By Molly Cerreta Smith
For those that haven’t heard of the All Arizona School Retirees Association (AASRA), it’s about time you did! The association, with units throughout the state, was initially formed in 1957. However, eight-year member Judy Weber, who also serves as the secretary of the AASRA’s scholarship foundation, says the group has evolved greatly since then.
“It started as just a teacher’s organization,” explains Weber of the Association’s early days. However, today, any public education staff that retires from an Arizona school district — from duty aids and kitchen staff to principals and superintendents — can become a part of the AASRA. “We want people to know that we help advocate for the entire public education staff, not just teachers,” says Weber.
The AARSA acts as a voice for all retired school district personnel, has a presence at the capitol level regarding legislative priorities, and serves to advocate for all Arizona school retirees on issues affecting retirement such as pensions, social security and health plan benefits; issues regarding senior health and well-being including community services and security from abuse and exploitation; and issues affecting public education, students and educators.
With approximately 1,200 current members throughout the 14 units, Weber says the organization could be so much bigger. Future retirees should know that they can join three years shy of their retirement and memberships fees are just $30 per year, which can even be paid through their pensions.
The Northwest Phoenix unit meets at the Deer Valley Airport restaurant on the second Thursday of every month from 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. In addition to discussing issues they would like to focus on, the meetings often include inspirational, motivational, educational and historical speakers — or even speakers sharing unique points of interest on various topics for members to enjoy. Some recent speakers have included Lin Sue Cooney, an archivist from ASU West, a WWII Navajo Code Talker and more.
“We are investing in the future of teachers and our public education personnel,” says Weber of the Association. “We want each of our members to have a voice and an opportunity to serve a leadership role within the Association.” In addition to meeting once a month, the AASRA holds an annual two-day convention that includes speakers of influence, a raffle fundraiser, a banquet dinner and entertainment. “There is a lot of fellowship within the group so we have a lot of fun too,” Weber adds. For more information on the group’s benefits and how to become a member, visit www.aasra.org.