August 2021, CBS 46 (Atlanta)
“PAGE encourages vaccination for all school employees on a voluntary basis rather than through mandates. Districts that issue mandates should do so only after securing broad employee support and including appropriate accommodations and alternatives through testing. Vaccine mandates will further hamper school operations in many districts if employees are required to be vaccinated or lose their jobs.”
August 2021, Georgia Health News
And Ramona Mills of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE) said that “amid escalating inflation and the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, a strong benefits package for teachers and school staff is essential. PAGE is pleased by the announcement today that there will be no State Health Benefit Plan premium increase, deductible increase, or benefit reduction for Georgia educators next calendar year.”
July 2021, AJC
PAGE director of legislative services said “the remaining $2,000 [of Gov. Kemp’s campaign promise of a $5,000 pay increase] to teachers will be critical to ‘attracting talent and keep talent serving kids in Georgia public schools.’”
June 2021, PAGE Statement on June 4
“Discussions about race and its place in our history and in current events are an important part of education and one that Georgia educators will continue to address,” said Craig Harper, PAGE executive director. “The resolution adopted by the State Board of Education in this special called session is non-binding and, therefore, does not prohibit educators from continuing to teach and discuss all aspects of our history as they do now. Yet, the manner in which the resolution was drafted without input from all board members, and then rushed to a vote is troubling. The board members’ conversation, including concerns voiced by some voting for the resolution as well as those in dissent, highlights the importance of including more people and perspectives. Our many communities and educators, who have valuable insights and expertise, must work together to determine how Georgia will address these issues moving forward.”
May 2021, Chalkbeat.org
“Margaret Ciccarelli, director of legislative affairs at the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, acknowledged that one-off mid-year payments aren’t likely to improve retention because most teachers leave during the summer. ‘Lawmakers’ focus now,’ she said, ‘should be longer-term investments in teacher pay to stem the tide of teachers leaving the classroom.'”
May 2021, Georgia Recorder
“PAGE legislative services director Margaret Ciccarelli said the bill is an excellent first step to addressing the state’s teacher shortage: ‘It’s been a really hard year in schools across the state,’ she said. ‘The acknowledgement that recruitment and retention is important was nice to see on the part of state leaders. There’s more work to come, however.’”
March 2021, AJC
“‘Today’s anticipated CDC announcement outlining new recommendations for masks and social distancing will provide additional reassurances of safety and greater capacity for students in classrooms – particularly as many Georgia districts have already returned to in-person instruction,’ said Craig Harper, executive director of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators.”
February 2021, PAGE Statement on Feb. 25
“Today’s announcement regarding educator vaccine eligibility is welcome news. PAGE has advocated strongly with lawmakers and the Department of Public Health to prioritize vaccine availability to Georgia’s educators and school staff as soon as possible. Vaccine access will provide additional health protections for school personnel as they work with students in schools as many have since last fall, or as their districts open school sites to students for the first time since last March. It is essential that the Department of Public Health provide an effective distribution plan for this rollout, and many school districts have already requested to serve as vaccination sites.”
— Craig Harper, PAGE Executive Director
February 2021, Associated Press
“One teacher group, the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, released a survey Wednesday showing that two-thirds of nearly 9,000 respondents want to get the vaccine. The survey isn’t scientific because people chose whether to respond on their own instead of as part of a random sample. Among respondents, educators who are older or higher risk were more interested in getting vaccinated, as were educators in metro Atlanta.”
February 2021, Fresh Take Georgia
“Paid parental leave allows parents to focus on meeting children’s needs at a critical time for families,” said Craig Harper, executive director of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, in a statement.
February 2021, NorthFulton.com
“The proposed legislation has support of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators which has pushed for flexibility in staffing schools. ‘Many districts struggle to recruit enough teachers for classroom vacancies, especially in hard-to-staff subjects,’ said PAGE executive director Craig Harper. ‘The ability to hire experienced teachers is beneficial to students, schools and retired educators.’ PAGE [also] supports pathways for teachers into the classroom which do not always take the traditional route of first gaining a teaching certificate in college. ‘Georgia’s students and schools benefit from these non-traditional entry points for people who realize they have a passion for teaching young people after they had experience in another career,’ Harper said.”
February 2021, Georgia Recorder
“Margaret Ciccarelli, director of legislative services for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, said after the meeting her organization is against an expansion of vouchers in Georgia, and its potential cost is a big reason why. ‘We reroute already over $136 million annually from public coffers to private schools with little accountability. This would create a third voucher program at a time when all schools and communities are struggling to deal with the ongoing pandemic crisis, so it is not a great time to be contemplating sending more public dollars to private entities,’ she said.”
February 2021, ‘Lawmakers’ on GPB
“It’s a tough time for educators out there in Georgia and across the country,” said Margaret Ciccarelli, Legislative Director for PAGE. “We’ve never asked more, and they’ve never delivered more than in the current pandemic environment. We are afraid, based on our survey data, that we are going to lose more teachers after the hardship of this year, so I think it’s very appropriate for state leaders to focus on bolstering the teacher pipeline.”
“‘It’s a tough time to be an educator and we applaud Gov. Kemp’s effort to enhance the Georgia teacher pipeline,’ said Margaret Ciccarelli, the director of legislative services for PAGE.”
“The Professional Association of Georgia Educators said it is essential to vaccinate educators to keep schools open. ‘We hope state leaders will prioritize teacher vaccination at the absolute first possible opportunity,’ a spokeswoman said.”
“’We strongly believe that Pre-K teachers should receive the supplement as well,’ said Claire Suggs, senior legislative policy analyst for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, the state’s largest teachers’ group.”
“Though deeply challenging, current circumstances [because of COVID] provide an opportunity for policymakers and educators to build on the policies and practices they have already implemented to support public schools.”
Based on the survey results, PAGE recommendations for policymakers include support for student mental health, continuation of efforts to fully fund schools, making Georgia the top state in which to teach by investing in educators, and aligning assessments to meet parent and student needs.
Teachers are anxious, and the vaccinations in Elbert County are welcome news for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators. “I hope this serves as a road map for other school districts,” said Margaret Ciccarelli, a lawyer with the group, which sent a letter to state health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey Tuesday urging her to prioritize and help coordinate the vaccination of school employees.
The Professional Association of Georgia Educators supports the prioritization of vaccinating front-line school staffs, including teachers, paraprofessionals, bus drivers, custodians, school nutrition workers and substitute teachers, said Margaret Ciccarelli, the group’s director of legislative services.
The state’s largest educator advocacy group is also asking the state to speed up the availability of the vaccination to front line teaching staff. The Professional Association of Teachers (PAGE) represents the state’s 95,000 educators and is working to expedite the vaccination rollout.
“As Georgia public schools struggle to meet the challenges of serving students in face-to-face settings and to protect students, staff, and the families both groups go home to, PAGE supports vaccine prioritization of all Georgia educators,” said Craig Harper, executive director for PAGE.
“I think this presents an opportunity to think about how, as we come out of the pandemic, are there ways to create more personalized instruction, so that those children who do seem to do better in a virtual format, are able to do that in their public school district,” [Claire] Suggs [senior education policy analyst for PAGE] says.
Craig Harper, executive director of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, called the payment “welcome and tangible recognition of Georgia educators’ extraordinary work since the pandemic began.”
January 2021, PAGE Statement on Jan. 14
“Gov. Brian Kemp’s and Superintendent Richard Woods’ support of teachers and school staff with the $1,000 supplement is welcome and tangible recognition of Georgia educators’ extraordinary work since the pandemic began.”
— PAGE Executive Director Craig Harper
AJC column acknowledges Warren County superintendent’s concerns over potential change to essential worker status for educators. It also highlights portion of PAGE’s letter to Gov. Kemp on recommendations for modifying guidelines for educators.
September 2020, PAGE Statement on Sept. 3
“PAGE fully agrees with the statement by State School Superintendent Richard Woods in support of students and educators over adhering to federal testing requirements. Georgia’s educators and parents understand that focusing on tests designed for a different reality ignores our present circumstances – and does so at the expense of Georgia’s 1.8 million public school students.”
– Craig Harper, Executive Director
“The Professional Association of Georgia Educators has given some input already and will be giving more, said Margaret Ciccarelli, the group’s legislative services director. She said PAGE was pleased that Kemp ‘did not rush to reclassify educators’ as workers who need not quarantine. She said the group wants ‘more robust’ virus reporting in schools and stronger paid leave policies for educators exposed to the virus.”
“All of us would prefer that schools could open, stay open, and return to their place as a vital center of community life. However, ignoring the high probability of continued community spread through elimination of quarantine protocols ensures prolonged health and safety issues for all Georgians,” Executive Director Craig Harper wrote in an accompanying letter.
“‘While educators understand that insurance costs will inevitably rise, and appreciate no cost increases for several years, today’s announcement regarding increased premiums during a public health and economic crisis is painful and sobering,’ said Craig Harper, PAGE executive director. ‘Last year’s employer contribution holiday undermined efforts to build and maintain a healthy SHBP reserve. PAGE encourages the Department of Community Health to maintain a healthy reserve fund to ensure that insurance cost increases are not borne by school employees.’”
Margaret Ciccarelli, PAGE Director of Legislative Services, shares Georgia educator concerns with WSB TV.
“We are hearing from hundreds of educators around the state who have deep concerns about schools opening. Our educators want to go back to schools, but the question of when they go back and how they go back is critical right now,” [Margaret] Ciccarelli [PAGE Director of Legislative Services] said. “We’re hearing from more educators and districts who are either already open for face-to-face instruction or who have announced plans to resume face-to-face instruction soon. Teachers in those districts are concerned that the districts are not making accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act for conditions that the teachers have that make them more vulnerable to coronavirus. They’re also concerned if they’re providing virtual instruction that districts are requiring them to come in onto school sites to provide that virtual instruction.”
“Educators are doing their best to serve students during the pandemic but these are complicated times and it’s important that they have an advocacy group,” Margaret Ciccarelli [PAGE Director of Legislative Services] says. “They’re concerned but they want to come back. The survey data indicates that. But how and when are what the controversies are here.”
“About one in five Georgia teachers are uncertain about returning to the classroom this fall, according to a survey of roughly 16,000 educators conducted by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE). ‘No one has ever been down this road before,’ Claire Suggs, senior education policy analyst for PAGE, said. ‘It’s really important that there be open and clear dialogue…The end goal is for everyone to be back at school,’ Suggs said. ‘That’s what teachers want, that’s what families want, that’s what students want. But we want to do it as safely as possible.’”
“’Returning to Georgia’s classrooms is an important step in adapting to the continued presence of COVID-19. However, doing so must be accomplished in measured ways that provide the safest possible environment for educators and students,’ [said Craig Harper, PAGE executive director]. ‘Local school leaders are making informed decisions about when it is safe to open campuses, and many have determined that virtual instruction is the best, safest option for their communities. Georgia educators have a strong desire to reunite with students in classrooms, however, that desire is matched by their equally strong expectations that doing so will occur according to a process and timeline that protects the health and safety of all involved.’”
“After surveying its members and discussing the state situation, PAGE released its own recommendations…In a statement, PAGE said, ‘Following these recommendations offers multiple benefits including time for the increase in COVID-19 cases to subside, and for determining the appropriate school opening strategy. A delayed opening also provides more time for safety planning, robust communication with educators, and training on safety and instructional plans.’”
“‘While the information released today provides some helpful guidance about preventing COVID-19 spread within open schools, Georgia’s Path to Recovery does not provide critical guidance regarding how district leaders should determine the safest and most appropriate way schools should begin the year,’ the organization of nearly 100,000 educators said in a statement. ‘COVID-19 spread in broader local communities within which schools operate should inform school opening decisions in conjunction with the actual cases of COVID-19 and exposure inside of a school.’”
“‘They don’t currently feel that their district plans appropriately respond to the risk,’ (PAGE Legislative Director Margaret) Ciccarelli said. Among those who identified themselves as high risk for complications of infection, 67% felt their district’s plan was inadequate.”
“‘In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp signed a budget bill that reduces spending by about 10%, including a $950 million cut to the main state education fund. Some poorer school districts rely on the state to cover 70% of operating expenses,’ said Margaret Ciccarelli, director of legislative services for Page Inc. [sic], the state’s teachers’ association.”
“‘Educators responding to the [PAGE] survey indicated a high level of trepidation about returning to school…Those who work in a district that has announced local opening plans are concerned that those don’t fully protect students and teachers as they come back to the building,’ said PAGE director of Legislative Services (Margaret Ciccarelli). More survey analysis and advocacy to come.”
“That protection of equalization grants is unquestionably a good thing, said Claire Suggs of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators…But in some districts, especially places more dependent on state money, furloughs might be a possibility, she said…”
“Educators believe in accountability for their students and their learning. Educators know also that high-stakes testing is not what drives commitment and accountability. In ways big and small, educators demonstrated their personal and professional accountability during school closures when 2020 assessments were waived. PAGE members appreciate Gov. Brian Kemp, State School Superintendent Richard Woods, and state legislators for reducing state-mandated tests, reflected in approval of SB 367.”
“Craig Harper, executive director of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, said he was encouraged by efforts to protect some student services. But he said schools will be hard-pressed to provide online learning access, academic remediation, and personal protective equipment with the overall proposed cuts. ‘PAGE encourages policymakers at federal, state, and local levels to work toward solutions that minimize negative impacts on students, schools, and educators,’ Harper said.”
“Margaret Ciccarelli, director of legislative affairs for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, pointed out that there’s no better example of how dedicated teachers are to their students than the work school staff put in during the three months of distance learning due to COVID-19.’Teachers are accountable, administrators are accountable, all members of the school team are accountable, regardless of standardized testing,’ she said.”
“PAGE is committed to Georgia educators and the 1.8 million children they serve. We know that public education must be prioritized at all times – including during economic and social crises. In the weeks preceding today’s budget proposals, PAGE advocated for minimal cuts to K-12 funding. We delivered educator concerns directly to lawmakers – provided as a report compiled from survey responses from more than 9,100 PAGE members. You can access this report on our website.'”
“‘We are encouraged by Gwinnett County Public Schools’ announcement today of an anticipated revision to their controversial plan for returning employees to on-site work,’ said Professional Association of Georgia Educators Executive Director Craig Harper. ‘PAGE has been in close contact with GCPS administration on this issue – conveying employee concerns to the superintendent and urging the district to amend the policy to prioritize the health and well-being of educators and school personnel. State School Superintendent Richard Woods and school leaders throughout Georgia have consistently recommended compassion over compliance in these unprecedented times.’”
“Craig Harper, executive director of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, the state’s largest teacher group, said, ‘We know the hard economic reality of this unprecedented situation will impact public education and educators. Schools and educators meet critical and essential needs of children and families in every community. PAGE encourages legislators at state and federal levels to do everything possible to ensure that doors are open for a full school year with the staff, resources, and safety measures necessary to fulfill this vital function.’”
“Craig Harper, executive director of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators
the state’s largest teacher group, said: We know the hard economic reality of this unprecedented situation will impact public education and educators. Schools and
educators meet critical and essential needs of children and families in every community. PAGE encourages legislators at state and federal levels to do everything possible to
ensure that doors are open for a full school year with the staff, resources, and
safety measures necessary to fulfill this vital function.'”
“Over a third of the more than 15,000 respondents to the Professional Association of Georgia Educators survey said getting students online was their biggest challenge, Executive Director Craig Harper said. About 1 in 5 said their biggest problem was converting their lessons to an online format.”
“‘If private schools had the same requirements to adhere to those [IEP and 504] plans as public schools currently do, we would look upon the legislation much more favorably,’ said Margaret Ciccarelli, director of legislative services for PAGE.”
Opinion: Oppose Senate plan to divert public money to private schools
By PAGE Executive Craig Harper
“‘We request that lawmakers proceed cautiously when considering additional tax cuts during a time when the state has so many public service needs,’ said Craig Harper, executive director of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, the state’s largest teacher group.”
“Craig Harper, executive director of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, the state’s largest teacher group, said, ‘Forward progress on this issue is essential to maintaining highly qualified educators in schools and classrooms. We understand that lawmakers are juggling many difficult and worthwhile budget priorities,’ he said. ‘We strongly recommend that policymakers prioritize the full raise as budget negotiations move through the legislative process.’”
“‘Scholarship students lose the right to the services outlined in their IEPs under the existing program or in the Section 504 eligibility criteria articulated under this bill,’ said Margaret Ciccarelli, director of legislative services for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators.”
“Margaret Ciccarelli, director of Legislative Affairs for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, said most of the 85 emails she has received from teachers on the issue expressed similar sentiments. ‘Almost all agree the toggling back and forth is bad for students and disruptive for families,’ Ciccarelli told Pruett’s committee.”
“‘I suspect that advocacy in support of the pay raise will intensify next week,’ said Margaret Ciccarelli, the group’s chief lobbyist. In a survey of association members last year, compensation was the No. 1 concern, she said. The $3,000 pay raise granted last year, and the promise of more to come, may already be having an effect, at least with older teachers.”
“Teachers groups are showing little sign of supporting any changes to the current (teacher retirement) system, however. ‘We still have some fundamental questions about the need for this bill to move forward,’ said Craig Harper, executive director of the 97,000-member Professional Association of Georgia Educators.”
“Margaret Ciccarelli, director of legislative affairs for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, the state’s largest teachers’ group, said the association supports fewer tests. ‘Our membership strongly indicates they believe Georgia’s assessment program is not serving student needs,’ she said.”
“Margaret Ciccarelli, a lobbyist for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, the state’s largest teacher group, said she and her staff met with Benton and made suggestions on his legislation. ‘There has been a lot of confusion about this bill,’ she said.”
January 2020, WABE
“The Professional Association of Georgia Educators recently issued an analysis of the three voucher programs. WABE education reporter Martha Dalton talked to PAGE’s senior legislative policy analyst Claire Suggs, who authored the report…” Click here <https://www.wabe.org/will
January 2020, Georgia Recorder
“Teacher associations plan to continue to work with legislators to protect the teacher pay hike and other education spending: ‘It’s going to be important to work with policymakers and help everyone understand that choices aren’t made in a vacuum,’ said Margaret Ciccarelli, PAGE Director of Legislative Affairs. ‘One choice to fund something or not fund something else will have an impact in other areas of the budget…'” Click here to continue reading.
January 2020, Marietta Daily Journal
“PAGE represents more than 97,000 Georgia educators who serve students in every Georgia public school. We strongly advocate for the effective investment of public resources to advance learning for public school students…” Click here to continue reading.
State Advocacy: COVID-19 Educator Leave with Pay – Letter to Superintendent Richards Woods and State Board of Education: July 2020
National Advocacy: Increased Federal Aid to Public Schools – Sample letter: U.S. House of Representatives: May 2020