NYSUT United July/August 2023

NYSUT United A Union of Professionals logo
Together we can typography
Fix tier 6 typography

Anna Rossi and daughter Michelle both coach and teach HS math. But when it comes to retirement, that’s where the similarities end.

July/August 2023
NYSUT UNITED [July/August 2023, Vol. 13, No. 6 ]

Director of Communications: James Morrison
Lead Editor/Copy Desk Chief: Clarisse Butler Banks
Assistant Editors/Writers: Riley Ackley, Emily Allen, Ben Amey, Molly Belmont, Kara E. Smith
Photo Editor: J. El-Wise Noisette
Lead Designer: Nicole Clayton
Art and Production: Dana Fournier
Advertising: Andrew Watson
Online Communications Coordinator: Bryan Thomas
Editorial Support: Julie Malec
Contributor: Carl Korn

NYSUT United is a member publication of the International Labor Communications Association, Metro New York Labor Communications Council, State Education Association Communicators.
Editorial and Production Department:
518-213-6000 and 800-342-9810 (toll-free)
Annual subscription: $15. NYSUT members receive a copy of NYSUT United as part of their dues benefit. Households with multiple members will receive only one copy. If you do wish to receive more than one copy, please call 518-213-6000.
Address changes: POSTMASTER:
Member Records Department, 800 Troy-Schenectady Road, Latham, NY 12110

UFT member address changes:
New York Teacher, 52 Broadway,
12th floor, New York, NY 10004
NYSUT United (ISSN 21587914) and nysut.org are official publications of New York State United Teachers. NYSUT United publishes six issues from September to June.
Advertising: Email Andrew Watson at andrew.watson@nysut.org or call 518-213-6000 or 800-448-4ADS.
NYSUT Affiliated with AFT square space NEA square space AFL-CIO
800 Troy-Schenectady Road, Latham, NY 12110
518-213-6000 800-342-9810
President: Melinda Person
Executive Vice President: Jaime L. Ciffone
Second Vice President: Ron Gross
Secretary-Treasurer: J. Philippe Abraham

ELECTION DISTRICT DIRECTORS: Jeff Orlowski, Donna Walters, Darla Schultz-Bubar, Jennifer Austin, Adam Urbanski, Andrew Jordan, John Kuryla, David Chizzonite, Jeanette Stapley, Laura Franz, Joseph Herringshaw, Juliet Benaquisto, Melissa Tierney, Sparrow Tobin, Sean Kennedy, Anthony Nicodemo, Tomia Smith, Frederic Stark, Gregory Perles, John Mansfield, Kevin Coyne, Kevin Toolan, Laura Spencer, Karen Blackwell Alford, Carl Cambria, Mary Vaccaro, Amy Arundell, MaryJo Ginese, Mary Atkinson, Anthony Harmon, Michael Mulgrew, Elizabeth Perez, Victoria Lee, Richard Mantell, LeRoy Barr, Felicia Wharton (CUNY Higher Ed, PSC), Penelope Lewis (CUNY Higher Ed, PSC), Roberta Elins (Community Colleges), Alissa Karl (SUNY Higher Ed, UUP), Jeri O’Bryan-Losee (SUNY Higher Ed, UUP), Thomas Tucker (SUNY Higher Ed, UUP), Philip Rumore, Adam Piasecki, Dora Leland, Loretta Donlon (Retiree), Joan Perrini (Retiree), Thomas Murphy (Retiree)

AT-LARGE DIRECTORS: Cheryl Hughes, Michelle Licht, Andrew Bogey, Brian Ebertz, Nicole Capsello, Michele Bushey, Natalie McKay, Matthew Haynes, Samantha Rosado-Ciriello, Cordelia Anthony, Ronald Verderber, Nancy Sanders, Debra Penny, Michael Sill, Sean Rotkowitz, Thomas Brown, Janella Hinds, Leo Gordon, James Davis, Frederick Kowal, Florence McCue, Priscilla Castro (SRPs), Kim McEvoy (SRPs), Angie Rivera (SRPs), Deborah Paulin (SRPs), Karen Lee Arthmann (SRPs), Anne Goldman (Health Care), Stephen Rechner (Private Sector Higher Ed), Andrew Sako (Community Colleges), Pamela Malone (Higher Education) and Andrea Vasquez (Higher Education)
EX-OFFICIO BOARD MEMBER: Tyrone Hendrix, Executive Director
HONORARY BOARD MEMBERS: Thomas Y. Hobart Jr. (President Emeritus), Andrew Pallotta (President Emeritus), Antonia Cortese (Emerita), Alan B. Lubin (Executive Vice President Emeritus)
AFT VICE PRESIDENTS: J. Philippe Abraham, Shelvy Y. Abrams, James Davis, Ron Gross, Anthony M. Harmon, Frederick Kowal, Kara McCormick-Lyons, Michael Mulgrew, Melinda Person, Adam Urbanski
NEA DIRECTORS: Serena Kotch, Dora Leland
Alternate Directors: Sue Raichilson, Melissa Tierney
Executive Committee members are underlined.
[ Fighting for you ]

Delegates elect Melinda Person as NYSUT President

Carl Korn


ife-long education advocate and activist. Policy expert and union political director. Ironman triathlete. Mom to four young children.

portrait image of Melinda J. Person smiling and wearing a black and white polka dot blazer and white blouse while leaning her elbow on low pillar
El-Wise Noisette

NYSUT President Melinda J. Person

To that partial yet still exhaustive list of accomplishments, add a new title for Melinda J. Person — fifth president of the nearly 700,000-member New York State United Teachers.

Delegates to NYSUT’s Representative Assembly elected Person to a three-year term as president on April 29. She succeeds Andy Pallotta, who retired after two full terms.

Person hit the ground running with clear goals for the union, including continuing NYSUT’s fight against the misuse of standardized tests; championing more funding for public education at all levels; and extolling the value of educators — and the profession. A first victory was helping to secure a $2.6 billion increase in Foundation Aid.

“I have a lifelong passion and commitment to public education,” Person said. “I’m going to be using my voice to advocate for the policies, programs and dollars that our members need to meet the awesome responsibilities they face on the job. And you’re going to see me fighting to ensure that all our members are respected and that teaching remains an enticing and sustaining career choice.”

More immediately, Person said she would be visiting classrooms and marshalling the union’s members — and political power — to fix the state’s inequitable pension tiers, address the teacher shortage, and reform the state’s teacher evaluation system.

Top ring spirals


Early Voting Logo
June 17–25

Primary Election early voting

June 20

School budget revotes

June 27

Primary Election Day

NEA 2023 branding typography
July 3–6

NEA Representative Assembly

July 17–18

NYS Board of Regents meets

Local Action Project Logo
July 17–21

NYSUT Local Action Project Conference

July 21–23

AFT TEACH Conference

Please note, some or all of these events may be conducted as virtual meetings.

On the Cover

Cover design by Dana Fournier. Photo by Kimberly Pennant.
[ Fighting for you ]

Celebrate (just some of) our legislative victories!

the text "Celebrate (just some of) our legislative victories!" imposed over collaged images from NYSUT events
NYSUT Communications


YSUT activists and staffers fought hard this year for legislation to improve members’ working conditions and students’ learning conditions. We were successful on several fronts. Attention now shifts to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office to encourage her to sign bills into law.

Foundation Aid

The enacted state budget funds school aid at $34 billion and includes a $2.6 billion Foundation Aid increase.

“The full funding of Foundation Aid represents a historic moment for New York and our public schools,” said NYSUT President Melinda Person. “The state is at last keeping a promise that has been broken for far too long.”

This investment means that students will finally get more of the tools and resources they need to thrive in the classroom. This was decades in the making and something we’ve been pushing hard for through our Fund Our Future campaign.

[ Fighting for you ]

SRPs bring real-world concerns to lawmakers


ast year, work-related injuries and illnesses went down in the private sector but increased 40.9 percent for employees in elementary and secondary schools. SRPs are directly impacted by this trend. Every day, they break up fights between students, de-escalate conflicts, and run interference for students who might be considered a danger to themselves or others.

A meeting with Central New York SRPs


In a meeting with Central New York SRPs, NYSUT SRP At-Large Director Karen Lee Arthmann, Rush Henrietta EA, urges Assembly Member Harry Bronson to support legislation to improve the health and safety of students and educators.

In part due to NYSUT members’ advocacy, lawmakers this year finally agreed to amend the Workplace Violence Act. (See page 4.)

“SRPs are being confronted by so many different demands, and it’s important to make sure our voices are heard,” said NYSUT Board member Kim McEvoy, Rondout Valley Federation of Teachers and School- Related Professionals. McEvoy and SRPs representing a host of different job titles met with lawmakers in May to put a face — and a personal story — to their concerns.

Cindy Goodsell, Saratoga Adirondack BOCES Employees Association, shared a story about a 12-year-old who began throwing desks and chairs when he was asked to quiet down. Following the incident, the student was parked in her office to wait for a parent. “I didn’t know what to do. I’m just sitting there, trapped behind my desk,” said Goodsell. “We need more training on how to handle these situations.”

Districts also need protocols for how to reintegrate students following violent incidents, said Violetta De Rosa, Albany Public School United Employees. “Our students are suffering because they’re witnesses to that violence and that trauma impacts learning.”

[ Fighting for you ]

Unionists elect public ed supporters, show anti-public school board members the door

Ben Amey and Kara Smith

hen NYSUT members work together, we get big things done. Nowhere was that more evident on the local level this year than school board elections, where several locals worked, some for the first time, to elect pro-public school candidates to school boards and pass district budgets.

New York voters delivered a strong vote of confidence in their public schools, passing 99 percent of school district budgets in May. Local unions endorsed 360 candidates in board elections. Eighty-five percent of those candidates were elected, including 75 NYSUT members.

On Long Island, the Brentwood Teachers Association and Babylon TA both secured big wins. In Brentwood, the union endorsed and supported two pro-union candidates, one a retired teacher and the other a former student.

“These two candidates have unique perspectives … they both have the vision and mindset of doing what’s best for kids,” said Kevin Coyne, Brentwood TA president. More than 700 BTA members volunteered to make nearly 4,500 phone calls and knock on almost 2,000 doors to flip two seats away from anti-public education candidates.

[ 2023 NYSUT Representative assembly ]

Check out RA 2023 online

NYSUT Communications

he 2023 NYSUT Representative Assembly was one for the books. RA delegates elected former NYSUT Executive Director and Political Director Melinda Person president, and Jaime L. Ciffone, an educator of 21 years, was elected executive vice president. NYSUT Second Vice President Ron Gross and Secretary-Treasurer J. Philippe Abraham were re-elected for three-year terms.

In meetings at the annual convention, delegates considered 33 resolutions; six were approved on the floor. The remainder were referred to the NYSUT Board for consideration. Speaking in support of the resolution on Universal Transgender Rights and Protections, Jonathan Hansonbrook, Edgemont TA, urged fellow delegates to stand together for students and educators.

Ron Gross, Jaime L. Ciffone, Melinda Person, and J. Philippe Abraham
PHOTOS: El-Wise Noisette

Delegates elected NYSUT Officers and members of the Board of Directors. From left, NYSUT Second Vice President Ron Gross; Executive Vice President Jaime L. Ciffone; President Melinda Person; and Secretary-Treasurer J. Philippe Abraham.

[ 2023 NYSUT Representative Assembly ]

Elections 2023


elegates to the 2023 NYSUT Representative Assembly voted for candidates for NYSUT Officers, At-Large director positions, Election District director positions and AFT State Federation delegates and alternates. The NEA candidates were seated in accordance with the applicable campaign and election procedures.

Below are the total votes cast for each candidate. The winner in contested races is indicated by +.

The American Arbitration Association assisted with tabulating ballots and certified the election results.

Complete election results, including roll call votes cast, are available at nysut.org/Election2023 (login required). Procedures for Notice of Nomination and Election and Campaign & Elections Procedures were published in the January/February issue of NYSUT United.

[ Fighting for you ]

Cayuga CC part-time local ratifies first contract


fter nine years of protracted negotiations, the newly formed Cayuga Community College Part Time Faculty Association has ratified its first contract.

“It’s been a long time coming, but we finally have a contract,” said Carolyn Stevenson, president of the Cayuga CCPTFA.

front entrance to Cayuga Community College


Stevenson said the union of adjunct faculty and non-teaching employees — 200 strong at the time — first requested voluntary recognition of their newly formed union from the Cayuga CC in 2014, which was denied by the administration. The college attempted to merge them in with the already-established Cayuga Community College Faculty Association. Stevenson said they took their case to the state Public Employment Relations Board, which agreed that the part-time staff had the right to form their own bargaining unit. Union cards were signed for a second time in 2016 and the local began to hammer out a contract deal in earnest, Stevenson said.

COVID–19 stalled discussions and created more upheaval, with adjuncts being among the first to lose their courseloads and, therefore, wages during shutdown.

[ Fighting for you ]

NYSUT SRPs win three AFT awards


YSUT School-Related Professionals took home three awards at the recent American Federation of Teachers Paraprofessionals and School-Related Personnel Conference, proving they really are the best in the nation.

The Buffalo Educational Support Team won the PSRP Organizing Award for staying strong through 10 years of contract negotiations. They continued to organize even after multiple school board changes and repeated attempts to break the union. Jo Ann Sweat, who heads up the 900-member local comprising teaching assistants, teacher aides and health care aides, won raises of 10.5 percent for members in the first year, followed by three years of 2.25 percent increases. The four-year contract also includes signing bonuses, longevity bonuses and professional development.

“We did what we thought was best for our members. I just could not see settling for 2 percent,” said Sweat.

[ fighting for you ]

UUP, state reach contract agreement


fter a year of formal negotiations, United University Professions and New York state have reached a tentative agreement on a new four-year contract.

uup logo
“It is a fair and equitable agreement with reasonable salary increases, minimum salary gains for part-time contingent faculty, and other enhancements important to our members,” said UUP President Fred Kowal.

UUP represents more than 30,000 faculty and professional staff of the State University of New York across 29 campuses. If ratified, the contract would take effect immediately and run through July 1, 2026. It would be retroactive to July 1, 2022, which is when the union’s current contract expired.

“In reaching an agreement with the state, UUP again demonstrated the value of strong unions in the workplace. I congratulate UUP, its leadership team and the faculty and professionals who are the backbone of our SUNY system on this step forward,” said NYSUT President Melinda Person.

NYSUT Legacy Fund seal

Michelle Tinter, an innovative unionist with a caring heart

Michelle Tinter headshot

After almost 25 years as a BOCES Educators of Eastern Suffolk member, Michelle Tinter has earned her retirement. But that doesn’t mean her former colleagues don’t still miss having her around.

For the majority of Tinter’s in-service career, she was an active unionist, first as a representative and later as the local’s treasurer where she managed a large budget and helped many new executive board members learn the ropes.

“She was a nurturing figure on our E-board and always a voice of reason,” said Asha Mazza-Shaw, BEES president. “Michelle had a hand in negotiating several successful contracts over the years and was always an advocate for her fellow SRPs.”

Her fellow BEES members recognized her years of dedicated service with a NYSUT Legacy Award. “We miss Michelle and her presence on our executive board, but the BEES are happy to have a chance to honor her hard work and dedication to our local,” said Mazza-Shaw.

[ social justice ]

Representation key to breaking down stereotypes about AAPI students, educators


he Asian American and Pacific Islander community is incredibly diverse. Its members speak hundreds of languages, hail from nearly 50 countries and have vastly different traditions, cultures, foods and religions; a one-size-fits-all approach to the community is nearly impossible. But for all their differences, as minorities in American society, AAPI individuals face many shared challenges in the classroom.

As part of a Many Threads, One Fabric event celebrating Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month in May, a panel of NYSUT members discussed some of those issues and highlighted the importance of including AAPI voices in the classroom. “Individuals of Asian and Pacific descent are often overlooked in discussions of race,” said J. Philippe Abraham, NYSUT secretary-treasurer, whose office oversees social justice initiatives for the statewide union. “We want to start a dialogue about their contributions and learn more about the different perspectives they bring to the table.”

NYSUT President Melinda Person welcomed participants and underscored the value of the event. “This is important work, and we can’t do it without dedicated members like you,” she said.

[ social justice ]

NYSUT educators celebrate diverse, inclusive stories


mid ongoing battles to ban books in schools and libraries nationwide, NYSUT members are taking a stand against censorship and for academic and learning freedom. A recent report by the nonprofit free speech organization PEN America found that in the first half of the 2022–23 school year book bans increased 28 percent.

For school librarian Kristen Majkut, a member of Albany Public School Teachers Association, the push to create a welcoming and inclusive learning environment is a mission she feels passionate about. Beyond the school’s library, Majkut advises the Gender and Sexuality Alliance at Albany High School with fellow APSTA member Tom Vacanti.

librarian and Albany Public School TA member Kristen Majkut reacts to a poster featuring a book cover titled "This is Our Rainbow"

El-Wise Noisette

At the Albany-area Capital Pride Parade and Festival, NYSUT educators decorate their float with posters of inclusive children’s books. Above, librarian and Albany Public School TA member Kristen Majkut.

book covers of "And Tango Make Three", "Felix Ever After", and "We Deserve Monuments"

This is Our Rainbow is an anthology of stories featuring LGBTQ characters, for our kids, about our kids,” Majkut said. Family-friendly stories like those in the book are a poignant reminder of the importance of inclusivity, acceptance and self-discovery.

For more info about the NYSUT LGBTQ Committee and to see images from Pride events, visit nysut.org/LGBTQ.

[ OUR SRPs ]

Getting to know … P4Q secretaries

school secretaries, from left, Laura Familia, Dana Gottsegen and Wendy Guardion, stand together smiling, Laura Familia and Wendy Guardion hold water bottles with SRP Rocks stickers, while Dana Gottsegen holds a poster that reads "Super Heroes Among Us: SRP Recognition Day"
School secretaries, from left, Laura Familia, Dana Gottsegen and Wendy Guardion, all members of the United Federation of Teachers, work to keep the P4Q front office running smoothly. P4Q is a multi-site organization serving students in four Queens neighborhoods and comprises two self-contained school buildings and five community schools. They were interviewed by Paula Thomas, UFT, a member of the NYSUT SRP Advisory Committee.

Tell me about your job and why you love what you do?

Wendy Guardion: I handle the payroll for all paraprofessionals, school aides and family workers. I am responsible for the processing of all of our substitute teacher and substitute paraprofessionals nominations that come in, along with inputing information for workers compensation cases and daily attendance from all seven school sites.

Laura Familia: I handle the payroll for all of our teachers, OTs/PTs, nurses and the parent coordinator. I am also responsible for monitoring the attendance for all of the above mentioned titles. I often act as a translator for parents and staff.

Dana Gottsegen: I’m a team player and can be seen doing many things to help out around the school. However, at the end of the the day, I’m responsible for pupil accounting, procurement and the school budget.

[ Teaching & Learning ]

Remembering your ‘Why’

Adrian N. Smalls in turtleneck and wool blazer

Adrian N. Smalls, a member of the Monroe Community College Faculty Association, is an associate professor and chair of the Law/Criminal Justice Department at Monroe Community College.

A 16-year teaching veteran, Smalls retired from a career in law enforcement before entering the classroom.

As a young kid growing up in the Bronx, I dreamed of playing in the NBA. My favorite basketball player was Julius “Dr. J” Erving. He inspired me to go to college because that was how to get into the NBA.

During my junior high school years, I noticed how my teachers kept me engaged in class with their various teaching styles. This was the beginning of my curiosity about teaching.

I did well in high school and was offered several scholarships to be a student-athlete. I chose to attend the University of Rochester, where I had the wonderful experience of being around people my age with similar dreams and aspirations, something that I did not see much of from my friends in the Bronx. I graduated with a B.A. in History.

[ Teaching & Learning ]

Test distress: Standardized tests detract from learning


igh-stakes testing has been monopolizing classroom time since elementary school. Educators have long said the overemphasis on test scores detracts from students’ learning experience, and legislators are beginning to take notice.

Earlier this year, Congressman Jamaal Bowman unveiled the More Teaching, Less Testing Act. The bill limits testing requirements, gives states more options when it comes to assessments, and unlocks funding for Title I schools. Taken in total, the proposed legislation would foster more high-quality learning and eliminate disparities that so often contribute to poor test scores.

At this year’s Representative Assembly, delegates voted overwhelmingly to support a special order of business calling for an end to overtesting. The special order, which marks the latest effort in an ongoing battle over the role standardized tests should play in children’s learning and in teachers’ professional development, calls for the support of Congressman Bowman’s More Teaching, Less Testing Act and other bills like it that prioritize teaching over test prep.

[ Teaching & Learning ]

NYSUT members, locals donate millions in scholarships


oe Satriano has thousands of heroes. Each year, as part of his work with the Susan Satriano Foundation, he meets new ones.

“I have met 3,000 students in the past 17 years of doing the foundation. These students must deal with the pain of watching a parent go through cancer. Sometimes their parents are in remission, sometimes they are presently battling it and, in the worst-case scenario, they have lost a parent to this disease,” said Satriano, a retired math teacher and member of the Roslyn Teachers Association.

Satriano launched the Susan Satriano Memorial Scholarship Foundation in honor of his late wife, Susan, also a math teacher.

Satriano is passionate about education, just like his fellow unionists. In fact, NYSUT members and local unions across the state have given back millions of dollars in scholarships each year to students. Educators raise money through dress-down days, pizza parties and other events. Each year they help thousands of students get their degrees.

Help NYSUT fix tier six

Help NYSUT fix tier six typographic title
digital illustration of a woman holding a large piggy bank, and a man holding a small piggy bank

What’s this about?

It’s been over a decade since Tier 6 was added to the New York state pension system. Since then, more than 100,000 NYSUT members earn a significantly reduced pension as compared to earlier tiers. Consider this:
Tier 4 member contributions are capped at 3 percent and end after 10 years.
Tier 6 members pay 3 to 6 percent into the pension system their entire career — their contributions grow with pay raises.
Tier 4 members can retire at 55 with 30 years of service.
Tier 6 members must work to age 63, up to 40 years of service, or face heavy penalties.

How did this happen?

On Jan. 1, 2010, then Gov. David Paterson enacted Tier 5, increasing member contributions to 3.5 percent for members’ entire careers and increasing retirement eligibility from 55 to 57 years old with 30 years. A little over two years later, then Gov. Andrew Cuomo imposed Tier 6 on those who joined the system on or after April 1, 2012.
[ Teaching & Learning ]

CTE works: State funding needed to put students on a path to employment


hen it comes to creating a career pathway for students, Career and Technical Education works. In fact, many students graduate from high school with the credentials they need to move right into a job, usually in a high-demand field.

Along with making students career ready, CTE reinforces classroom lessons, showing students the practical applications for their academic studies.

Cosmetology student practicing on training mannequin

el-wise noisette

Students who complete the cosmetology program at East Syracuse Minoa can earn state licensing. The program is affiliated with Bryant and Stratton College.

“It’s important to show students where something is going to take them,” said Newburgh Teachers Association’s Linda Romano, a health science educator at Newburgh Free Academy and president of the State Association of Career and Technical Education. “CTE connects lessons they’re learning in the classroom with the real world, using a subject they’re interested in, like nursing.”

In April, NYSUT leaders toured schools in Syracuse to learn how students are getting access to quality CTE programs that offer hands-on, experiential learning in a wide variety of fields — from car repairs to aeronautics and construction courses. NYSUT leaders also toured Tech Valley High School in Rensselaer to learn more about fascinating project-based learning opportunities for students.

Project- and skills-based learning provide opportunities for students to see school subjects like math and ELA come to life. In CTE classrooms, figures and words jump off the page and become project budgets, essential measurements like teaspoons and grams, data to chart and analyze and funding proposals.

[ Teaching & Learning ]

CTE works: Profiles from the field

Linda Romano, Newburgh


areer and Technical Education isn’t just a pathway to a career. For many students, it’s a lifeline. Just ask Linda Romano, health science educator at Newburgh Free Academy.

“When I was a student in high school, I was not thriving. I was not on track to graduate,” Romano says. Like many of her students, Romano had a high level of absenteeism and the low grades that go with it. “D was my favorite letter,” she jokes. But a representative from Orange-Ulster BOCES turned that all around when she visited Romano’s school in her neat pink uniform and introduced Romano to the center’s LPN program.

“I came home that day and told my parents, ‘I think I want to do this,’” Romano, a member of the Newburgh Teachers Association, recalls.

When Romano successfully graduated high school the following year, she did it as a Licensed Practical Nurse. She was able to launch immediately into a job she loves and went on to create a successful health care training curriculum for a network of nursing homes in the lower Hudson Valley. In 2006, she was invited to retool Newburgh’s health science/nursing assistant program.

[ teaching & learning ]

Father and son span 65 years teaching music at North Country school


ince 1958, there has been a Heck teaching music education at Indian River. Charles Heck followed in his late father’s footsteps, taking over for William Heck in 1980 after he suffered a fatal heart attack during the second week of that school year.

Charles Heck being recognized as Outstanding Music Educator by the National Federation of State High School Associations


Charles Heck, center, a member of the Indian River Education Association, is recognized as Outstanding Music Educator by the National Federation of State High School Associations.

“It was a weird way to get a job, but it was kind of meant to be,” he said.

A member of the Indian River Education Association, Heck has been teaching at Indian River for the past 43 years. He not only leads the high school band, but also the music department faculty. Under his tutelage, students have advanced to local, state and regional competitions.

This spring, Heck was one of 24 honorees in the country to receive the Outstanding Music Educator Award from the National Federation of State High School Associations. Just one nominee per state is accepted for this prestigious award, which was presented as a surprise to Heck during this year’s spring concert.

“Being with these kids and sharing my love of music with them is one of the greatest joys of my life.”

After more than four decades enriching students’ lives and fostering their self-esteem through music, Heck will retire at the end of the next school year.

[ Teaching & Learning ]

ELT courses for today’s more diverse classrooms

ELT: Education & Learning Trust. Advance your career. Refresh your mind.

ew York state is home to an increasing number of English language learners. According to the State Education Department, in 2021–22, 10 percent of K–12 students in the state are ELLs, up from 8.8 percent in the 2015–16 school year. NYSUT’s Education & Learning Trust offers teachers new strategies for reaching these students, assessing them accurately, and celebrating their contributions to our classrooms. We’ve identified three courses to help bridge language gaps and ensure equity for all students. Courses are offered asynchronously online, and each is worth 5 CTLE hours.

Respect student experiences

Being a good teacher starts with knowing your students. Teachers may know ELL students attended school previously but have no idea what that experience was like for them. For instance, how frequently did they attend? Were the students in their class all the same age? Was their schooling interrupted? In “Culturally Responsive Classrooms” ELT instructor Carmen Vazqueztell, a member of United University Professions–Empire State Chapter, teaches educators how to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable, regardless of their proficiency in English. “Look at students as half-filled glasses. Identify their strengths, and start there,” said Vazqueztell.

[ health & safety ]

Give nurses what they need


ay marked National Nurses Appreciation Month, but nurses across the state say it is going to take a lot more than “Thank You’s” to set things right in their profession. Instead of feel-good pablum, they want action.

“During COVID we were stars. Everybody was banging pots and pans and saying ‘Bravo, nurses!’“recalls United Federation of Teachers Vice President Anne Goldman, head of the Federation of Nurses/UFT. “And we said, ‘Great, you finally get it. You see our heroism and commitment.’” But that recognition was short-lived, Goldman said, and today’s nurses are worse off than ever.

According to the AFT’s “Healthcare Staffing Shortage Task Force Report,” one in five health care clinicians have quit their jobs since the beginning of the pandemic. Of those who stayed in their jobs, nearly one in three have considered leaving at one point. And between 2020 and 2021, the total number of registered nurses in the workforce declined for the first time in more than five years.

To put the short staffing issue front-and-center for consumers and legislators, this year AFT launched a $1 million multifaceted, multiyear campaign, “Code Red: Understaffing = Patient Care Crisis.”

[ retirees in action ]

Retirees welcome Pallotta with a serenade

NYSUT Union For Life logo

etirees welcomed NYSUT President Emeritus Andy Pallotta to their ranks with a serenade at the Representative Assembly retiree breakfast in April. Set to the tune of “That’s Amore,” the lyrics of “Andy’s Song” detailed his many accomplishments as a union leader.

“That was so beautiful,” said Pallotta who thanked attendees for their many years of hard work as NYSUT’s daytime army. “I’m joining you and, like you, I am union for life.”

Retirees also gave outgoing NYSUT Executive Vice President Jolene DiBrango a compass charm to celebrate her six years of service. “Thank you for this … the union will remain strong because of your work,” she said.

“Retiree Council presidents, I see what you do and thank you for all of your efforts,” said Florence McCue, at-large ED 51-53 director, who led the meeting and welcomed attendees. Also on hand were NYSUT Board members and retiree directors Loretta Donlon, ED 51; Joan Perrini , ED 52; and Tom Murphy, ED 53.

Quotes - Right
Quotes - Right

RA Quotable

RA Quotable
AFT President Randi Weingarten
It’s that fight for our kids and fight for our members and fight for a better world … That is who the union movement is. It is us together forging that path for a better country and a better New York.

NEA President Becky Pringle
We will reclaim public education as a public good and transform it into a racially and socially just educational system that prepares every student to succeed.

AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler
If you come after educators, you are coming after the entire labor movement! And you will not win! You will fail, because that is the power of this labor movement.

NYS Comptroller Tom DiNapoli
The COVID-19 pandemic reinforced an undeniable truth: (NYSUT members) are the glue that keeps our communities together.

NYS AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento
Educators … have this unique ability to unite us as a society. You are the largest affiliate of the state AFL-CIO. When you have success, the entire labor movement has success.

[ voices ]

5 Questions for Jennifer Gravelle

5 questions for typography
Jennifer Gravelle

Wallkill Teachers Association


You’re a certified K-12 physical education teacher at Wallkill High School, but you also teach adaptive physical education. What’s the difference between the two types of teaching?

Adaptive physical education describes PE classes that are modified to meet students with special needs. I work with 15 adaptive PE students at the high school, and some are on the autism spectrum, some have learning and emotional needs and some have physical needs. You can either adapt instruction for one student within a larger class or teach an entire class of adaptive PE students.


How do you differentiate instruction to accommodate students with special needs?

My students like to do what their peers are doing, so we follow the regular PE units, with modifications. For instance, we play tennis with yarn balls, or play basketball with lowered hoops or use balloons instead of basketballs to shoot. We might also play volleyball but hit over a line on the floor instead of using a traditional net. I just did an all-abilities karate class and brought in an instructor from our local community to lead it.

[ classifieds ]

Real Estate Sales

FLORIDA — BUY SELL RENT. Specializing in country club, active adult communities and beach areas from Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Boynton Beach and surrounding areas. Serving NYSUT members for more than 18 years. Call Elly and Ed Lepselter. RE/MAX Advantage Plus, Boca Raton, FL. 561-302-9374.

YOUR SOUTH FLORIDA Real Estate Connection. EXIT Realty Premier Elite Sheryl Volk Realtor Contact 561-389-8670 or sherylvolk@gmail.com.

$154,999 WPBF CENTURY — Village condo 55+ two-bedroom, two- bathroom, 817 sq. ft., first-floor, corner condo. Updated granite kitchen counters, tile floors, furnished rooms. Many amenities, near beach. 516-297-9252 or susanrichmonds55g@gmail.com.


Three-bedroom, two-bath condominium. NYSUT discount. rj@jobers.com 716-830-4635.

Adirondacks four-season cabin, $850.00/week. Sleeps eight, adksiesta@gmail.com.
SOUTH BEACH, FLORIDA rental. One-bedroom gated apartment with patio. 600 square feet, two blocks from the beach. Six month minimum, $2,500 per month. Available starting in May. Contact petals17@optimum.net.
TEACHERS, TUTOR NEAR home/work. All subjects/grades/licenses. Long-term: facultytutoring@aol.com.
WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE — Old watches and clocks. Watchmaker pays top dollar for wrist, pocket or travel watches, clocks movements, cases and watch material in any condition. I will look at anything — watches, cases, vests chains, bands or parts. Running or not — I want them dead or alive! Email: timeharvest@aol.com or call Mel 646-242-4720.

[ resources for you ]

2023 Catastrophe Major Medical open enrollment

The Trustees of the NYSUT Member Benefits Catastrophe Major Medical Insurance Trust are pleased to offer the opportunity to enroll in the CMM Plan from Sept. 8, 2023, to Oct.13, 2023, with an effective date of Jan. 1, 2024.

The CMM Plan offers supplemental coverage that you and your eligible family members may need. Once the out-of-pocket deductible has been satisfied, this plan provides benefits for eligible expenses that your basic plan does not fully cover, including prescription drugs.

Regardless of your age or the type of basic medical insurance you have, you and your family members could still be left with extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses — especially if you have a serious medical issue or require convalescent/custodial care or home health care. As of Jan. 1, 2023, the CMM Plan also includes a Critical Illness benefit that pays a one-time $1,000 lump sum in the event that a covered member is diagnosed with a critical illness.

During this open enrollment period, NYSUT in-service members have the opportunity to enroll themselves (and any eligible dependents) in the CMM Plan. The open enrollment also avails current CMM Plan participants the opportunity to enroll any eligible family members that are not already enrolled under the plan.

Visit memberbenefits.nysut.org or call AMBA toll-free at 888-386-9788 to learn more about this opportunity.

National Board Certification grants available

NYSED.gov logo
National Board for Professional Teaching Standards typographic logo
The Albert Shanker Grant application window is now open. With NYSUT’s advocacy, the Shanker grant program was established to help defray the costs of New York state public school teachers pursuing certification through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Eligible candidates can qualify for up to $2,500 in grant assistance.

Reimbursement is open for candidates who completed the National Board Certification process in 2022. Each eligible teacher’s sponsoring school district is also eligible to receive a $500 direct reimbursement from NYSED.

Don’t delay, funding is limited and allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information, visit nysed.gov/postsecondary-services/albert-shanker-grant-program.

[ passings ]

Joyce Armstrong
May 21, 2023
Mt. Markham Teachers Association

Robert Armstrong
May 20, 2023
Unadilla Valley Faculty Association

Frank Berry | May 10, 2023
Port Jefferson Station Retired Teachers Association

Margaret A. Bryan | April 9, 2023
United University Professions –Stony Brook Health Science Center

Norris Fay | March 3, 2023
Onondaga Central Schools Faculty Association

Daniel Ginnane-Gannons
March 28, 2023
Retiree Council 03

Sharon LeBolt-Distaso
April 8, 2023
East Williston Teachers Association

Patricia Owens-Carter
Feb. 15, 2023
Greenburgh-North Castle United

Arlene Schoenherr
March 25, 2023
Greece Teachers Association

William Jeffery Ward
Jan. 18, 2023
Newark Valley United Teachers

Obituary submissions must include decedent’s full name, union affiliation, date of death, and contact info for the person submitting the notice. Send notices to Julie Malec, NYSUT United, 800 Troy-Schenectady Road, Latham, NY 12110-2455; or email julie.malec@nysut.org.

It’s What We Do

It's What We Do
Christine Fowler, Bill Muray, Allison Streeter
Schodack Faculty Association
Pull into the Maple Hill High School parking lot in Rensselaer County just outside Albany, and you’ll see a bright blue box at the edge of the sidewalk. Standing about five feet high on a rough-hewn base of two by fours, the glass front box brings to mind a bird house or a telephone booth.

It’s one of the district’s two “Little Free Libraries,” standalone library boxes that allow readers to freely take, add or borrow books. Christine Fowler, co-president of the Schodack FA with Karen Sweet, spearheaded the high school initiative in 2019.

“One of my greatest joys is giving people books,” said Fowler who erected an LFL outside her home in 2020.

After getting district approval and funding, Fowler ordered a kit and Schodack FA member Bill Murray worked with his technology students to assemble and post it outside the high school in 2021.

Unbeknownst to Fowler, sixth grade English teacher Allison Streeter, Schodack FA, had the same idea for the elementary school. “We were studying persuasive writing, so I had the kids write a letter to the principal,” said Streeter, who also has an LFL outside her home.

Castleton Elementary School’s LFL arrived the summer of 2022 and the building’s sixth graders became its official stewards.

The library boxes are a hit. “I’ve seen students from visiting sports teams browse through the box as they wait for their bus, people stop to look through it as they walk their dogs,” said Fowler. “Both boxes are a nice link between the school and the community.”

Read more about the project at nysut.org/itswhatwedo.

On the job and in the community, NYSUT members make a difference

[ Member Benefits ]

Let Member Benefits help make this your best summer


or those individuals working in the education and health care industries, summer is certainly not a season filled with endless days of relaxation. Instead, many of us spend our time trying to catch up on projects not yet accomplished, working on bettering ourselves through training opportunities, and preparing for what lies ahead with the new academic school year.

While you’re doing any or all of these activities, we encourage you to remember to think about yourself. Your NYSUT membership allows you to participate in dozens of endorsed programs and services offered by NYSUT Member Benefits, including several new health and wellness resources.

The premium Calm subscription provides NYSUT in-service members with unlimited access to the full library of sleep, meditation, and relaxation content at calm.com and in the Calm app. In-service members can add up to five dependents (age 16 or older) to receive their own premium Calm subscription. Explore guided meditations and specialized music playlists to help with stress and focus, mindful movement video and audio, nature scenes and sounds, specific content tailored for children and more.

[ Your ERS Pension ]

ERS: New retirement tools in Retirement Online


he New York State and Local Employees’ Retirement System has added new features to its Retirement Online system.

If you retired from ERS and you receive your pension payment through direct deposit, you can now use Retirement Online to update your bank account information or send your deposits to another bank. You can also sign up for direct deposit through your Retirement Online account, which will enable you to receive your pension payment more quickly.

Retirement Online is the quickest way to get information about your ERS benefits. Whether you have direct deposit or receive a pension check in the mail, you can now view your pension “pay stub” online. You can track year-to-date totals for your benefit amount and any deductions made for health insurance, union dues or tax withholding. ERS will also send you a notice whenever your net payment amount changes.

Beginning in January 2024, you’ll be able to view, download and print your 1099-R tax form (starting with the 1099-R for your 2023 pension earnings).

You can also use Retirement Online to update your contact information and death benefit beneficiaries (if eligible). It’s a convenient way to manage your ERS account instead of sending forms through the mail or calling ERS.

[ Your TRS Pension ]

Beware of fake NYS retirement apps

hands hold a smartphone with a sligthly blurred screen masked with the word FAKE" emphasized in red
Q :

There’s a mobile app available through the Google Play store called “NYS Retirement.” Is it affiliated with the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System?

A :

No. Do not download or use this fraudulent app. It’s not affiliated with NYSTRS and may be an attempt to steal your personal data. If you think your personal identity has been compromised, contact NYSTRS immediately at 800-348-7298, ext. 6190. They can discuss options for adding a “theft of ID” flag to your system account so staff will take extra steps to authenticate your identity before sharing specific information over the phone or processing any transactions.

[ Local Unions in Action ]

Poughkeepsie Public Schools Teachers Association

members of the Poughkeepsie Public Schools TA hold signs and walk in long lines in front the Poughkeepsie Middle School
close view of Poughkeepsie Public Schools TA members holding protest signs on a street sidewalk
members of the Poughkeepsie Public Schools TA hold signs and walk along the sidewalk in front the Poughkeepsie Middle School


More than 250 members of the Poughkeepsie Public Schools TA walk in silence outside Poughkeepsie Middle School. The local, led by President Kimberly Popken, has been without a new contract for five years. Members, with support from the PPSTA Crisis Committee, have engaged in a number of successful activities to draw attention to the district’s inaction and build solidarity.

Central New York SRP Council

The Central New York School-Related Professionals Council Spring Fling welcomed educators from across the area to the Syracuse Regional Office for a day of training and networking. The annual fling, held this year in April, is the council’s signature event, and it continues to be an important way to recruit new members and keep existing members engaged, said Mary Anne Hall, council president and vice president for the United Liverpool Faculty Association — Teaching Assistants of Liverpool.

The council is composed of members from four counties, who come together regularly to pool their knowledge and show members how to take full advantage of their local union. The council tries to tackle challenges seen across SRP titles, including lack of respect for the profession. They also compare contracts and prepare SRPs to take a more active role in their local.

Pay inequality between districts and between regions has created a lot of movement. “SRPs are going to where the pay is better, and it creates a domino effect,” Hall said. By working toward consistent wages across regions, the council is hoping to create more stability for its members.

SRPs are also dealing with increasingly challenging behaviors from students. To correct it, they need more professional development opportunities and better communication, Hall said.

Penn Yan Education Association

The Penn Yan EA, in collaboration with the Penn Yan Central School District, organized a districtwide literacy event where students could select from about 8,000 books to take home. The books were made available thanks to a partnership between the Penn Yan EA, the district, the American Federation of Teachers and First Book, through the Reading Opens the World initiative.

“This book giveaway represents our collective dedication to fostering a love for learning and empowering our students to reach their full potential,” said Penn Yan EA President Tina Webber.

Share news about your local’s union or community events at united@nysut.org; include LIA in the subject line.


Kudos typography

It’s an honor

Andrea Cooke, Salamanca TA, received the William “Buster” Mitchell Educator of the Year Award presented by the Native American Indian Education Association of New York.

Tersa Faso, New Paltz School Bus Drivers Association, was named School Bus Driver of the Year for Ulster County.

Several members were honored by the Western New York Network of English Teachers. Brandy Kinney, Salamanca TA, Experienced Teacher Award. Michael Gunsolus, Lockport EA, Early Career Teacher Award. Diane Meaney, West Seneca TA, Lifetime Achievement Award. Scott Reimann, United University Professions-Buffalo State, Community Award. Melissa Meola-Shanahan, Buffalo Teachers Federation, English Education Alumna Award. Darla Schultz-Bubar, Niagara Wheatfield TA, Inspirational Teacher Award.

Jessica Nolan, Half Hollow Hills TA, received a 2023 SCOPE Award for Teacher Service.

Linda Townsend, Port Byron TA, received the Elks Lodge Citizen of the Year Award for her work teaching about and honoring veterans. She was also recognized by Syracuse Channel 9 News as one of four Remarkable Women in Central New York.

In print

Irene Willis, Retiree Council 15, has published Allow Me, her latest collection of poetry. The book is available at ipbooks.net.

Mary Howard, Grand Island TA, has published Artificial Intelligence to Streamline Your Teacher Life: The ChatGPT Guide for Teachers. Available through XFactor EDU Publishing, visit xfactoredu.org/books.

Kudos recognizes the accomplishments of NYSUT members. Have good news you’d like to share? Email united@nysut.org; include Kudos in the subject line.

Kudos recognizes the accomplishments of NYSUT members. Have good news you’d like to share? Email united@nysut.org; include Kudos in the subject line.

NYSUT United | July/August 2023

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NYSUT represents teachers, school-related professionals, higher education faculty, professionals in education, human services and health care, and retirees.

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Thanks for reading our July/August 2023 issue!