Episode for August 5, 2021
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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.
Christian Finnegan is an American stand-up comedian, writer and actor based in New York City. Finnegan is perhaps best known as one of the original panelists on VH1‘s Best Week Ever and as Chad, the only white roommate in the “Mad Real World” sketch on Comedy Central‘s Chappelle’s Show. Additional television appearances as himself or performing stand up have included “Conan”, “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson”, “Would You Rather…with Graham Norton”, “Good Afternoon America” and multiple times on The Today Show and Countdown with Keith Olbermann, and on History‘s I Love the 1880s. He hosted TV Land’s game show “Game Time”. As an actor, Finnegan portrayed the supporting role of “Carl” in the film Eden Court, a ticket agent in “Knight and Day” and several guest roles including a talk show host on “The Good Wife“. In October 2006, Finnegan’s debut stand up comedy CD titled Two For Flinching was released by Comedy Central Records, with a follow-up national tour of college campuses from January to April 2007. “Au Contraire!” was released by Warner Bros. Records in 2009. His third special “The Fun Part” was filmed at the Wilbur Theatre in Boston on April 4, 2013 and debuted on Netflix on April 15, 2014.