Cranston, R.I. (June 30, 2022)– The National Education Association Rhode Island (NEARI) officially announced today that Lawrence E. Purtill will retire as president of NEARI on December 30, 2022.
Purtill will complete his twenty-third year as president of the organization upon retirement, he served 13 years as vice president before taking the helm in 1999. Prior to his leadership at NEARI, Purtill taught history in Exeter-West Greenwich for 22 years. He will be succeeded by NEARI’s vice president, Senator Valarie Lawson, who will serve until May 2023 when she will be eligible for election by the NEARI Delegate Assembly.
“I feel so fortunate to have dedicated my career to Rhode Island’s education and labor communities for the last 45 years,” said Purtill. “Teaching history was incredibly rewarding, and I loved being in the classroom. Serving as president of NEARI allowed me to have a broader impact on the lives of Rhode Island’s students from Pre-K through college by advocating for legislation and programs to make public education better now and into the future. It has been my great honor to represent the 12,000 active and retired members of NEARI. Our union is strong, and I have full faith that strength will continue under Val Lawson’s leadership.”
Purtill’s contributions to the vibrancy and strength of NEARI are many with a legacy of positive change and lasting impact across the many sectors of membership. Among his proudest accomplishments are leading NEARI into the greater labor community by joining RI AFL-CIO in 2012 and collaborating with educators, elected officials and community allies to increase awareness of mental health and social and emotional learning.
The last three years have been among the most difficult for our members, from the professionals at the Department of Health, our colleges, and municipal buildings to the classroom educators, education support professionals and librarians. Purtill said navigating through the Covid pandemic with NEARI’s heroic members is one of his greatest challenges, but one of which he is most proud.
Purtill has served on the Rhode Island Board of Education and until recently the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education, he was nominated to the Council on Postsecondary Education by Governor McKee this year. He is a member of the board of directors of RI AFL-CIO, RI Council on the Arts, and the Providence Performing Arts Center.
A steadfast supporter of student mental health and educator wellness, Purtill will remain active with NEARI’s mental health advocacy committee and planning the annual NEARI Mental Health Summit.
“I’m looking forward to spending more time with my wife Karen and dog Koko, and as an avid cyclist for two decades, more time on the racetrack,” said Purtill.