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Head of the Table

Oklahoman Debora Dickinson is one of many vying for NEA Education Support Professional of the Year.

Working in a busy school kitchen that provides breakfast and lunch for approximately 1,200 of the school’s 2,000 students requires a certain type of person with a certain level of stamina.

 “You have to be a team player,” says Child Nutrition Manager Debora Dickinson. “And have lots of energy.”

As cafeteria manager at Southmoore High School in Moore, Oklahoma, Dickinson is not only a player but also the team leader in charge of 14 food service workers. 

As a member of the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA), her sense of teamwork, laser focus, and seemingly boundless energy has lifted Dickinson up the ranks from a school building representative to state ESP committee member, former vice president and now president of the 350-member Education Support Professionals of Moore (ESPM).

“Her leadership over the last three years is a huge reason why ESPM has seen a 40 percent growth in membership,” says Doug Folks, OEA Communications Specialist. “She is also known for her outstanding operational management skills and innovation in the kitchen.”

Dickinson’s culinary skills, work ethic, and leadership have not gone unnoticed. In 2016, she was named OEA Education Support Professional of the Year. As such, she is Oklahoma’s nominee for the 2017 National Education Association ESP of the Year, who will be announced at the NEA ESP conference March 10-12 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Dallas, Texas.

“I’m attending the conference with several other OEA members,” Dickinson says. “I’m looking forward to meeting other local leaders and discuss with them what each other’s locals are doing.”

Wilma Bunting, ESPM vice president, has known Dickinson for almost 10 years and is set to join her at the conference.

“Debora's passion for her work goes way beyond what is needed,” says Bunting, a paraeducator at Broadmoore Elementary School. “She's never too tired or busy to help a fellow ESP, student, teacher or anyone.”

Moore Public Schools is one of the state’s largest school districts with 23,000 students. Over the last several years, Dickinson has helped to instruct many of the district’s cooks and managers.

“No one becomes a cafeteria manager in the district without spending time learning from Debora,” says Folks. “She has streamlined the process of establishing weekly menus and worked with nutritional experts to provide the best meals possible for students and employees.”

NEA ESP Conference Registration

On-site registration will be available until full capacity is reached. (Personal checks will not be accepted.)

The NEA ESP conference will offer more than 50 workshops. Pre-conference workshops are offered in topics ranging from social justice, membership recruitment techniques, and leadership development to communication skills training, membership empowerment, and creating alliances with other labor organizations. Pre-conference workshops for emerging and advanced Association leaders are also offered.