NYSUT United March/April 2024

NYSUT United masthead
Disconnected typography

Social media and cellphone distractions are contributing to an epidemic of loneliness, depression and other mental health issues with our students.
Educators are pushing back.

March/April 2024


This issue of NYSUT United contains important information regarding changes to nysut member benefits trust-endorsed programs. Please read and retain this issue for future reference.
NYSUT UNITED [January/February 2024, Vol. 14, No. 4 ]
Director of Communications: James Morrison
Deputy Director of Communications: Anna Gronewold
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
Online Communications Coordinator: Bryan Thomas
Editorial Support: Julie Malec
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 ads@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, Jaime Francey-Henry, 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, Jaime L. Ciffone, James Davis, Ron Gross, Anthony M. Harmon, Frederick Kowal, Kara McCormick-Lyons, Michael Mulgrew, Andrew Pallotta, Melinda Person, Adam Urbanski
NEA DIRECTORS: Serena Kotch, Dora Leland
Alternate Directors: Sue Raichilson, Melissa Tierney
Executive Committee members are underlined.

To Our

Melina Person and Laura Franz touring the Thomas O'Brien Academy of Science and technology community school
NYSUT President Melinda Person, center, tours the Thomas O’Brien Academy of Science and Technology community school with Albany Public School Teachers Association President Laura Franz, second from right.
Melina Person and Laura Franz touring the Thomas O'Brien Academy of Science and technology community school
NYSUT President Melinda Person, center, tours the Thomas O’Brien Academy of Science and Technology community school with Albany Public School Teachers Association President Laura Franz, second from right.
Today, nearly every U.S. teenager has a smartphone and visits at least one social media site daily. Recent Pew data showed one-third of them in 2023 reported being on YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook “almost constantly.”

This is no surprise to you, our members, who see the growing effects of social media showing up in classrooms every day. In addition to taking up time kids might otherwise use for sleeping, studying and socializing, this technology is changing how our students view their bodies, their relationships and the world around them.  

Even as they connect with more people online, even with the entire world of information at their fingertips, our students say they are lonelier and struggling with mental health more than ever. 

At the same time, we know that every advance in technology has tremendous potential for our schools.

I’ve traveled the state speaking with educators and administrators, and so many of our members have pointed to the benefits of using tools like artificial intelligence and 3-D printing.

Top ring spirals


March 4–5

NYSUT Committee of 100, Albany

Somos logo
March 8–10

Somos New York Conference, Albany

March 10–11

NYS Board of Regents meets, Albany

illustration of a quill in an ink bottle in front of the continents of earth
March 21

World Poetry Day

April 1

State budget due

April 7–8

NYS Board of Regents meets, Albany

April 19–20

NYSUT Civil and Human Rights Committee meets, Latham

graphic of minimalist figures holding up signs
April 28

Workers Memorial Day

May 2

NYSUT Board of Directors meets, New York City

May 2–3

Local & Retiree Council Presidents Conference, New York City

NYSUT Representative Assembly 2024 graphic
May 3–4

NYSUT 2024 Representative Assembly, New York City

May 9–10

In-district Committee of 100

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

On the Cover

Cover design by James Morrison

[ Fighting for you ]

NYSUT legislative priority:
Restore Foundation Aid


s the New York state budget season continues, NYSUT remains laser focused on restoring fully funded Foundation Aid to our schools, students and communities across the state. NYSUT officers have been crisscrossing the state visiting districts facing cuts.

In the executive budget proposal, every school district in the state is being underfunded by a new Foundation Aid formula, which would result in smaller aid increases or outright cuts.

To add insult to injury, the executive budget proposal would do away with “hold harmless,” which has guaranteed a district cannot receive less in state aid than the year before.

What would these changes mean? Shuttered programs, fewer offerings for students and less services for our communities. They would result in devastating cuts. And that’s not just NYSUT saying that. That is being echoed by teachers, lawmakers, superintendents and education groups across the entire state.


1-in-5 campaign aims to combat childhood poverty

1-in-5 campaign poster

early one in five New York children live in poverty, a rate that exceeds the national average and overall poverty rates in both the state and country.

That’s why in January, NYSUT and a coalition of child, family and community stakeholders announced a combined push to confront the root causes and harsh effects of poverty on hundreds of thousands of students across the state.

Child poverty is an education issue, NYSUT President Melinda Person said, and educators see its effects every day.

More than 700,000 children enter classrooms each morning with the burdens of homelessness, unaddressed health concerns, lack of basic hygiene products, and the stigma and stress surrounding a life of poverty. If children are worried about survival, they will be unable to learn.

“If we really want to address deeply rooted issues that are affecting our students’ ability to learn and demonstrate their learning, and if we really want every student to live up to their natural potential, we need to stop ignoring New York’s child poverty problem and actually address it,” Person said at a press conference to launch the campaign. “No, we cannot solve childhood poverty here today, but we can use the enormous amount of resources in New York to disrupt the cycle of poverty for one in five children and their families.”


NYSUT Legal: Experience, expertise members can trust


YSUT’s Office of General Counsel employs more than two dozen attorneys who vigorously defend the rights of union members and also advance the causes of labor and public education through state and federal litigation.

NYSUT United sits down with Clayton E. Eichelberger, associate counsel at the OGC at the union’s Latham headquarters, and Jonah H. Feitelson, associate counsel at the New York City OGC.

Clayton E. Eichelberger and Jonah H. Feitelson's headshots in a black rectangle
Meet Clayton E. Eichelberger, left, and Jonah H. Feitelson, relatively junior NYSUT attorneys with no shortage of experience or dedication to unions, worker rights and education policy.
Q: You’re both relatively new to the union’s legal staff. What prior experience do you draw upon to assist NYSUT members?

Clayton Eichelberger: My entire career has been in the field of education. After law school, I worked as a registered lobbyist advocating, in part, for education funding for students in parochial schools. I next worked in the NYS Senate and served as Higher Education Counsel to Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. Additionally, I also am proud to say I am a UUP member and teach at SUNY Albany as an adjunct professor. I try to draw upon both my prior policy experience and my experience as an educator to be able to better serve NYSUT members.

[ Fighting for you ]

West Babylon contract offers pay raises, retirement boost


ometimes good things really do come to those who wait. After a year of stalled contract negotiations, the West Babylon Teachers Association in Suffolk County on Long Island bargained a new contract this summer that provides members with raises, a boost in future retirement earnings and several other long-sought benefits.

The tide turned for the local with the help of NYSUT labor relations specialist William Oquendo. Knowing the local had stalemated with the district over longevity pay raises, he suggested a different approach. Instead of increasing the value of each longevity step, how about adding additional steps to the overall salary schedule?

The move was a major win for the local, boosting members’ future lifetime pension earnings by allowing them to retire at a higher Final Average Salary.

“For teachers, we negotiated a move from a 22- to a 30-step salary schedule with a 1.5 percent raise in years two, three and four of the four-year contract,” said Oquendo, explaining that the change increases the top salary step by nearly $30,000. “This would raise someone’s pension by over $18,000 annually, for life.”

NYSUT Legacy Fund seal

Diane D’Onofrio Delgado
A dedicated unionist, member advocate

headshot of Diane D’Onofrio Delgado
From 1988 to present day, Diane D’Onofrio Delgado has been a dedicated leader for the New Rochelle Federation of United School Employees in Westchester County. Her service has spanned the gamut, from building representative at Trinity Elementary School, where she’s worked for 36 years, to New Rochelle FUSE Welfare Fund Manager, to serving as a delegate to NYSUT’s Representative Assembly and the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System.

Mary Claire Breslin, New Rochelle FUSE president, noted that for the past 14 years, D’Onofrio Delgado’s efforts have resulted in improved communication and expanded benefits for members. In recognition of her many years of service, the local honored her with a NYSUT Legacy Award.

“Thanks to her commitment, our members continue to utilize quality benefits for their health and welfare,” said Breslin.

To honor an in-service or retiree activist from your area, visit nysut.org/LegacyFund.

I Am Educator Inspired

I Am Educator Inspired typography
headshot of Dan Clark
Dan Clark

“I will tell you about my favorite teacher. His name is Roy Pratt. He taught English for middle and high school where I went to school in Central New York in Chenango County in Afton, New York.

He was just brilliant. Paid extra attention to the kids. We could always rely on him for space at lunch or after school to just hang out. Especially for me, I had a lot of family problems at home and it made such a difference to have him there.

He also got me my first reporting job, weirdly. I started as a reporter at 16 covering car racing in Afton, New York, and I would put out a weekly story about the races. So he kind of started me on my track. And it’s those kind of teachers that I think don’t get enough recognition.

… This guy to me was like a third parent. He really was. He was the person that I leaned on in every part of my life. And I have to imagine you hear those stories all the time, too.”

Dan Clark, a reporter for the Albany Times Union, is the primary creator of the paper’s revamped Capitol Confidential newsletter, providing readers a peek into the complex operation of New York government and politics. Before joining the Albany Times Union in January, Clark was the host and producer of WMHT’s “New York Now,” an Emmy Award-winning weekly political news program. Clark studied journalism and documentary filmmaking at the State University of New York at Albany, where he earned his B.A. His journalism career includes working as a producer and reporter for the NY State of Politics blog; as a Capitol-based reporter for PolitiFact and the Buffalo News; and two years as the one-man statehouse bureau for the New York Law Journal.

[ Fighting for you ]

Patchogue-Medford guards organize to win with NYSUT


aid time off, fair pay and respect at work can’t be taken for granted without a union. That’s why a group of security guards at the Patchogue Medford Union Free School District in Suffolk County on Long Island worked with NYSUT’s experienced team of organizers and labor relations staff to unionize in December.

NYSUT is chalking up big organizing wins across the state thanks to the hard work of its network of union organizers. Over the past year, the statewide union has brought hundreds of public and private workers across New York into the union fold.

Security guard Denise Page-Hastings noted that despite providing years of dedicated service and having a roster of experienced law enforcement professionals, Patchogue Medford guards lack paid days off and fair compensation.

“I’m going into my 19th year. I started at $18 an hour and now I’m at $21.50. … I feel like they’re treating us like cheap labor.”

[ RA 2024 ]

NYSUT policymaking convention heads to the Big Apple


he NYSUT Representative Assembly heads back to New York City for the first time since 2017.

This year’s Local and Retiree Council Presidents Conference, held just before the convention, and RA schedules have both been expanded to allow more time to discuss the issues most important to our membership.

“The RA is our largest and most important governance meeting of the year, but it’s also a time to come together to celebrate our successes and have some fun with our extended union family,” said NYSUT President Melinda Person. “This year, we’re excited to provide a program that blends important union business with an array of entertaining activities for delegates.”

Delegates and alternates, representing their union colleagues from across the state, will gather in the Big Apple May 3–4 at the union’s annual policymaking convention.

[ Social Justice ]

NYSUT LGBTQ Committee working to make schools inclusive spaces for all students

We Are One typography

he NYSUT LGBTQ Committee met for its winter meeting in January to shape an agenda for the year ahead. Subcommittee members worked collaboratively to develop action plans in four areas: training and awareness; creating supportive environments; fostering community engagement and alliance building; and advocating for legislative and educational policy with a goal of introducing resolutions at the May NYSUT Representative Assembly.

NYSUT President Melinda Person read the children’s picture book, My Shadow is Purple, by author Scott Stuart, to illustrate the dangers of book banning and censorship, one of many challenges the statewide union will tackle in the months ahead. A Georgia teacher was fired for reading the book to her class after a parent complained about its theme of gender inclusivity.

“She bought it at a Scholastic book fair, read it to her class, a parent complained and she was fired,” said Person noting that efforts at the national level to get her rehired have not been successful. “I can’t imagine how its message of inclusivity can be offensive … the idea that it would be banned is heartbreaking.”

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Many Threads: Challenges of teaching Black history

Challenges of teaching Black history

he “Power of Education” is the theme of a February Black History Month Thought Leaders Forum moderated by J. Philippe Abraham, NYSUT secretary-treasurer. “We are challenging historical erasure by reclaiming Black history,” said Abraham in welcoming remarks. “History is not just a call to reflection, but a call to action.

Noting our nation’s tarnished history surrounding race, Abraham termed education “One of the most effective tools to create awareness and fight back against injustice.”

NYSUT President Melinda Person agreed. “Our nation is at a crucial moment, we’re confronted with a troubling trend that seeks to diminish, distort or outright erase Black history from our public school curriculum,” she said. “It not only undermines the significance of Black contributions to our nation but deprives our students of a comprehensive and truthful understanding of American history.”

The forum, part of NYSUT’s Many Threads, One Fabric social justice series, featured a slate of speakers who discussed the challenges educators of color face teaching Black history.

[ OUR SRPs ]

Getting to know … Alicia Schreibman

Alicia Schreibman headshot in front of a school bus
Alicia Schreibman is a school bus driver and president of the Wappingers Federation of Workers. She was interviewed by Kim McEvoy, NYSUT SRP At-Large Director and treasurer of the Rondout Valley Federation of Teachers & School-Related Professionals.
Tell me about your job. Why do you love what you do?

I am a 12-month, full-time bus driver, recently receiving my 25-year pin. This is the perfect job for me. In the beginning it allowed me flexibility, with having young children in school, and good pay and benefits. A little later on I was able to attend college in my off time between bus runs. I eventually decided this would be my lifelong career and moved up to full-time driving.

I am a driver at heart. I enjoy all the challenges I encounter while navigating my big bus up and around these mountains in every kind of weather in the beautiful Hudson Valley. Sometimes it really takes talent! I don’t even mind the traffic that I end up in multiple times a day. It is quite a confidence boost when parents feel at ease because they know that I am the bus driver who is transporting their children. It’s hard to find that type of pride in a job well done in most other industries. The kids are amazing.

How did you get involved in the union?

My mother was a school bus driver in the Wappingers Federation of Workers long before I was, so even before I was a union member, I carried a picket sign and handed out informational packets when they went without a contract. I learned early on the importance of being part of a union. Once I became a union member I would try to help as much as possible, mailing out postcards to every person I knew or my family, making sure they knew to vote no on the Constitutional Convention! I asked people to sign again in order to maintain our union when that awful Janus decision ruling was passed. Back in 2020, I was elected union secretary; in 2022, I was elected vice president of grievance and then appointed senior VP. This past March I was appointed union president when our president stepped down due to illness. I was elected president in November 2023. Being able to attend SRP conferences and workshops that NYSUT offers allows me to use what I learn to better help my members and to continue to keep our union strong. I thrive on union activity and try to make the most out of any cause that I can assist with — now it’s FIX TIER 6!

Corning TA connecting kids with careers in education


hen David Rich became president of the Corning Teachers Association in March 2022, he was immediately interested in bringing NYSUT’s Take a Look at Teaching program to his district.

The statewide, union-led initiative aims to develop a robust and diverse educator pipeline in New York, as state officials estimate districts may need up to 180,000 teachers in the next decade.

“It’s something within our grasp as educators that we can do to address staffing shortages,” Rich said.

This school year, Rich was able to get funding for the district’s inaugural TALAT course through NYSUT, which received a grant from the National Education Association to help local unions start Grow Your Own programs. And next fall, they will be adding a second TALAT course to the catalogue.

“I think it’s been a fantastic program and a way to connect with students,” Rich said. “We have so much talent here that we want to tap into and this allows us to plant the seeds early that a career in education is great — not just as a teacher, but as a school counselor, speech therapist, social worker, librarian. If NYSUT hadn’t put the resources out there, I probably wouldn’t have done the program so that’s been invaluable to me.”

[ Teaching & Learning ]

Why I teach

Kyle Russell, a member of the Perry Professional Educators Association, is a middle school science teacher

If there was one thing I was certain about in life, it was the profession I wanted to pursue after high school. Ever since I could remember, I knew I wanted to become a teacher. From career days in elementary school, to college days in high school, I always had the same response, “I want to become a teacher.” Even though I knew my goal, I wasn’t sure which path to take until I had ninth-grade science with Ms. Jennifer Howell and 12th-grade science with Ms. Maria Vowles at Hilton High School.

Ms. Howell was my ninth-grade Living Environment teacher. What I remember most about her was how I always left with a smile because of the fun I had in her class. The way she would incorporate funny pictures on worksheets, how she would come up with cool labs and the way she presented material. Especially having us flex our arms to remember the role of the mitochondria!

Ms. Vowles was my 12th-grade International Baccalaureate (IB) biology teacher. Even though her course was challenging, she did everything possible to make sure I was successful and prepared for college-level courses. Whenever my friend and I would ask to study during lunch, she never hesitated to say yes. It was during this time I started to realize how much she cared about me. Yes, we reviewed our notes, but she took time to bring up sports and other things I had an interest in. This has always been with me and something I will never forget.

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Social media, cellphones take toll on kids’ mental health — educators are fighting back

Disconnected: Social media, cellphones take toll on kids’ mental health — educators are fighting back

Editors note: This article is part one of a two-part series on the effects of digital devices and social media.

Molly Belmont



igh school social worker Trish Hoyer says social media is a dominating force in her students’ lives, and she’s afraid kids are more disconnected than ever.

“I think that the use of social media platforms is having huge impacts on kids in negative ways,” said Hoyer, a social worker at New Hartford Senior High School and a member of the New Hartford Teachers Association. “Students are spending countless hours up into the night either communicating on social media or scrolling through feeds and that’s having a tremendous effect on their mental health.”

Over the last 15 years of her career, Hoyer has seen big tech make a giant social media-shaped hole in her students’ lives. Teens and tweens, who are more prone to problematic social media use to begin with, are being served up an endless array of toxic and addictive content, and at the same time, their endless scrolling is taking time away from sleep, hobbies and in-person engagement. The result? Her students are experiencing unprecedented levels of anxiety, insecurity and depression.

“We don’t know the long-term effects of social media and cellphone use and what impacts it’s going to have on children’s development,” said Hoyer. “We have to put some guardrails up when it comes to using these platforms.”

[ teaching & learning ]

Saranac Lake teacher helps author get book to the very community that inspired it


hen English teacher Kelsey Francis read Demon Copperhead last winter, she was blown away. “It resonated so much for me. It reminded me of some of my former students.”

Francis, a member of the Saranac Lake Teachers Association, knew she wanted to share the book with colleagues, and she pitched the idea of forming a Demon Copperhead book club to a district administrator.

“I thought I would get a few English teachers and a librarian,” said Francis. Instead, 75 educators heeded the call. “I was astonished.”

Due to the idea’s immense popularity, the district used grant funds to purchase copies for all the book club participants. The educators read the novel over the summer and met to discuss it in the fall.

They had lots to talk about.

[ Teaching & Learning ]

Shoreham-Wading River RISE program a slam dunk


pecial education teacher Caitlin Gould is tired of people feeling sorry for her and her students. “When someone tells me, ‘Your job is so hard,’ I’m like ‘You have no idea,’” Gould said. “The truth is I feel so lucky. I can’t believe this is my job and that I get to come to this school every day and work with these kids. It is just so rewarding.”

Gould teaches at Shoreham-Wading River Senior High School. She and Matthew Millheiser lead RISE, a fully adaptive program designed to help students with severe disabilities reach independence through structured experiences.

“Our students face struggles every day of their life, more than we as teachers could ever understand,” said Millheiser. RISE students deal with physical limitations, communication issues, chronic health problems and cognitive deficits. “The world, especially high school, can be a difficult place for them.”

Together, Gould and Millheiser, both members of the Shoreham-Wading River Teachers Association, help their students master the practical skills they need to succeed in the real world and find joy there.

[ Teaching & Learning ]

50 New Yorkers earn teaching’s gold standard


fter 23 years of teaching, Kenneth Buehner is feeling reenergized in his classroom and career with a new achievement added to his resume: National Board Certification.

“There’s been a lot of changes, particularly in the over 20 years since I started teaching in public education, and so it was a great opportunity to do some reassessing and research,” Buehner said. “It elevated the concept of being a teacher all over again.”

The years-long, painstaking process is no easy feat. Teachers must demonstrate a “deep understanding of their students, content knowledge, use of data and assessments and teaching practice” through video recordings, written commentary and student work samples submitted to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

“At times it was grueling,” Buehner said candidly. “But it’s worthwhile.”

[ teaching & learning ]


NYS Class of 2023 National Board Certified Teachers
Bellport TA
Jill DeRosa
Literacy: Reading-Language Arts/EMC

Bethlehem Central TA
Dana DiGiansante

Brentwood TA
Jennifer Goldhaber
English as a New Language/EMC

Holly O’Keefe
Literacy: Reading-Language Arts/EMC

Brewster TA
Noelle Palumbo
English as a New Language/EMC

Canandaigua TA
Sarah Pennica
World Languages/EAYA

Cornwall Central TA
Chrysanthe Gianiodis
English as a New Language/EAYA

Croton TA
Suzanne Leslie
Physical Education/EMC

Eric Schmidt

Sarah Wellman
Social Studies-History/EA

Geneva TA
Jill Humphries
English as a New Language/EAYA

Glens Falls TA
Megan McCabe

Great Neck TA
Jo-Ann Eyre Cruz
School Counseling/ECYA

Erica MacDonald
School Counseling/ECYA

Half Hollow Hills TA
Kerry Guarriello
Exceptional Needs Specialist/ECYA

Natasha Kubicsko
Exceptional Needs Specialist/ECYA

Bellport TA
Jill DeRosa
Literacy: Reading-Language Arts/EMC

Bethlehem Central TA
Dana DiGiansante

Brentwood TA
Jennifer Goldhaber
English as a New Language/EMC

Holly O’Keefe
Literacy: Reading-Language Arts/EMC

Brewster TA
Noelle Palumbo
English as a New Language/EMC

Canandaigua TA
Sarah Pennica
World Languages/EAYA

Cornwall Central TA
Chrysanthe Gianiodis
English as a New Language/EAYA

Croton TA
Suzanne Leslie
Physical Education/EMC

Eric Schmidt

Sarah Wellman
Social Studies-History/EA

Geneva TA
Jill Humphries
English as a New Language/EAYA

Glens Falls TA
Megan McCabe

Great Neck TA
Jo-Ann Eyre Cruz
School Counseling/ECYA

Erica MacDonald
School Counseling/ECYA

Half Hollow Hills TA
Kerry Guarriello
Exceptional Needs Specialist/ECYA

Natasha Kubicsko
Exceptional Needs Specialist/ECYA

[ health & safety ]

Bethlehem school counselor raising awareness for colleagues and students


hen Bethlehem Central Teachers Association member Carla Young found out she’d been named the 2023 New York State School Counselor of the year, she was skeptical. “I didn’t know I’d been nominated,” said Young, a Bethlehem Middle School counselor, whose name had been placed in the running by a group of co-workers. “When I got the email, I thought it was a scam.”

Carla Young smiling

Bethlehem Central School District

Bethlehem Central Teachers Association member Carla Young was recently named the New York State School Counselor of the Year.

But it was no scam. Recognizing Young’s commitment to her profession and to her students, Bethlehem High School counselor Darnell Douglas, a former graduate student of Young’s at Russell Sage College, where she teaches as an adjunct, spearheaded the nomination.

“Carla educates herself on challenges faced by students, school counselors, guardians and all other stakeholders,” wrote Douglas on the nomination form he submitted on behalf of Bethlehem’s K-12 counseling team. “[She] ensures the work remains student-centered at all times.”

Given by the New York State School Counselor Association, the School Counselor of the Year Award recognizes school counselors who lead within their profession and advocate for students by helping them address academic, social-emotional and career development needs. School counselors focus on prevention rather than reaction when it comes to student behaviors, and work with students more as educators than traditional counselors.

[ Briefs ]

Free Women’s History Month poster honors Rep. Carolyn Maloney

NYSUT poster honoring Women's Month featuring Carolyn B. Maloney

YSUT celebrates Women’s History Month with a new poster honoring Carolyn B. Maloney, who served as the U.S. Representative for New York’s 14th and later 12th Congressional Districts from 1993 to 2023.

A former New York City teacher and administrator, Maloney advocated for many issues involving education, women, children and families. As co-chair of the House Caucus on Women’s Issues, she authored and helped enact the Debbie Smith Act. Called one of the nation’s most important anti-rape laws, the legislation provided federal funding to clear the backlog of rape kits. Maloney also served as the chief House sponsor for the Equal Rights Amendment. Her bill to establish a Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum on the National Mall was approved and signed into law in 2020.

Downloadable PDF versions and printed copies of this poster are available, in limited quantities, to NYSUT members. For a free download of this and past Women’s History Month posters, visit nysut.org/publications.

Privacy Notice

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[As required by 45 Code of Federal Regulations Part 160.520(c)(1)(ii)]

In the course of providing you with access to health benefits, Member Benefits has access to information about you, which may be considered protected health information (PHI) under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) regulations. As a participant of Member Benefits, you were previously provided, either through publication in NYSUT United or USPS mail, with a Privacy Notice describing our privacy practices, legal duties and rights concerning your PHI.

If you would like to receive another copy of our Privacy Notice, you can download a copy from our website at memberbenefits.nysut.org, or you can contact Member Benefits’ Privacy Official at 800-626-8101 or by submitting to the above address a written request for a copy.

Board of Trustees,
NYSUT Member Benefits Trust

[ RETIREES in action ]

Tony McCann honored for 50 years of union activism

NYSUT Union For Life Logo

nionists stepped up in a big way when Retiree Council 10 decided to honor longtime activist Tony McCann with a NYSUT Legacy Fund award. Donations flowed in across the labor community, from individual RC 10 members to the Shenendehowa Teachers Association to the Troy Area Labor Council. Everyone who’d worked with McCann, learned from McCann or taught with McCann chipped in to honor the respected unionist and former longtime STA president and NYSUT Board member.

More than $2,500 — the largest NYSUT Legacy Fund donation ever — was collected in honor of the union stalwart. “Tony recognized everyone’s individual strengths and tried to promote them,” said Barbara McCarthy, RC 10 president. “His guidance and mentorship for nearly 50 years meant so much to so many.”

NYSUT Second Vice President Ron Gross presented McCann with the Legacy Fund Award at RC 10’s October meeting at headquarters where many admirers shared stories about his impact. “Tony McCann epitomizes the kind of member we had in mind when we created the NYSUT Legacy Fund,” said Gross. “His many years of dedicated service are an inspiration to us all.”

To honor an in-service or retiree activist from your area, visit nysut.org/legacyfund.

Quotes - Left
Quotes - Right


Quotable typography
Randi Weingarten
SUNY Downstate:

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Graduates the most doctors of color in the country
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Saved thousands of New Yorkers during the pandemic
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Cares for thousands more patients every day in Brooklyn

New York needs Downstate, plain and simple. @UUPinfo @NYSPEF @NYSUT (@rweingarten)

More Perfect Union
Today workers at 21 Starbucks filed for unions simultaneously, the most ever in a single day. Workers at over 400 Starbucks have now filed to unionize with @SBWorkersUnited. (@MorePerfectUS)

WVU Metro-Neer
Unions delivered for @Tom_Suozzi!! I am so proud to have been a part of this work!!! Let’s keep working to deliver a blue wave in November!!! @UFT @UFTUnity @nysut (@annewine24)

We have some of THEEEEE BEST School Counselors working in Farmingdale. We are so thankful for what you do and the help that you provide both to our students and staff!! #NationalSchoolCounselingWeek (@FFTStrong)

Secretary Miguel Cardona
If you’ve been paying your student debt for a decade, you’ve done your part & deserve relief. Today we announced relief for over 153k more borrowers through SAVE, providing relief for over 3.9 million borrowers total. And we’re not done yet. (@SecCardona)

[ voices ]

5 Questions for John and Jean Roccanova

5 questions for typography
John and Jean Roccanova
Webutuck Teachers Association retirees

In 2010, you founded Grow Against Poverty, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that supports schools and educators in Kenya. What inspired you to start this work?
Back in 2004, Jean and I read an article about schools in African nations that had over 100 students per class. We started sending donations through a Dutch non-profit to help those schools so they could, hopefully, reduce class sizes. Then we visited Kenya and saw the great need — for transportation, food for the school lunch program, computers and the level of unemployment in the local community. From there, our involvement just grew.


What programs does GAP provide for the Kenyan schools?
Grow Against Poverty currently provides for four programs: Prevent Period Poverty, which is offered at four all-girl high schools, builds bathrooms and provides students health education classes and feminine hygiene products; Green Fields has established organic gardens at 11 schools, growing food for school lunches and teaching kids about agriculture; Computers in Classrooms, through which we contract with an organization that collects and refurbishes old computers and ships them to Africa; and Pedal Power for Kenyan Education, a program that has provided over 380 bikes, helmets and safety vests to nine high schools to help students, many of whom live some distance away, get to school.

[ 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.

EXIT REALTY PREMIER ELITE — Your Southeast Florida connection for buying or selling. Sheryl Volk 561-389-8670 or sherylvolk@gmail.com.

Palm Beach County — Florida Real Estate (Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Boca Raton). Active Adult 55+ specialists. Realtors® with 40 years experience, formerly from New York. Call/text Patrice Krupa and Allen Kirschner, United Realty Group 561-306-9335 / 954-274-0186.

Vacation Rental

St. Augustine Beach — Three-bedroom, two-bath condominium. NYSUT discount. rj@jobers.com 716-830-4635.
Cape Cod Cottage — Clean and modern two bedrooms, close to everything. Special NYSUT discount. Go to www.saltycottage-eastham.com or call 845-706-3297.
Wanted to Buy
Wanted Dead or Alive —Old watches and vintage fountain pens. Watchmaker/collector pays top dollar for chronographs, automatic and vintage wrist and pocket watches, cases, vest chains and parts. Running or not, I want them dead or alive! Fountain Pens: Cartier, Eversharp, Montblanc, Namiki, Parker, Pelikan, Waterman. Email: timeharvest@aol.com or call or text Mel at 646-242-4720.
Are classroom discipline problems ruining your teaching career? Make classroom misbehavior a thing of the past. FREE book for NYSUT-UFT members. Act now! Why wait? Email: teacherservices044@gmail.com. (Please include your name and address) or write: Free discipline book, 1941 Edward Lane, Merrick, NY 11566.
Retired teachers! Grand Tour of Ireland, Oct.10-19, 2024. Organized by a retired teacher with Lingo Tours. Round trip airport bus from New Paltz, NY. Go to www.lingo-tours.com/GTI4101/. For more information call 845-532-4733.
Teachers, tutor near home/work. All subjects/grades/licenses. Long-term: facultytutoring@aol.com. 718-886-2424.


Free Tax Returns listing graphic
Tax returns prepared for Teachers by a Teacher. 20% off regular prices for union members. Stuart Baum Registered Tax Return Preparer (RTRP), Annual Filing Season Preparer (AFSP). Retired UFT member. Contact me at 917-363-9212 or Sbaum51953@yahoo.com.

[ resources for you ]

NYSUT Audit notice

NYSUT continues its practice of providing members with access to the union’s certified audit for their review. The annual audit for the fiscal year ending Aug. 31, 2023, is available and can be found on the NYSUT Member Center at nysut.org/audit. Members may request a hard copy from the NYSUT Accounting Department at 800-342-9810, or email finance@nysut.org.

It’s tax time!

The educator expense tax deduction can help you recoup some of the money you spent on setting up and purchasing supplies for your classroom.

Eligible educators can deduct up to $300 of qualified expenses paid in 2023. If you and your spouse are filing jointly and both of you were eligible educators, the maximum deduction is $600 (up from $500 in 2021), however, neither spouse can deduct more than $300 of their qualified expenses.

An eligible educator is a K-12 teacher, instructor, counselor, principal or aide in a public or private school who worked at least 900 hours in a school during the school year. Qualified expenses include unreimbursed ordinary and necessary expenses paid for materials, including books and computer equipment; some professional development courses; and personal protective equipment.

For more info, consult your personal tax preparer and/or IRS Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax for Individuals.

[ passings ]

Katherine F. Albert | Jan. 30, 2024
Ellenville Teachers Association

Randi Lynn Brotherton | Feb. 3, 2024
Carthage Teachers Association

John P. Gallagher | March 13, 2023
Lansingburgh Teachers Association

Sally Garrett | Sept. 10, 2023
United Federation of Teachers

David W. McGreal | June 30, 2023
Retiree Council 11

Mary Lou Morrissy | Dec. 22, 2023
Ossining Teachers Association

Raymond D. O’Brien | Oct. 7, 2023
Copenhagen Teachers Association

Roger Rowe | Dec. 21, 2023
Ossining Teachers Association

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

Megan Grahlfs

Long Beach Classroom Teachers Association

woman's silhouette with sunset behind

A journey to Bali sounds like a dream trip: seeing the famous Blue Lagoon, checking out beautiful coral reefs, or taking a sunrise hike on Mount Batur. But for Long Beach Classroom TA member Megan Grahlfs, what she saw on an education trip to the Indonesian island spurred her to action both in and out of the classroom.

Grahlfs, a marine science teacher at Long Beach High School, has worked with the Global Exploration for Educators Organization to go on research trips around the world.

While studying marine life and the reefs in Bali, Grahlfs noticed a major issue with plastic pollution around the Blue Lagoon. She learned that Bali cannot keep up with the amount of plastic waste from packaging and tourists that visit the island.

Ideas in mind, Grahlfs returned to Long Beach. Her students researched the impacts of plastics on the environment and on those species inhabiting the reefs and then made and printed the brochures, which were sent over to Bali at the end of 2023.

“This was something tangible, something to show our students that they can have an impact,” said Grahlfs. “What we’re doing here can affect what is happening across the world.”

Learn more about Grahlfs and her students’ work at nysut.org/itswhatwedo.

On the job and in the community, NYSUT members make a difference
[ member benefits ]

Payroll & pension deduction

Save up to 20 percent, make budgeting easier
vector illustration of tablet and calculator and finance, education, and travel icons

YSUT Member Benefits realizes the importance of making every dollar count and has employed the strength of a membership of nearly 700,000 to negotiate additional savings opportunities with many of our endorsed providers. As a result, NYSUT members can save up to 20 percent when purchasing our endorsed programs through payroll or pension deduction.

With payroll or pension deduction, you can enjoy the following:

  • No more worrying about forgetting premium due dates or dealing with the inconvenience of writing and mailing out checks.
  • Easier on your budget as annual premiums are divided into smaller payments and deducted from your paycheck or monthly pension benefit.
  • Reduced fees and elimination of service fees for many programs.
  • Benefit the environment by eliminating the printing and mailing of paper invoices.

Payroll or pension deduction is currently available for the following Member Benefits programs: Auto Insurance; Catastrophe Major Medical Insurance; Dental & Vision Plans (pension deduction only for vision plan); Disability Insurance (payroll deduction only); Financial Counseling Program; Home, Renter’s & Boat Insurance; Legal Service Plan; MetLife Long-Term Care Insurance; Personal Excess Liability Insurance; Purchasing Power (payroll deduction only); Term Life & Level Term Life Insurance; Universal Life with Convalescent Care; and WrapPlan® II Universal Life Insurance.

[ Your ERS Pension ]

Know your retirement plan


s a member of the New York State and Local Retirement System, which administers the Employees’ Retirement System, you have a retirement plan based on your tier (determined by your membership date) and job title. The publication associated with your retirement plan provides comprehensive information about your benefits.

a clock that reads WORK on one side and RETIRE on the opposite side

Access your retirement plan publication

  • Sign in to Retirement Online: bit.ly/RO-sign-in
  • Find your tier and benefit plan code, located in the ‘My Account Summary’ section of your Account Homepage.
  • Go to our Find Your Retirement Plan Publication page: bit.ly/plan-publication
  • Type in your benefit plan code (for most members, the code will be “A15”).
  • Click the publication link for your ERS retirement plan and tier.

What your plan covers

Information about your membership. Your plan publication covers basic information about your membership, including how much you contribute and loan eligibility.

How service credit factors into your pension. Service credit is one of the main factors in determining your pension benefit amount. Find out how you earn service credit whether you work full-time or part-time, and how to purchase credit for previous public employment or military service.

[ Your TRS Pension ]

Your pension fund is strong

Q :

How strong is the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System pension fund these days? Will it be there for me when I need it?

vector illustration of a piggy bank with a bag and a graph with a red arrow in the background
A :

While life offers few guarantees, the strength of NYSTRS is one of the few things you don’t really need to worry about. NYSTRS’ 2023 Annual Comprehensive Financial Report reaffirms that it’s one of the largest and best-funded public pension funds in the country with net assets totaling $137.2 billion and a total portfolio return of 9 percent net of fees for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2023. The benefits paid to system retirees and beneficiaries totaled $8.2 billion for the fiscal year — up from $8 billion for the previous fiscal year.

[ Resources for you ]

Notice of Vacancy • Special Election, Board of Directors

NYSUT at-large Director Ed 24 & 25
A vacancy exists on the NYSUT Board of Directors for the position of At-Large Director for Election District 24 & 25, which was created by the resignation of Debra Penny, effective May 1, 2024.

Pursuant to NYSUT Constitution, Article IX §6(o), the NYSUT Board of Directors is empowered to fill all At-Large Director vacancies that may occur between election year Representative Assemblies.

Notice is hereby given that a Special Election to fill the At-Large ED 24 & 25 Director vacancy will be conducted by the NYSUT Board of Directors as follows:

Date: May 1, 2024
Time: 3:00 p.m.
Place: New York Hilton Midtown, 1335 6th Ave., New York, NY 10019

[ Local Unions in Action ]

Brewster TA gives seniors warm fuzzies during cold winter

seniors sitting at tables in a community center hold up winter wellness packages in different colored bags; BTA PR Committee co-chair Sara Goetschkes smiles while holding different colored gift bags and standing beside Edie Devito
seniors sitting at tables in a community center hold up winter wellness packages in different colored bags
BTA PR Committee co-chair Sara Goetschkes smiles while holding different colored gift bags and standing beside Edie Devito


Above, seniors enjoy their winter wellness packages. Left, BTA PR Committee co-chair Sara Goetschkes with Edie Devito.

The Brewster TA was forced to halt its annual senior breakfast due to the pandemic. ”We still wanted to recognize the senior citizens in our community, and this is where the idea of winter wellness packages came from,” said BTA President Paul George. For the last three years, BTA PR Committee co-chairs Sara Goetschkes and Allison Mooney have worked with Edie Devito of the Southeast Seniors to curate the wellness packages. Each bag includes a large print crossword puzzle, a colorful pill case, mints, M&Ms, hand sanitizer and soup mix. The items were purchased using funds from the BTA public relations budget.

Half Hollow Hills Teachers Association

screen capture of a facebook post from the Half Hollow Hills Teachers Association promoting an annual CandyGram fundraiser

Members of the Half Hollow Hills TA turned sweet treats into an even sweeter fundraiser. Over the past three years, the local has raised more than $4,000 for the First Nations Development Institute through an annual CandyGram fundraiser. The event is sponsored by the local’s Social Justice Committee, which is committed to supporting indigenous communities and advancing social justice causes.

The committee recently convened its book club, delving into the powerful narrative School Days by Basil H. Johnson. “The book poignantly explores the struggles of indigenous children compelled into boarding schools for assimilation,” said committee chair Debra Rothar. HHHTA is led by President Rich Haase.

North Syracuse Education Association

a woman and four teens stand together holding bags at the open trunk of an SUV parked in front of The CanTeen, a local teen center

For the past 15 years, the NSEA has collaborated with the Rescue Mission and a local teen center to provide care kits to the homeless. Educators and staff members throughout the district collect personal care items including soap, toothpaste, razors, combs and Band-Aids along with socks, hats, gloves and non-perishable snacks.

The NSEA, led by President John Kuryla, provides fast food gift cards for the bags. Donations are then sorted and packed into reusable bags by students who attend the “CanTeen.”

“Our goal is to assemble at least 60 bags each year and this winter we easily filled 75,” said Rosemary Farfaglia, NSEA Local Action Project coordinator. “This activity stresses volunteering in our diverse community and helping our most vulnerable neighbors.”

Professional Staff Congress

In August 2023, Professional Staff Congress members working with the College Now program learned via email that their funding allocation would be reduced by 30 percent. “Without intervention, we wouldn’t be able to offer any College Now courses whatsoever in the spring semester at Queens College,” wrote PSC/Queens College chapter member Marci Goodman in the Clarion. College Now is a free college transition/dual enrollment program for New York City high school students. After communication between PSC chapter chairs and later from PSC’s leadership to the chancellor, the matter was resolved.

“There’s no high drama to this story. … But it illustrates how the union jumped right in and solved the problem while administrators were all spinning their wheels, which makes this proud union member even prouder,” Goodman wrote. The PSC is led by President James Davis. Read about the full ordeal at psc-cuny.org/clarion/2023/december/.

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

David Czechowski, Hyde Park Teachers Association, received the 2023 Lee Bryant Outstanding Teacher of the Year award from the state Association for Computers and Technologies in Education.

Frances Hilliard, Nassau Community College Federation of Teachers retiree, received the Ruth S. Harley Service Award from Adelphi University. The award, named in honor of Adelphi’s former dean, was presented at the 50th anniversary celebration for Adelphi’s class of 1973.

In print

Loren Brereton, Elmont Elementary TA retiree, has published her first children’s book. Other Famous African Americans invites readers to sing along to a popular tune to learn about “other,” less spoken of African Americans. Available at barnesandnoble.com.

Todd Feltman, United Federation of Teachers, has published Transforming Into A Powerful Third, Fourth, or Fifth Grade Navigator of School Success. Visit schoolrubric.org for more information.

Thomas J. Reigstad, United University Professions–Buffalo State chapter retiree, has published The Illustrated Mark Twain and the Buffalo Express. The book features 10 stories published by Twain in the Buffalo Express during his tenure at the newspaper. The book is available at rowman.com.

William Sheerin, Yorktown Congress of Teachers retiree, has published Hallock’s Mill. Sheerin’s debut novel is a psychological thriller and coming-of-age story set in a high school in the Lower Hudson Valley.

Joe Zupan, Wallkill TA retiree, has published Santa’s Predicament. The children’s book, available at barnesandnoble.com, shares Santa’s journey to replace an injured reindeer.

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 | March/April 2024

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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 March/April 2024 issue!