[ 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.

Led by Kristin Good, the West Genesee Paraprofessionals Association won the PSRP Member Engagement and Professional Development Award for the creation of the Para!Academy, a training program for TAs, aides and other SRPs. The Para!Academy project was headed up by Susan Gifford, the local’s former president and a retired teaching assistant who said TAs and aides needed a “deliberate and intentional” training program to stem high rates of turnover.

Funded through a Take a Look at Teaching grant and the West Genesee Teaching Center, the program has been an unparalleled success. The center trained 45 new SRPs during its inaugural year. “I am thrilled to tell you that nobody quit this year, and it has launched four people into full-time teaching positions,” Gifford said.

The New Hartford Employees Union, led by Vincent Nesci, won the PSRP Advocacy Award, for converting budget cuts into across-the-board raises. Nesci said the award was a happy surprise. “We were just working to get a good contract — which we got!”

The conference also honored Shelvy Young Abrams, the recently retired UFT Paraprofessionals Chapter chair and NYSUT SRP at-large director for her founding role in the PSRP movement.