FLEMING: New AEA president.

Carol Fleming, a speech-language pathologist at Pulaski Heights Middle School in the Little Rock School District, officially begins her two-year term as president of the Arkansas Education Association today. Fleming was elected to the position in May. She succeeds Cathy Koehler, who will return to the Little Rock School District.

Fleming takes over at a particularly difficult time for the state teachers’ union. State leaders, including Governor Hutchinson and Education Commissioner Johnny Key, hate the AEA and work to undermine it at every turn. Key was behind a controversial decision by the State Board of Education to waive the Teacher Fair Dismissal law for all Little Rock School District employees, a move some have speculated could be extended statewide. Meanwhile, a professional, nonunion association for teachers, the Arkansas State Teachers Association, is also working to undermine the AEA. It was behind the ultimately successful effort to decertify the Fort Smith branch of the AEA from acting as bargaining agent on behalf of teachers.

More from the AEA release:

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“I am humbled by the support of our members across Arkansas and honored to serve as President of AEA,” Fleming says. “Educators are the people working most closely with students every day. We are the experts in education, and I look forward to lifting our collective voice at the state level to ensure each student has the opportunity they deserve.”

Fleming, a speech language pathologist at Pulaski Heights Middle School, has spent the last 20 years working with students.

“I am coming to this new role straight out of the classroom, and have been living and breathing the issues facing Arkansas’s teachers,” she said. “I have a close working knowledge of what we must do to improve our students’ learning environments.”

The state of Arkansas is facing a teacher pipeline shortage, and Fleming plans to work together with local associations, the Arkansas Department of Education and school districts to provide mentorship and professional development opportunities for early career educators.

“We’re committed to work together to build strong public schools,” she said. “From the Education Department to the bus drivers, from district administration to classroom teachers and education support professionals, everyone’s goal must be to provide a quality education for each of our students.”

For years, Fleming has been an active and engaged member of the AEA at the local, state and national level. She has also served in her children’s Parent Teacher Associations when they were students in the Pulaski County Special School District and North Little Rock School District. Fleming and all of her children graduated from North Little Rock Public Schools.

Fleming has worked to ensure good public education policies at the local, state and national level. As a parent of an adult with special needs, she is reminded daily of the importance of advocating on behalf of the professions and those served which has fueled her passion for education, leadership, and professional issues. Her goal is to get others to become involved to support successful public schools.