Episode for January 6, 2022
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Andrew Spar is president of the Florida Education Association, the state’s largest association of professional employees.
Spar was born and raised in the suburbs of New York City, attending public schools. A violinist since age 6, he earned his bachelor’s degree in music education from Ohio State University, graduating in 1994.
That same year, he went to Daytona Beach to teach at Turie T. Small Elementary School, where more than 90 percent of the students lived in poverty. The music teacher soon found his voice as an advocate and has worked ever since on behalf of public school students, schools, teachers and education staff professionals.
“I could not read when I was in first grade,” Spar recalls. “I struggled in school. But the educators in my life were empowered to make my success a priority, and that’s just what they did. I want the same world for my family and for all of Florida’s children.”
At Turie T. Small, Spar served as school-improvement chair for two years and as a union steward for seven years. He would go on to become president of his local union in May 2003 and led Volusia United Educators until he was elected FEA vice president in 2018. In September 2020, he was named FEA president after the previous president, Fedrick C. Ingram, was elected secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of Teachers.
During his 15 years leading the Volusia union, Spar negotiated 14 contracts, handled numerous grievances and arbitrations, and spent many long hours advocating for members and working families.
In 2017, he led the merger of the Volusia Teachers Organization and the Volusia Educational Support Association to create Volusia United Educators(link is external). The new union has nearly 3,800 members and represents more than 6,000 teachers, paraprofessionals and office specialists in Volusia County Schools.
Throughout his career, Spar has served on committees and task forces for the AFT. At FEA, he spent eight years on the executive cabinet. He also has served on the executive board of the Florida AFL-CIO(link is external) and was secretary-treasurer of the organization from January 2016 until September 2020.
Spar’s wife, Vernell, is also a public school music teacher. The Spars have two daughters; both girls attend public schools.
Paul Rieckhoff is an American writer, social entrepreneur, advocate, activist and veteran of the United States Army and the Iraq War. He is the President of Righteous Media Inc and the host of the Independent Americans podcast prior to that, he was the founder, CEO and executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA),a non-partisan non-profit founded in 2004 with tens of thousands of members in all 50 US states. IAVA is America’s first and largest Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans group. He served as an army first lieutenant and infantry rifle platoon leader in Iraq from 2003 through 2004.
He wrote an awesome book about his time in Iraq called Chasing Ghosts