Member educators at James Campbell High School in Ewa Beach pay tribute to HSTA President Corey Rosenlee, who taught social studies there for nine years before taking the helm of HSTA. His colleagues reflect on his impact as a leader at the school and across the state.
Christine Russo, science teacher and former HSTA teacher lobbyist:
“Long before Corey was elected president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, he was out in front of issues facing our keiki and teachers. Prior to becoming a certified teacher, I worked as a substitute teacher and often subbed at Campbell High. I recognized Corey immediately from seeing him regularly on the local news, fighting for such issues as cooling our classrooms. When I was hired full-time, I experienced first-hand the challenges of teaching in a sweltering hot classroom. My students fought over fans, or were too drained to keep their heads up for the day’s lesson. Eight years later, we’ve made great progress in cooling classrooms across the state, including 100-percent of our classrooms at JCHS. This is most certainly a result of Corey’s advocacy in bringing this issue to the attention of policymakers.
After being elected HSTA president in 2015, Corey continued to fiercely advocate for students and teachers. In 2017, he led a march to the state Capitol, where thousands of teachers filled the Capitol rotunda in a sea of red demanding competitive pay. Shortly thereafter, HSTA negotiated the 2017–21 contract, which included a nearly 14-percent pay hike over four years.
Over the next several years, Corey continued to advocate for increased funding and support for public education and educators, including a multifaceted, solution-oriented approach to end Hawaii’s teacher shortage crisis. This HSTA initiative started to make promising gains for educators until the coronavirus pandemic triggered a statewide lockdown in March 2020.
Though the pandemic caused chaos and confusion, Corey kept us updated and informed through public live streams of briefings and news conferences. He explained our ever-changing working conditions and the steps HSTA took to ensure the safety and well-being of our teachers and keiki.
As the pandemic progressed and economic fallout ensued, Corey fiercely fought against proposed furloughs and pay cuts that would have further eroded our teacher workforce and deepened the teacher shortage crisis in our state. Corey’s leadership allowed our union to accomplish great things. He inspires teachers and moves us to action.
Corey, we at James Campbell High School, and schools across the state, thank you for all you have done for us over the past six years. While we are sorry to see you go, we can’t wait to see what you’ll accomplish next. For now, we look forward to seeing you back in action in the classroom here as JCHS.”