NYSUT United May/June 2024

NYSUT United masthead
New York State 2024 Teacher of the Year seal
Zachary Arenz typography

May/June 2024

NYSUT UNITED [May/June 2024, Vol. 14, No. 5 ]
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: Jiayi Kong
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 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, Vanecia Wilson, 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

About this time last year, I made a promise.
NYSUT President Melinda Person addresses a crowd at a rally

NYSUT President Melinda Person speaks at a rally in Hauppague to oppose proposed budget cuts.

NYSUT President Melinda Person addresses a crowd at a rally
NYSUT President Melinda Person speaks at a rally in Hauppague to oppose proposed budget cuts.
I said we’d grow the strength of NYSUT’s voice as we fight to support schools where students and educators can thrive and to ensure our members’ professions are enticing and sustainable career choices.

I’m proud to say we’re making progress toward this end.

NYSUT was successful in this year’s state budget fights after you, our members, devoted your time, energy and resources to reject proposed cuts to school funding.

In just the past few months, NYSUT officers visited more than 100 schools across the state and we heard from hundreds more. Thousands of you shared the great things that are happening in New York schools and warned lawmakers of the devastating consequences that limiting resources would have on staff and students. Thanks to your advocacy, the worst of that plan was avoided, and Foundation Aid will be $430 million more than the governor proposed.

We fought to prevent the closure of SUNY Downstate Hospital and to secure hundreds of millions of dollars in additional support for SUNY and CUNY universities and community colleges.

Top ring spirals


May 6–10
National Teacher Appreciation Week
Teacher Appreciation Week graphic
May 6–12
National Nurses Week
May 8
National School Nurse Day
Happy School Nurses Day graphic
May 14
School-Related Professionals Lobby Day, Albany
May 9–10
In-district Committee of 100
May 21
Statewide school budget and school board voting
a graduation cap doubling as a calculator
June 15
Primary voter registration deadline
June 15–25
Primary Election early voting
June 18
School budget revote
June 25
Primary Election day
Your Vote Matters graphic

On the Cover

Photo by Andrew Watson
[ Fighting for you ]

NYSUT notches wins in budget agreement


e advocated. We rallied. We won. It’s been a busy few months for NYSUT’s roster of dedicated lobbyists and activists, but making our voices heard in the halls of power has paid off in the final state budget. After many hours of negotiations, a cyber-attack and likely countless cups of coffee, the state Legislature approved a roughly $237 billion spending plan.

NYSUT President Melinda Person with fellow supporters gathered on the NYS Capitol's Million Dollar Staircase holding union posters
El-Wise Noisette
NYSUT President Melinda Person is surrounded by a sea of supporters on the NYS Capitol’s Million Dollar Staircase. The statewide union staged rallies and other advocacy events to fight for legislative issues important to members.
“NYSUT and nearly 700,000 members across the state this year made their voices heard to win a budget that supports public schools, colleges and the labor movement,” said NYSUT President Melinda Person. “We thank the Legislature and governor for a final agreement that demonstrates these priorities.”

“This budget will support our current educators and attract new educators by continuing the process of fixing Tiers 5 and 6 in the pension system,” continued Person. “It will boost the impact of our colleges and universities with additional funding and require a collaborative process to revitalize SUNY Downstate. It will restore the majority of proposed cuts to public school funding and, importantly, will begin the process of updating the Foundation Aid formula to ensure every student in the state has access to a sound, basic education,” Person said.

Advocacy in action

Our voices were heard and we won a budget that supports public schools and colleges. It wasn’t easy. NYSUT leaders criss-crossed the state visiting schools where members made clear the real-life harms the proposed cuts would cause. Members rallied in Albany, on Long Island and in Brooklyn. And hundreds of members descended upon the state Capitol sharing their stories and adding a face to the proposed cuts. Our work is not done. With your help, we’ll continue to fight for the resources our students and communities deserve.

a group of students and staff from St. Mary's School for the Deaf take a photo while signing the gesture for “I Love You”
three attendees hold signs at the Mount Vernon Foundation Aid Rally
view from the stage at a large crowd attending the Save SUNY Downstate rally
a crowd of attendees hold support signs at the Long Island Foundation Aid rally
four members of the Committee of 100 walk down a hall and hold papers and folders while deep in discussion
image of children leaning out of bus windows and waving, accompanied by text that reads: Vote YES May 21, give our kids a brighter future!

Reminder: Vote on Tuesday, May 21

Annual school budget votes and school board elections will be held in most districts statewide on Tuesday, May 21. Members are encouraged to make sure to get out and vote YES. Get your friends, neighbors and family to vote yes as well.

We know the people who are against strong public schools will turn out to vote NO. We need to make sure we are turning up to vote YES.

Last year, working together helped 99 percent of school budgets pass and 85 percent of candidates endorsed by local teacher unions won spots on school boards, including 75 NYSUT members who were elected or re-elected to board positions. Together, we can make those results happen again!

What you and your fellow NYSUT members can do:

Learn who your local union is supporting for the school board and how you can help. Knock on doors. Make phone calls. Post on social media.

Let your neighbors know that strong, pro-public education, pro-student school boards are vital. Many school board races hinge on just a handful of votes, so every vote matters.

When students thrive, communities across the state thrive. We’ve done a lot of work — and there is more left to be done — but by voting for strong local budgets and leaders who support and believe in public education, we can realize this vision together.

image of children leaning out of bus windows and waving, accompanied by text that reads: Vote YES May 21, give our kids a brighter future!
[ Fighting for you ]

Person, Rosa deliver APPR reform bill to lawmakers


t’s been a long time coming, but the Annual Professional Performance Review fixes educators have been waiting for are within sight. On March 20, NYSUT President Melinda Person and NYSED Commissioner Betty Rosa walked from the State Education Department building to the Legislative Office Building to hand-deliver a new bill rewriting New York’s flawed teacher evaluation system. The pair met with legislative Education Committee Chairs Sen. Shelley Mayer and Assemblymember Michael Benedetto.

If the legislation is approved, as expected, the revamped APPR system would end the current requirement that student test scores be included in teacher assessments and return teacher evaluations to local control.

“For too many years we’ve lived under this onerous system that uses test scores to intimidate educators,” said Person. “We want a locally controlled system that actually supports, mentors and aids in the growth and development of our educators.”

Person thanked the union’s partners in bringing the measure to fruition, SED, the NYS Council of School Superintendents, the NYS School Boards Association, School Administrators Association of NYS, the NYS Parent Teacher Association and the Conference of Big Five School Districts. “We worked collaboratively to put this bill together and we are so proud to deliver it to lawmakers today.”

[ Fighting for you ]

Port Chester rallies in the rain to Fix Tier 6


t was a cold and rainy March afternoon, but that didn’t dim the spirits of hundreds of Westchester County educators and activists who rallied in support of fixing Tier 6. The Port Chester Teachers Association, led by Christopher Kazim, organized “March on the 6th to Fix Tier 6,” a rally and march highlighting the vast disparities between Tiers 5 and 6 and earlier pension tiers, and calling on lawmakers to institute changes. “I was sitting in gridlock traffic one day when it came to me ‘March on the 6th to Fix Tier 6,’” Kazim told the crowd. “Here we are, five months later, and I never could have imagined the tremendous support we have today!”

Landscape outdoor close-up photo view of hundreds of Westchester County activists rallying in Port Chester, calling for legislative fixes to the Tier 6 pension tier
dana fournier
Hundreds of Westchester County activists rally in Port Chester, calling for legislative fixes to the Tier 6 pension tier.
Chanting “Fix Tier 6” and clad in royal blue T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan “March on the 6th Support Our Schools!” Port Chester activists were joined by supporters from several surrounding communities, including White Plains, Mamaroneck, Eastchester, Blind Brook and Harrison.
NYSUT Legacy Fund seal

Lori Atkinson
A celebrated teacher, staunch unionist

headshot of Lori Atkinson, a woman with shoulder length wavy blonde hair wearing a bright pink blazer and a grey floral blouse
Lori Atkinson is many things: a true friend to colleagues, a dedicated professional and a tireless worker for the greater good of the Copenhagen Teachers Association, NYSUT and the North Country Coordinating Council of Teachers. Last year Atkinson, an English language arts teacher at Copenhagen Central School, added another feather to her cap. She was named one of five finalists for the 2023 New York State Teacher of the Year. In recognition of the achievement, the NCCCT honored Atkinson with a NYSUT Legacy Award.

The group commended Atkinson for her exceptional educational career, dedication to the students of Northern New York and saluted her professional expertise and personal excellence.

“She has distinguished herself as a professional of the greatest dedication, ability and integrity who works assiduously to find new and creative ways to motivate and engage her students,” wrote John Cain, NCCCT president. “She epitomizes the ideal of a teacher who is dedicated and wholly committed to the importance of public service, and the value of a quality public education for all students.”

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

[ Fighting for you ]

Union joins fight to keep kids safe online


YSUT President Melinda Person lent her voice to the call for keeping students safe online. Sponsored by the advocacy group Keep Kids Safe Online, the mid-March press conference called for passing two bills that would prevent big tech from tracking, collecting and selling young people’s personal data to third parties, a practice that generates addictive feeds that keep kids tethered to their devices.

girl with blanket around shoulders on phone in the dark with white and yellow typography describing dangers of time spent on social media
“We need our state to stand up and take action to protect our students,” said Person, who cited a NYSUT survey that found 78 percent of teachers report that cellphone and social media use negatively impacts their students’ mental health. Although educators are concerned about the impact of social media on their students, they don’t want to be the cellphone police, they want to provide classroom instruction, continued Person. “We must have guardrails to protect our children … and we can’t expect big tech to put them in place on their own.”

State Attorney General Tish James also voiced her support. “These are good bills that will protect our children and be models for the rest of the nation and the world to follow,” said James. “Because when New York gets involved, we tend to lead the nation … we’ve got a duty and an obligation to protect these young individuals from the harms of social media, and I’m honored to stand with my colleagues.”

[ Fighting for you ]

Member activism lands Saratoga Springs teachers contract win


or more than two years, the tenor was the same. Negotiation sessions came and went, but nothing productive was happening. Saratoga Springs teachers watched their peers get contract wins and felt unheard and disrespected by district administration. So, members decided to take action.

Members of the Saratoga Springs Teachers Association at a rally and holding signs that read Teaching Conditions = Learning Conditions
Members of the Saratoga Springs Teachers Association rally for a fair contract. Members marched through the city and packed a board of education meeting to make their voices heard.
Led by local president Tim McGuiggan, labor relations specialist Chris Chandler and regional political organizer Peter Kim, members of the Saratoga Springs Teachers Association rallied in early November to demand a fair contract. Carrying signs adorned with phrases like “Two years too long,” “Fair Contract Now!” and “No contract? A race to the bottom!” referencing Saratoga’s horse racing history, hundreds of members marched through downtown Saratoga Springs before packing a school board meeting to demand a fair deal.

“I think the action was a game changer,” said McGuiggan. “It had a definitive impact on negotiations. Everything changed as a result of that rally.”

[ Social Justice ]

Student art exhibition finds creative ways to explore social justice


sing various mediums, students from middle school to college created visual representations meant to inspire important conversations about heavy issues: Women’s rights. War. Racial inequality. Self-acceptance.

Camilla Quintero's scarf pink, purple, and white scarf with the words 'hardworking' and 'caring' stitched into the design with black thread
Photos: Dana Fournier
Suffern High School 10th grader Camilla Quintero won Best in Show 3D for My Scarf is Me.

The pieces were submitted for the inaugural juried student art exhibition held at NYSUT’s Tarrytown Regional Office. Students were asked to use NYSUT’s “Many Threads, One Fabric” theme to create original works of art that explore and embrace the histories, cultures and contributions of the many diverse peoples that comprise our world.

“It is fantastic to see the excitement from students who are exploring social justice issues, celebrating diversity and learning to express their feelings and beliefs through art,” said NYSUT Secretary-Treasurer J. Philippe Abraham. His office provided funding for the event as part of the union’s social justice initiative.

A panel of judges, including Abraham, NYSUT graphic designer Dana Fournier and retired art educator Cynthia Appold, RC19, reviewed the pieces and awarded prizes based on how closely students were able to connect to the theme.

Lottia Barnes, an 11th grader at Suffern Central School District, won second place for her acrylic painting Slipping Through My Fingers, a self-portrait depicting Barnes in the bathroom as her mother styles her hair. The pair are reflected in the mirror as their younger selves during what Barnes describes as a more trying time for both.

[ OUR SRPs ]

NYSUT launches SRP mentoring program


efore the union introduced a peer-to-peer mentoring program for teaching assistants, the East Syracuse Minoa School District was looking at unsustainable turnover.

“Our union-led peer mentoring program started with NEA in September of 2023,” said Tammy Hughes, president of the East Syracuse-Minoa Teaching Assistants Association. “Since implementing our program we have had a 92 percent retention rate. This is a huge increase over the 45 percent loss that we experienced in the last two years.”

While acknowledging the program is still new, Hughes said the difference to morale has been invaluable. “Teaching assistant mentors have shared their knowledge and insight. Mentees feel welcomed and supported. And students have benefited from happier, trained teaching assistants,” Hughes said.

I Am Educator Inspired

headshot of a young elementary school aged girl with her brown hair pulled back into a ponytail
I Am Educator Inspired typography

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week starting May 6, NYSUT is highlighting stories we’ve gathered from people around the state sharing how educators have encouraged, guided and cared for them in ways big and small. We’ve amassed an impressive collection of videos and handwritten notes from students, parents, elected officials, celebrities, community members and NYSUT members as part of our Educator Inspired campaign.

“We know how hard educators work every day to not only teach children, but to help them feel safe, accepted and confident in themselves,” said NYSUT President Melinda Person. “Whether it’s helping a student achieve a ‘lightbulb’ moment in a subject they’ve struggled with, supporting them during difficult times in their personal lives, encouraging them to pursue pathways they didn’t believe were possible, or just making learning fun — our members are doing it all.”

During this Teacher Appreciation Week, take time to make sure the teachers in your life feel the love. And check out the impactful stories of gratitude shared at educator-inspired.org.

[ 2024 NYSUT Representative Assembly ]

Sen. Robert Jackson receives union’s highest honor

Robert Jackson headshot

ne of nine children, State Senator Robert Jackson knows how to survive. Times were tough for his family growing up, and they sometimes struggled to make ends meet. The experience taught him that “you have to be persistent in reaching your goals,” said Jackson.

It was a lesson he learned well. In 1993, that persistence led Jackson to launch the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, a coalition of parents, community members and education advocates who sued the state over school funding cuts and overcrowding.

The case went all the way to New York’s highest court which found that New York City children were being denied a sound, basic education due to a lack of resources — violations of the state constitution and Title Six of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, since most District 6 students were children of color. The result: A historic $16 billion school funding win in 2003.

For his persistence and ongoing commitment to fighting for workers’ rights, Jackson is receiving the union’s highest honor, The Albert Shanker Award for Distinguished Service. The award recognizes individuals who’ve made special contributions to public education in the United States.

[ 2024 NYSUT Representative Assembly ]

NYSUT 2024 Representative Assembly Awards

NYSUT 2024 Representative Assembly Awards typography and graphic
NYSUT 2024 Representative Assembly Awards typography and graphic

“Not for Ourselves Alone:” The Sandy Feldman Outstanding Leadership Award

Joan Perrini headshot
Joan Perrini
Joan Perrini has been a staunch union activist since she began her teaching career in 1960. A social studies teacher at Udall Road Junior High School in West Islip for 38 years, Perrini served first as secretary for her local, and then as building representative. In 1964, she was elected vice president and worked with the local president to join the West Islip Teachers Association with NYSUT, AFT and the AFL-CIO. In 1984, she became president of the local, a post she held until her retirement in 1998. One of the first women to serve as president, she remains the longest serving president of her local.

Perrini remains active in retirement, fighting to protect the rights and benefits of NYSUT retirees. She served as president of her area’s retiree council for 12 years, where she was instrumental in building what is considered one of the most active executive boards and membership of any retiree council on Long Island. Perrini was also a retiree services consultant in Suffolk County for six years, during which time she succeeded in forming many new retiree chapters.

Elizabeth Perez headshot
Elizabeth Perez
Elizabeth Perez’s education about the union began at home. Her father was a journeyman with the IBEW, Local 3, for over 30 years, and later a union shop steward. Perez and her siblings were encouraged from an early age to be actively involved in preserving the rights and protections afforded by union membership for themselves and those that followed.

Growing up, Perez knew she wanted to be a teacher. From her earliest days playing school, to her first job as a classroom observer, her path was straight and true. It was a call to service, and that’s how I see myself — as a servant leader,” she explained. She graduated from Brooklyn College with a degree in education and took a job as a bilingual/ESL teacher at PS 160 in Brooklyn.

[ 2024 new york state teacher of the year ]

In Teacher of the Year’s classroom, students set the groove

artistic digital illustration of a music note that incorporates smaller music notes and piano keys

ith a friendly smile, special handshakes and a simple “how are you today?”, Rochester music teacher Zachary Arenz starts each morning by welcoming students to school as they get off the bus. It’s his way of checking in and meeting students where they are emotionally that day.

“I don’t always know what happened in the hours before my students arrive at school or walk into my classroom,” Arenz explained. “It’s a chance to make sure that they’re having a good day and if they’re not, what can I do to help?”

At Flower City School Number 54, Arenz’s colleagues jokingly dubbed him the “kid whisperer” for his innate ability to read his students, build positive relationships and gain their trust. For some kids, Arenz is their main motivation for coming to school at all. He shares a time when he learned from one of his ensemble students, who had been racking up absences, that the reason he was missing so much school was because he was going back and forth from his separated parents’ houses.

[ teaching & learning ]

Greenburgh-North Castle teachers help students grow real-world skills


t Kenneth Clark Academy in Dobbs Ferry, educators are providing exciting opportunities for hands-on, experiential learning — and they’re not afraid to get those hands dirty.

Recently, Maksim Vasilevsky, a science teacher at KCA and member of Greenburgh-North Castle United Teachers, helped secure a grant from Home Depot to rejuvenate KCA’s gardens and natural wildlife habitat on campus and allow students to cultivate new experiences through experiential learning.

group photo of students holding gardening suppplies
photos: Svetlana Vynnyk
Students aged 12-21 at Kenneth Clark Academy cultivate new experiences through experiential learning.

“We’re really trying to look at our kids as individual people and what their strengths are,” Vasilevsky said. “Project-based learning gives them that opportunity to find a love of something. It’s about giving them real-world experience so they can take that outside of here and be active members of society. That’s what we’re really trying to achieve here.”

On a cloudy April day, KCA students shined as they worked with one another to breathe new life into their shared garden space. Armed with rakes, wheelbarrows, and other gardening gadgets, the kids were joined by school staff and employees from the Home Depot’s associate volunteer force, known as “Team Depot,” as they weeded and mulched, sowed and planted in the all organic, pesticide-free oasis.

[ Teaching & Learning ]

Why I teach

English teacher Cherie Gisondi is a member of the Carle Place Teachers Association in Nassau County on Long Island
When I was in third grade, I had the most wonderful teacher named Ellen Kramer at P.S. 108 in Queens. The first day I thought she was an angel from heaven. As an 8-year-old, I knew this year was going to be something special, and it was.

She introduced me to theater, music and how to escape into a book. She is adored by so many students. That particular year, our class seemed special, or she made it seem like we were, in our working-class neighborhood. I believed I could be and do whatever I set my mind to. Many of us went on to do great things; many of us are in creative fields. I would like to say it was because of her class.

I wanted to be like her, and I wanted kids to feel like I did in her class. I went on to have many great teachers and decided this was the path I would take.

I love acting, writing, reading, theater and music. It was only natural for me to choose English as my subject. I went to Queens College for my degrees. While there, I worked three jobs, and I took on a tutoring job at Townsend Harris High School during my break from classes.

[ teaching & learning ]

Together in totality: Eclipse Day brings out-of-this-world teachable moments for students and staff


almyra Macedon Faculty Association member Joe Perry had been waiting to see a total solar eclipse over the Rochester region since he started his teaching career in the city in 1998.

A few weeks before the big day, as forecasters were giving early weather predictions, Perry exclaimed, “If it’s cloudy in upstate New York on April 8, 2024, it will ruin my decade!”

Let’s face it, if there’s one thing you can rely on during the spring season in New York, it’s that the weather will be unreliable.

But despite cloudy conditions, Perry’s pocket of Western New York still experienced a spectacular celestial event that Monday: the region’s first total solar eclipse in 99 years.

For those on the path of totality, it was a rare opportunity to be plunged into darkness during the day as the moon passed in front of the sun.

[ teaching & learning ]

NYSUT congratulates 50 teachers who earned top honor


uring a special livestream ceremony in April, NYSUT and state education leaders celebrated 50 outstanding New York teachers who achieved certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. NYSUT Executive Vice President Jaime Ciffone was joined by Regents Chancellor Lester Young and State Education Commissioner Betty Rosa to congratulate this exceptional cohort of educators.

NBCTs shared what the rigorous process has meant to them, many explaining that it gave them renewed passion and purpose, reaffirmed their commitment to providing meaningful experiences for students, and reinforced the personal importance of continued professional development and lifelong learning.

Jill DeRosa, a second grade teacher and member of the Bellport Teachers Association, said the process reinforced the importance of intentional observation “and the deep reflection around our curriculum so that we can be responsive to the diverse needs of all the students that we are charged to teach.”

[ health & safety ]

Collective care team model shifts approach to student mental health


t Victor Senior High School, student mental health demands an all-hands-on-deck approach. In 2019, the growing district just 20 minutes south of Rochester adopted the collective care team model for student wellness, and educators say the new model has fundamentally shifted the way the district supports students.

Victor Senior High School’s Collective Care Team
One of Victor Senior High School’s Collective Care Teams meets to discuss student mental health. From left: Lindsay Snyder, substance use prevention counselor; Kimberly Spitzer, school nurse; Kiah Bowerman, school social worker; Tara Hopson, school psychologist; and Benjamin Raymo, school counselor.
“It’s our K–12 method of intervention,” said Mary Banaszak, coordinator of school counseling at the high school and a member of the Victor Teachers Association. “What the collective care approach has done is move us from being reactive to proactive, with teams in every building of our campus.”

The pupil services staff includes 12 members, divided into six collective care teams that direct and manage the daily care of students. Each team consists of an administrator, school counselor, school psychologist, school social worker, school nurse and substance use prevention counselor; students are assigned to collective care teams alphabetically.

Each care team comes together every other week to discuss the students they are working with and how they can best be served. During these meetings, or “minis” as they’re called, the team members share their findings, identify appropriate resources, collectively hammer out an action plan, and then check up on student progress, Banaszak said.

[ retirees in action ]

Retirees rally at Committee of 100

NYSUT Union For Life logo

YSUT’s “daytime army” of retiree activists were out in force for the Committee of 100 lobby day at the state Capitol in Albany this March. Scores of retired unionists met with lawmakers to speak about issues important to NYSUT members such as APPR reform, pension tier equity and fully funding Foundation Aid. Later in the day they lent their voices at a spirited noontime Fix Tier Six rally against the majestic backdrop of the Million Dollar Staircase.

Chanting “we won’t quit till we Fix Tier 6!” and other pro-change slogans, retirees helped underscore the need to make Tiers 5 and 6 equitable with earlier tiers so that the profession can continue to recruit and retain newer educators.

Florence McCue and Roni O’Connor sitting at table with fingers interlocked
El-Wise Noisette
From left, ED 51-53 At-Large Director Florence McCue and Roni O’Connor, president of RC 15/16, at a Committee of 100 briefing session.
Mike and Louisa Eiermann and Kate Hughes smiling side by side with Fix Tier Six flyers in hands
kara smith
RC 21 Co-Presidents Mike and Louisa Eiermann and Kate Hughes, center, RC 21, traveled to Albany for Committee of 100.
Quotes - Left
Quotes - Right


Quotable typography
Cory Gomez
Wait…actual good news coming out of @albany_com and @NYstateED!? In a major breakthrough, Tier 6 will see the biggest pension reform in 20 years!!! The average of the last 3 years (not 5) will determine our lifetime pension payments!!! Grateful for @nysut and all you do! (@GomezWCSD)

Secretary Miguel Cardona
We cannot raise the bar for young people without centering them in the conversation. Young people know what they need to thrive, it is on us to listen. (@SecCardona)

Samantha Rosado-Ciriello
How do we expect to attract the best and the brightest and not compensate them for it? #FixTier6 @SamraBrouk @nysut @AFTunion @yft860 @MelindaJPerson (@RosadoCiriello)

Robert Reich
Poverty is a policy choice. Mass incarceration is a policy choice. Inequality is a policy choice. Insulin rationing is a policy choice. Climate disintegration is a policy choice. Billionaire tax loopholes are a policy choice. Make no mistake: We have the power to change things. (@RBReich)

California Labor Federation
Unions are where dreams really come true! Magic United, cast members who work in the Disneyland Resort’s Characters and Parades departments announced their intention to unionize with @ActorsEquity today! #UnionizeCalifornia (@CaliforniaLabor)

[ voices ]

5 Questions for Kim Jones

5 questions for typography
5 Questions for... typography
Kim Jones
Buffalo Teachers Federation

First, congratulations on being named the 2023 Ruth Schwartz School Social Worker of the year. What inspires your work?

Thank you. I was very honored to be recognized.

What inspires me is to know that I’m helping people. I try to create an atmosphere of kindness and hope in my work. I do what I do from my heart.


Your school is close to the site of the 2022 Tops supermaket shooting. How did you help your students cope?

The Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts is in a majority-Black community about five minutes away from the store. A lot of my students’ family members were either victims or related to victims. I set up a counseling room at school the Monday after the Saturday shooting for my fifth through 12th grade students who needed emotional support. I offered talking, art and play therapy and, for some students, just let them console each other while I facilitated. I followed their lead.

[ classifieds ]

  • 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.
    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.
    St. Augustine Beach — Three-bedroom, two-bath condominium. NYSUT discount. rj@jobers.com 716-830-4635.
    Moose River Waterfront Adirondacks four-season cabin, $850.00/week. Sleeps eight, adksiesta@gmail.com. No pets.
    Marco Island, Florida —Three-bedroom, two-bath condo. Monthly, seasonal. 518-869-5422.
  • Help Wanted
    Teachers, tutor near home/work. All subjects/grades/licenses. Long-term: facultytutoring@aol.com. 718-886-2424.
    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.
    PICKLEBALL LOVERS! TEACHERS, counselors Pickleball Pete: Tale of Good Sportsmanship valuable resource. Teaches kindness, good sportsmanship. Engaging, beautifully illustrated. Amazon.
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    TUSCANY OCTOBER — Flight, lodging, breakfast, dinner, 7 tours. All-inclusive, $1,950. Peduzpeduz@aol.com. 914-997-0987.

[ resources for you ]

School nurses, NYSUT sees you

Just in time for National Nurses Week, celebrated annually May 6–12, comes a new resource from the NYSUT School Nurse Connection.
an informational NYSUT vision poster promoting the NYSUT School Nurse Connection program
A downloadable vision poster includes information on common conditions that require the use of glasses or contacts, and the importance of using safety goggles. The poster also includes information on parts of the eye and a quick test to determine if you are colorblind.

The School Nurse Connection, a new NYSUT program, provides valuable training, on-the-job support, and advocacy for an underrepresented professional sector — school nurses. For a downloadable copy of the poster, visit nysut.cc/vision. Learn more about the NYSUT School Nurse Connection at nysut.cc/snc. Limited print copies are available. Email patricia.geisel@nysut.org.

Looking for resources to celebrate your school’s nurses? The American Nurses Association has themed this year’s celebration, “Nurses Make the Difference.” The organization has a free toolkit full of printables to make your celebration spectacular, including thank you cards, posters, certificates of appreciation and much more. Visit nursingworld.org/nurses-week.

[ passings ]

Stanley Rosengarten

headshot of Stanley Rosengarten

Stanley Rosengarten, who went to jail for leading the Lindenhurst teacher strike in 1970, died on Jan. 18 following a brief illness.

A high school physics teacher for 40 years, Stanley served as president of the Teachers Association of Lindenhurst for 34 years and was elected to the NYSUT Board of Directors in 1978, serving first as Director of ED 20 and later as At-Large Director for ED 17–20 until his retirement in 2005. During that time, he served on NYSUT’s Executive Committee for 20 years. Stanley went on to found the OWL Teacher Center, serving as chairman for 36 years. A skilled negotiator, he led the Lindenhurst local bargaining team from the early years of the Taylor Law until his retirement in 2004.

Stanley is survived by his wife, Susan; his children, Paul (Jodi) and Lori Feingold (Eric); and grandchildren Philip, Samantha, Luke and Eve.

Anthony Antonacci | Jan. 22, 2024
Yonkers Federation of Teachers

Jane A. Hagerty | Feb. 17, 2024
New Hartford Teachers Association

Victor R. Leon | March 4, 2024
General Brown Teachers Association

David H. Lesinski | Nov. 14, 2023
Lackawanna Teachers Federation

Richard Mangino | Feb. 16, 2024
Retiree Council 3

Donna J. Mears | March 25, 2024
Wappingers Congress of 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.

[ member benefits ]

Retirees must maintain NYSUT membership


or those NYSUT members who have recently retired or plan to do so in the near future, it’s important to take some proactive steps to make the transition from in-service work to retirement an easier process. If you are currently enrolled in NYSUT Member Benefits-endorsed programs and would like to continue participation, you must maintain your NYSUT membership as a retiree.

This can be accomplished in one of two ways:

1. Continue membership within your local if retiree membership is offered. Contact your local to find out if any retiree membership requirements are in place. You must comply with these retiree membership requirements to continue your membership in NYSUT and our national affiliates, the American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association.

2. Continue as an at-large member of NYSUT through the Retiree Council in your region. Contact your local to ensure you will be reported as retired to NYSUT. This will provide you with membership in the Retiree Council in your region along with NYSUT, AFT, and NEA.

[ Your ERS Pension ]

Keep your information current


s a member of the New York State and Local Retirement System, which administers the Employees’ Retirement System, it’s important to regularly review and update your information.

Use Retirement Online and keep your password current

When it comes to managing your NYSLRS account, Retirement Online (bit.ly/RO-sign-in) is the fastest way to do it. Skip printing forms, having them notarized and sending them through the mail — when you submit your requests online, NYSLRS receives them immediately and your changes will be completed more quickly.

Be sure to sign in at least once a year and update your Retirement Online password so it doesn’t expire.

If you don’t have an account, sign up today. You can find step-by-step instructions for registering in the Tools & Tips section of the Retirement Online page (bit.ly/retirement-online).

[ Your TRS Pension ]

Beware of imposters — trust only NYSTRS with pension questions

hands typing on a laptop with an illustrated hologram of a red caution sign floating above the person's hands
Q :

My financial advisor claims to be a New York State Teachers’ Retirement System expert. Can I trust their advice?

A :

No. When it comes to your pension, don’t rely on outside sources for pension advice. Financial planners often contact NYSTRS members offering retirement preparation services and claiming to be experts about NYSTRS benefits, but they’re not. Although they design their seminars, ads, videos, publications and mailings to look like NYSTRS-sanctioned products, these firms aren’t affiliated with, or endorsed by, NYSTRS.

[ resources for you ]

an NYSUT poster featuring American labor organizer and advocate May Chen in celebration of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month

NYSUT celebrates Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month

May Chen, an American labor organizer and advocate for immigrant workers, helped organize the 1982 garment workers’ strike, one of the largest Asian American worker actions in history. Twenty thousand primarily Chinese and Hong Kong immigrant women workers marched from Manhattan’s Chinatown to Columbus Park, rallying for safer working conditions, better wages and for management to observe the Confucian principles of fairness and respect.

Inspired by the event, Chen began working for the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union Immigration Project, which provided legal advocacy, helping workers obtain citizenship and petition sponsorship for relatives.

A graduate of Radcliffe College and UCLA, Chen’s archive, the May Chen Papers, is held in the Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives of the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at New York University.

NYSUT is proud to celebrate the contributions of individuals of Asian and Pacific Islander descent. Downloadable PDF versions and printed copies of this poster are free, in limited quantities, to NYSUT members. Visit nysut.org/publications.

[ Local Unions in Action ]

large group of women in school gym smiling for group photo in pink breast cancer awareness shirts

Lockport members fight breast cancer year-round

“On paydays we wear pink!” For the last five years, members of the Lockport Education Association have dedicated paydays as a day to show union solidarity — and raise funds for breast cancer research. “Pink Pay Days” take place twice a month throughout the year, said Lockport EA President Scott Reddinger. “We encourage our membership of 500 to wear their union purchased pink apparel to draw attention to our efforts to increase awareness and donations to Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. This year we provided incentives and raffles for those who donated.”

As of December 2023, the local had raised nearly $4,000. “Our Making Strides banner rotates to all of our buildings throughout the year to grab a photo of our members proudly supporting the cause. We firmly believe that year-round attention to this initiative is imperative to those impacted by, surviving and living with breast cancer,” Reddinger said.

Coxsackie-Athens Teachers Association

Kristen Roberg smiling with four male children in classroom

More than a decade ago, the Coxsackie-Athens TA created a Student Benefit Fund to help students and their families who have suffered a loss, house fire, overwhelming medical bills and other hardships. Special events are held each year to raise money for the fund. This year, the CATA, led by co-presidents Kristen Roberg (pictured at left) and Ben Richards, hosted a teachers vs. teachers giant volleyball game, raising more than $700. The local also hosted two McTeacher Nights at the local McDonald’s, where more than 20 teachers worked making fries, shakes, taking orders, and working the drive thru window to raise more than $1,200.

Schoharie Teachers Association

The Schoharie TA has been awarding money to students going into the field of education for more than 20 years. “We raise on average $1,500, but this year we are almost at $1,900!” said President Natalie Hallenbeck. The local holds several events throughout the year to raise scholarship funds. New this year, a pottery fundraiser. “We hired a local pottery shop to come in and teach a class. We included a donation in the price to attend the class, which pushed us over the $1,800 mark for donations.”

Other events include “Souper Fridays,” where members bring in homemade soups to share at $5 a bowl. The union also partners with school principals for an “administration raffle,” in which members buy raffle tickets for a chance to win a free class period covered by an administrator.

Carmel Teachers Association

The Carmel TA makes a strong effort to give back to the community they serve. Some of their annual activities include Adopt-a-Highway cleanups, a Christmas Kids’ Day celebration, providing Thanksgiving dinners for senior citizens, creating teams for the Heart Walk and Relay for Life, funding and awarding thousands of dollars in yearly scholarships to graduating seniors through an annual 5K and fundraising, and much more. In addition to their own events, CTA members are actively involved in the PTA/PTOs, the district, and various community events to help support local charitable organizations, said local President Dave Zupan.

“Each year, the CTA strives to support PCAP, Putnam Community Action Partnership, a non-profit organization that provides support for people and families in need in our community. On April 18, we proudly partnered with every bargaining unit in the Carmel Central School District to donate toiletries and bowl for a cause. The CTA holds the belief that We > Me.”

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

Nicole Burt, Greater Southern Tier BOCES Educational Association, received the SUNY Corning Community College Eileen M. Collins ‘76 Professional Achievement Award. Named for one of SUNY CCC’s most distinguished alumni, the award honors an alum who has excelled in their chosen field.

Herbert Munshine, United Federation of Teachers retiree, was recently voted into the Baseball Bard Hall of Fame. The site recognizes members for the “unique contributions to the literature and lore of baseball.”

In print

Chantal Roberts, Professional Staff Congress – Borough of Manhattan Community College, has written Once Upon a Claim: Fairy Tales to Protect Your Ass(ets). The book uses nursery rhymes, fables and fairy tales to teach insurance claim concepts to consumers.

Leidy Rodriguez, New Rochelle Federation of United School Employees, has published a memoir, Beauty From Ashes: Trials and Tribulations of a Latin American Woman Chasing the American Dream.

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 | May/June 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 May/June 2024 issue!