Next teachers’ union leader is former state Senate leader

Donald Williams addresses teachers at a rally in 2012

Donald E. Williams Jr. has been named the next leader of the state’s largest teachers union, the Connecticut Education Association, a political powerhouse with an annual budget of about $20 million and rainy day fund of $13 million.

Williams, 59, served as the leader of the Senate for 10 years before stepping down and landing a job at the CEA as deputy director of professional policy, practice, research, and reform in November 2014.

He takes over the top job from Mark Waxenberg, whose compensation totaled $321,500 in 2014, the most recent tax filing publicly available for the non-profit. The union declined to disclose Williams’ salary.

“I am honored to be given this important opportunity to continue the vital work that supports students, teachers and public education,” Williams said in a press release announcing his appointment, which is effective July 1. “This is a critical time for public education, with challenges that include threats from corporate groups seeking to privatize and profit from our public schools. I look forward to working with our members to strengthen and protect public education for all students and all teachers.”

During a contentious legislative session in 2012, Williams helped amend a controversial education reform bill proposed by the governor that targeted teacher tenure and collective bargaining rights. Williams helped win support from teachers’ unions for the final version of the bill.

Before landing at the CEA, Williams was a finalist for the presidency of Quinebaug Valley Community College. (Read his resume at the time here.)

His experience in education includes being chairman of the higher education subcommittee of the legislature’s Appropriations Committee, a member of the New England Board of Higher Education from 2007 to 2011, and the executive director of Connecticut College’s downtown satellite campus from 1997 to 1999. His publications include a new book on the legacy of Prudence Crandall, who founded a school for African-American women in Canterbury in 1833. He also served as chairman of the legislature’s Select Committee on Children.

Williams earned his law degree from the Washington and Lee University School of Law and holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University. He also is a former radio reporter.