Skip to Content

The Road to ESP Networking Runs Through Facebook

Education Support Professionals use social media to connect, commiserate, and advocate.

Check the Facebook feed for “NEA Education Support Professionals” (ESPs) over the last several weeks and you are bound to catch a glimpse of The Passionate Para from Pennsylvania, Marla Lipkin.

Maybe she will post news of a privatization victory: “An outsourcing WIN in New Jersey!! BOE voted to keep paraprofessionals in house.”

Maybe she will lament the sad case from Michigan where the Novi school board voted to privatize the school district’s food service as a cost-saving measure.

Or, maybe she will offer news from Canada about a fiery school bus crash where the driver employed by a private transportation company was charged with careless driving.

“Outsourcing is one of my favorite things to share,” says Lipkin, who is based at the Pennsbury School District and also manages a popular blog. “I seek articles that show privatization is not in the best interest of students.”

Connie Boylan and Marla Lipkin

As with Lipkin, today’s road to ESP networking runs through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat. More than ever, ESPs today are using social media networking as a digital strategy tool for photo sharing, connecting with colleagues, advocating for education issues, and reaching prospective members.

Dan Kivett


 “My local Association has two Facebook pages and a website we use for keeping in touch with members, especially our younger ones,” says Dan Kivett, a school security officer and president of the Redlands Education Support Professionals Association in California. “ESPs are finding each other online to connect and commiserate as well as organize.”

While posting on multiple platforms is constant for many ESPs, activity is buoyed before and during state and national events like NEA’s Read Across America, American Education Week, and ESP conferences.

As the NEA Annual Meeting and Representative Assembly (RA) approaches from June 27 to July 7 in Washington, D.C., the ESP virtual community is expected to appear in full force through smartphone use, digital messaging, and other rich interactions complete with photos, videos, and stickers. Images and text from the RA floor are expected to flow almost non-stop via the ESP Facebook page given that many of its 1,500 members will be in the house.

Matthew Powell

“For those attending the RA, the ESP Facebook page is a great way to keep abreast of all the action, even that which is not in front of you,” says Matthew Powell, a custodian and bus driver with Graves County Central Elementary School in Mayfield, Kentucky. “For those unable to attend, the page is a way to network with those in D.C. as events occur. It keeps you in the game.”

Powell plans to attend the RA, along with Connie Boylan, an NEA director for 13 years and RA delegate with the Michigan Education Association (MEA).

“I’ve been using the ESP Facebook page to set up meetings, share information about where we are staying, and plan networking events,” says Boylan, a library media paraprofessional with Traverse City Area Public Schools and MEA ESP caucus president. She recently posted a link to an article featuring the most historic places in Washington.

“I love seeing how some postings are liked, shared and tweeted,” she says. “This is just what I’m going for … social interaction, political feedback and activism, communication with colleagues at the local, state and national levels. It’s addicting.”

In March, when approximately 1,200 ESPs attended the NEA ESP conference in Orlando, Florida, Boylan arranged conference meetings through the ESP Facebook page months in advance with colleagues from the West Coast and Midwest.

“I use Facebook and Twitter a lot and am now getting into Snapchat and Thunderclap for different purposes,” Boylan says.

Lipkin also uses multiple platforms to communicate with an array of followers.

“I use my social media accounts differently depending on my target audience,” she says. “I use my personal blog to state my views and the ESP Facebook page to obtain the latest ESP news.”

Sara Robertson, a senior communications specialist with the NEA ESP Quality Department, launched the ESP Facebook page more than a year ago. To join, a current member of the group must like or add a prospective member.

(For more about joining the group, see below.)

Robertson is elated by the groundswell of support ESPs show one another on the site. But it was the trending around the ESP conference that surprised her.

“There was so much excitement created prior to the conference by people who were planning to attend,” says Robertson, who administers the site. “As a result, they became friends via the Facebook group by sharing each other’s posts.”

By the time the conference began, all that remained for many conferees was a face-to-face introduction, says Robertson.

“I saw so many ‘can’t-wait-to-finally-meet-you!’ posts and then at the hotel I actually heard shouts of joy when the connections were made in person,” says Robertson, who worked at the registration and media desks during the conference. “From where I sat, I’d hear squeals from two ends of a hallway and then literally witness members running toward each other and hugging … people who may just have passed each other by had they not met online.”

Attending national conferences for the first time can be overwhelming, says Lipkin, which is why she launched an RA page for members of the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA). Beyond logistical support, Lipkin says social media activism provides ESPs with the opportunity to share their opinions, insights and ideas.

“I use Facebook and Twitter to share inspirational stories and spread ESP awareness,” Lipkin says. “We now have a hub like the ESP Facebook page where thousands of investigators, friends, sympathizers, and cheerleaders can find support and guidance.”

Join the conversation! Click: NEA ESP Facebook page and follow @NEArESPect on Twitter.

Post ESP news and views using #ESPvoices