By Amanda Litvinov
For Stan Sameshima, a retired educator who taught 2nd and 4th grade in Golden, Colorado, for decades, a good day is one spent hiking or cruising the open road on his motorcycle. But when NEA asked retired members in critical states to volunteer to monitor the polls if assistance is needed on Election Day, Sameshima was quick to step up. He tells us why.
What compelled you to consider volunteering as a poll monitor on November 6th?
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I responded because I believe that the election process isn’t always equal and fair for everyone and that’s why I want to volunteer—to learn what the reality is and do whatever I can to help. Educators in general believe strongly in fairness and equality, and those are things that qualify us to serve as poll monitors. Our profession requires us to reflect and strive for fairness and objectivity to be good at our jobs.
What are you seeing that makes you concerned about fair elections?
Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler tried to purge voters from the rolls using federal lists that included outdated information about people who were once foreign nationals. He made several efforts to purge those people from the rolls of eligible voters, but it didn’t work because local county officials wouldn’t go along with it. But his original intention really concerns me.
Tell us what’s at stake for you in the upcoming election.
Public education is at stake, at every level of government for students and educators alike. In Colorado, our retirement plan for educators is one of the best in the nation, and yet it is being attacked by the state Congress. They want to change it even though it’s been working really well for a long time. It’s become a political issue that we even have a pension system for public employees, and that is sad.
Also, funding is always at stake. Our school funding here is one of the lowest in the country. And when I look around, there are charter school and private school proponents growing more powerful. But I believe public education is worth defending.
Would you say there is general understanding in your community of how important all elections are for sustaining great schools?
In some places in Colorado voters have elected people to our school boards not realizing what those candidates really stood for. There’s more money going into these races because we have no campaign finance law for school board elections. It’s never been a problem before, but now there’s money being funneled in by the super-rich who want to take over our public school boards so they can promote charters and private schools. They don’t come out and say it, but it’s what they work toward once they hold those positions.
People who care about schools can’t be completely disconnected from politics.
Other than following politics, how do you spend your time?
I’m now on the board of the High Plains Library District. It relates to public education, because libraries are so important for the education of people of all ages. I’m also on the board of the Computer Users Group of Greeley, which helps members of the local community learn to use anything that has a chip in it—a computer, a camera, an iPad. I have a master’s in instructional and learning technologies, and this is one way that I keep up with technology now that I’m retired.