Dolores McCracken

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Dolores McCracken

Dolores McCracken, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, passed away on Nov. 13, following a brief battle with cancer.

Dolores McCracken was a local, region, and statewide PSEA leader for more than two decades, directing her talents and energy toward programs and initiatives that improved both public education and the lives and livelihoods of PSEA members.

“Dolores McCracken was an excellent PSEA president, a phenomenal woman, and a great friend. Dolores was not just the president of PSEA. She was also part of our family. We will miss her dearly,” said PSEA Vice President Rich Askey. He said PSEA members from across the commonwealth are mourning their loss.

Dolores was born in New York and raised in Philadelphia. After working for several years as a paralegal, she got involved in public education when her children entered elementary school, serving as the president of the Churchville Elementary Home and School Association. That experience propelled her into a nearly two-decade career in public education, working as a paraprofessional in a sixth-grade inclusion classroom in the Council Rock School District. 

Throughout that time, Dolores took an active role in PSEA. She served as the president of her local association and later took on numerous other leadership positions in her PSEA region and statewide. She served as president and vice president of the Council Rock Education Support Professionals Association and led efforts to negotiate local contracts and connect with the public.

A member of the PSEA ESP Board and PSEA Board of Directors from 2001 to 2011, she influenced PSEA decision-making at the highest levels, in particular championing programs that improved salaries and working conditions for education support professionals - the classroom aides, paraprofessionals, and other support staff who make public schools in Pennsylvania work. She also served on PSEA’s Member Benefits Board, demonstrating her commitment to helping members save money.

Dolores was elected PSEA treasurer in 2011. As treasurer, she oversaw the stabilization of PSEA’s finances, helping to move the Association to a strong position after meeting the challenges presented to many non-profit organizations in the wake of the Great Recession. She also established the PSEA Education Foundation to support education initiatives across the state and served as Foundation President.

Elected PSEA vice president in 2015, Dolores became even more closely connected with PSEA’s operations. She helped to oversee a comprehensive rewrite of PSEA’s mission, vision, values, and goals and championed a public relations program aimed at promoting the Association and public education.

In 2017, she became the first ESP member to serve as PSEA president.

Dolores led the Association’s legislative and political programs, always focused on improving teaching and learning conditions in Pennsylvania’s public schools. During her tenure, she championed bipartisan legislation to promote school safety, reduce time students spend on standardized testing, and protect dedicated school support professionals from having their jobs subcontracted to for-profit companies.

All of those initiatives became law.

Dolores served on the Board of Directors for PSEA’s political action committee, PSEA-PACE. She was respected by candidates and elected officials from both political parties and leaders of other labor unions. She met and developed relationships with local officials, legislators, governors, and U.S. Presidents.

She testified at House and Senate Hearings, was co-chair of the Governor’s School Safety Task Force, and served on the Coalition for Labor Engagement and Accountable Revenues (CLEAR), Keystone Research Center, and PA After School Youth Development Network boards, as well as several committees for the National Education Association.

Dolores was steadfast in her focus on representing PSEA’s 181,000 members. She respected opposing views, amplified diverse voices, and personally responded to members’ emails, calls, and meeting requests. She traveled thousands of miles each year, visiting members in Pennsylvania schools and hospitals. She believed in the power of collective action and solidarity, always looking for solutions, and proudly walking picket lines when necessary.

A formidable negotiator, she treated everyone with respect and kindness and had a knack for making people feel special.

“I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from PSEA members for Dolores and her family throughout this difficult time,” Askey said. “Dolores dedicated her life to advocating for great public schools, Pennsylvania students, and the PSEA members she served. While our hearts are breaking, we smile knowing that she leaves behind an amazing legacy for our children, our grandchildren, and all who come after us.”

She was the beloved wife of 40 years to Jack McCracken, Jr.; devoted mother of Jack McCracken, III and wife Suzanne, Kristin Ellenberger and husband Branden; dear sister of Cecilia Vassallo and husband Kurt, Ellen Stabler and husband Frank, and Catherine Diamond; loving grandmother of Dylan, Reese and Paige Ellenberger, and Logan McCracken; also survived by nieces, nephews, cousins and many dear friends.

Following Dolores’ passing, Rich Askey became PSEA president, as clearly provided for in PSEA’s constitution and bylaws.