her mission to create awareness of sensory processing disorders.

Dr. Antoinette Miranda and Meryl Johnson, Presenters
An Inside View of the State School Board

Dr. Miranda, with a B.S. in Psychology and M.Ed. and Ph.D. in School Psychology, was elected last fall to represent District 5. She is Professor and Director of the School Psychology Program at Ohio State University and has worked as a school psychologist in urban, suburban and rural districts in Ney York City as well as Ohio and Kentucky. She decided to run for school board when she was approached by the Ohio Education Association and because she believes the board should and can help students succeed academically and behaviorally. Some of the issues she sees that need to be addressed: lack of oversight for charter schools, “vouchers”, too much reliance on testing, how to get vulnerable kids to succeed, wealth inequity in school districts, and the need for students to be open to diversity in dealing with people who are different from themselves. A lot to address in a term of four years!
Meryl Johnson, a 40-year veteran teacher, is a lifelong resident of Cleveland representing District 11 on the Board of Education. She attended the Cleveland Public Schools, graduated from Kent State University with a degree in Language Arts, Oral Communication and Drama, and taught her entire career in Cleveland middle and high schools. She served in leadership positions in the Cleveland Teachers’ Union. A long-time advocate for public education, she has spoken up for low income and minority children. She sees a tremendous differential in school districts because of school funding based on property taxes. “The best teachers in the world cannot make up for the inequity caused by poverty,” she stated. Johnson ran for school board because there were no minorities represented on the board and “a large segment of Ohio’s families are not having their stories told, and therefore are not getting their educational needs met.” She was also concerned about seeing a trend to support “for profit managers” of charter schools and she was “tired of the movement to privatize education.” She deems the movement to privatize schools is a campaign “by the wealthy to keep the wealth” and will push for accountability and transparency by these institutions.

These two women add diversity and new perspectives to the 19-member Board. We expect to hear more from them as they make their presence felt.
—–Summarized by Pat Chaloupek