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Dolores McCracken receives NEA’s highest honor

The long career and work of Dolores McCracken as an advocate for public education, educators, students, and working families has been recognized by NEA with its most prestigious award.

McCracken, who served as PSEA president from Sept. 1, 2017, until her death on Nov. 13, 2018, following a brief battle with an aggressive cancer, was posthumously awarded the NEA Friend of Education Award during NEA’s Representative Assembly in July in Houston.

“Dolores was fierce, and she was loving,’’ said NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcìa before the RA’s 7,000 delegates. “She was a true inspiration to every student and member who had the good fortune to meet her. She was unwavering in her representation and support of PSEA’s 181,000 members and all of Pennsylvania’s public school students.’’

McCracken’s daughter, Kristin Ellenberger, and PSEA President Rich Askey accepted the award.

“Dolores dedicated her life to advocating for great public schools, students, and the PSEA members she served and loved,’’ Askey said. “She has left an amazing legacy for our children, our grandchildren, and all who come after us. I can think of no better way to honor that legacy than with the NEA Friend of Education Award.’’

McCracken joins the ranks of Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, former U.S. presidents Lyndon Johnson, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and governors, members of Congress, educators, journalists, and civil rights leaders who have received the award.

McCracken, a paraprofessional in the Council Rock School District, Bucks County, was a local, region, and statewide PSEA leader for more than two decades.

She made PSEA history in 2011 when her election as PSEA treasurer made her the first support professional to serve as a statewide officer. Her election as vice president four years later made her the first ESP to serve in that position. Then, on Sept. 1, 2017, McCracken became the first support professional to become president, ascending to that post after former president Jerry Oleksiak left PSEA to become Pennsylvania secretary of labor and industry.

In just 14 months as president, McCracken was instrumental in bipartisan efforts to address school safety, reduce time spent on standardized testing, and protect education support professionals from having their jobs subcontracted to for-profit companies.

The PSEA House of Delegates voted last December to rename the Association’s top ESP award in her honor. It is now the Dolores McCracken PSEA ESP Member of the Year Award.