Author, union head, philanthropist visit Meriden schools

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MERIDEN — The national president of the country’s second-largest teacher’s union visited John Barry Elementary School Friday as part of a nationwide tour to promote public education and civic engagement. 

Randi Weingarten,  president of the American Federation of Teachers, passed out copies of the children’s book, “If I Ran for President,” to classes at John Barry School.

“We want somebody in this room to run for president of the United States of America and we want to help prepare you,” Weingarten said to a classroom of students. 

Earlier in the day, author Jeff Kinney gave a presentation to Washington and Lincoln Middle students at Lincoln. Kinney is the author of children’s books, including the Diary of Wimpy Kid book series.

Weingarten, whose union represents 1.7 million nationally, feels the upcoming election is a good time to talk about civic engagement with children.

“It’s really important to get kids thinking about the importance of Democracy and inclusiveness and how they and their parents have a role in the future of the country,” she said.

Weingarten also visited Lincoln Middle School, where she toured the school’s new STEM Lab and held a roundtable discussion with students from Platt High School about student engagement. 

“The students were talking to us about what’s meaningful to them and what they need from adults,” he said. 

Weingarten was joined on the visits by billionaire philanthropist Barbara Dalio, president of the Dalio Foundation, which has made numerous contributions to the Meriden school system over the years. 

John Barry Principal Dan Crispino said older students at the K-5 school will read the book to younger students as part of the school’s “Tech Buddy” program. 

Crispino said students were excited to know that “someone really, really important” was visiting their school. 

“It’s huge to be able to explain to them that people are actually visiting us at John Barry in Meriden,” he said. 

Erin Dunleavy Benham, president of the Meriden Federation of Teachers, said it was nice to have Dailio and Weingarten visit.

“We’re always willing to brag about our school system,” she said. “...It’s just fabulous to have two of our greatest supporters to meet for the first time and to be together and to show off our district.”

Weingarten said she has visited Meriden about five to 10 times in the last 10 years. She praised the school district for being one of the first “who practiced the art and science of working together” following the 2008 recession. 

“This school district understood....that the path to student success was working together,” Weingarten said.


Twitter: @MatthewZabierek


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