[ 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.

“I want to get more retirees to be active unionists for life. There is a lot of good that they can do,” she said. In 2012, she was elected to the NYSUT Board of Directors for Election District 52, representing one-third of the retirees in the state. As director, she is keenly aware of the importance of keeping all retiree voices heard, and she strives to make sure their needs are met.

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.

Perez joined the UFT immediately and was soon elected chapter leader, a position she held for over 18 years. She was recruited as a staffer at the Brooklyn office because of her advocacy for membership. She eventually took on the added responsibility of political action coordinator. She was named Brooklyn Borough Representative in 2015.

“It’s a huge responsibility, but we do it with pride. We do it because we believe in the work we do and the importance of unionism,” said Perez, who serves on NYSUT’s Board of Directors, as a delegate to the NYSUT and AFT conventions and as a UFT chapter leader trainer and member of the action committee.

Higher Education Member of the Year

Tony Cruz headshot
Tony Cruz
“My first conscious thought was rhythm. To this day, I’m still a drummer.”

Movement, cadence and melody are all familiar concepts for Tony Cruz, a self-described lifelong musician. That passion didn’t end when he entered the classroom. If anything, it only makes him a stronger teacher and union leader.

“I infuse my music into my classes,” said Cruz, noting that he teaches students how to use simple punctuation to inject their writing with musicality, inflection — and to create prose that sings. “So when I tell students that their papers don’t sound right, I’m talking about what vocabulary are you using and what are you doing with punctuation.”

Cruz is almost as passionate about the union. A past member of the Teamsters, IBEW Local 3 and the American Federation of Musicians, Cruz is now president of the Orange County Community College Faculty Association. His dedication to the union — and solidarity — was built on the picket line during the Broadway strike. “When workers unite that’s where they have power, and that’s what unionism is,” Cruz said. He carried those lessons with him and still relies on the power of solidarity — members marching together to the beat of the same drum — to make progress at the bargaining table and beyond.

Celebrating excellence among our members, view a full list of award winners at nysut.org/ra typography

Healthcare Professionals Members of the Year

Carolyn Kube headshot
Carolyn Kube
Carolyn Kube is proof that not all heroes wear capes; some wear lab coats. As a medical technologist for Stony Brook University Hospital, Kube was responsible for tissue typing and determining the compatibility between donors and recipients for the hospital’s transplant program.

She balanced her career, which required her to work long hours and be on-call 125 hours every other week, with her responsibilities as a mother of two. “It is special work. It’s very gratifying. You’re giving a person a second chance at life,” said Kube.

Kube has been intricately involved in United University Professions since taking on her first assignment at the hospital. She served as chapter department representative, part-time concerns officer, and vice president of professionals before becoming Stony Brook HSC Chapter president, a post she’s held for three terms. She also served as a member of UUP’s statewide executive board from 2011-21.

As a dedicated unionist, Kube led the charge to secure proper equipment for healthcare members during the pandemic and hotel rooms so they didn’t spread the virus to the public. She also led the push for bonus pay for Stony Brook hospital workers as part of the “Heroes Don’t Get Zeroes” initiative.

Maria Scudiero headshot
Maria Scudiero
Maria Scudiero says nursing has always come easily to her.

“I don’t know if I chose nursing or nursing chose me. I don’t remember ever wanting to be anything else,” she said. After graduating from high school, Scudiero married and had two children. She completed nursing school and her postgraduate requirements, all while balancing motherhood and the birth of two more children. “I think if you’re just focused on your goal and don’t focus on the obstacles, you get there.”

Scudiero has been a registered nurse for 22 years. She is the assistant nursing care coordinator at NYU Langone Hospital – Brooklyn, supervising patient care. She has been an active member of the Federation of Nurses/UFT since her hiring and has served as a negotiator and grievance rep. Proper staffing ratios are critical to patient safety and, as such, they have been incorporated into the nursing contract. To enforce new staffing ratios and prioritize patient care, Scudiero and her team have filed 2,000 grievances.

“Patients don’t even know the danger they’re in, so that’s why we have to fight for them,” said Scudiero. Last year, Scudiero established a weekly Sunday meet-up for new nurses to help provide them with the mentorship and support so essential at the beginning of this demanding career.

School-Related Professionals Members of the Year

Mashantuck Bell headshot
Mashantuck Bell
Living in the same district as her students gives Mashantuck Bell a unique perspective. “It’s important because I tell them all the time, ‘I am you. I was in the same spot that you are in, in the same district that you are in, same area that you live in. I am you.’”

Bell has been a paraprofessional in the Brooklyn area for 23 years and works in the same district where she was born and raised. She is the Brooklyn Borough Coordinator for the paraprofessionals of Brooklyn and the UFT chapter leader at IS Gateway 364.

The youngest of 13 children, Bell grew up babysitting her nieces and nephews. She said she always knew she wanted to work with children, and education seemed like a natural path for her. She got involved in the UFT because she wanted to help her colleagues. “I just love helping people. It’s in my nature. I love to support people and give them the information they need. I get a lot of satisfaction out of it,” she said.

In addition to her responsibilities in the classroom, Bell is also the chorus instructor at her school. Singing is one of her passions, and she is grateful that she can introduce her students to the world of music.

James Chaney headshot
James Chaney
An educator for more than 20 years, James Chaney is a teaching assistant at Albany Public High School where he is fulfilling his calling to motivate and mentor students.

At just 1 year old, Chaney was in a car accident that permanently damaged his spinal cord. The accident confined him to a wheelchair but expanded his life’s purpose.

“I learned that there was a mental, emotional and spiritual concept that I could share with other people and that I could change their lives,” Chaney said.

Chaney is a graduate of ITT Technical Institute and a lifelong learner. He strives for authentic connections with his students. Chaney is always looking for opportunities to meet his students where their interests are, and he bonds with them on topics like basketball, Harry Potter, metal detecting, weightlifting, reading and computers.

Chaney has been a member of the Albany Public School United Employees since 2011. He is also a motivational speaker and travels to schools across the Capital Region to share his story.

Retiree Members of the Year

Lorraine Ferrannini headshot
Lorraine Ferrannini
As a proud member of the union’s “daytime army,” Lorraine Ferrannini makes it her mission to recruit and empower more retiree activists. “It’s so important that the retirees know that they still have a role in our union, and they can do it,” she said. Ferrannini is a retiree liaison and coordinator for UFT’s Para Support Line, which was established to help New York City paraprofessionals navigate retirement.

Despite her packed career, Ferrannini is a self-described late bloomer. She didn’t attend college until she was 30, and it was then that she decided to dedicate her life to special education. She was a paraprofessional in New York City’s District 75 for seven years before becoming a special education teacher there. District 75 provides highly specialized instructional support for students with significant physical and emotional challenges. Ferrannini taught for 21 years. “I think God put me on this earth to do just that, to work with those students and to help them and their parents.”

When she first joined the UFT as a substitute teacher, Ferrannini was astonished to discover that there was an organization established explicitly to support workers. She has been a staunch unionist ever since, serving as a chapter leader and delegate before retiring in 2019.

Ron Smith headshot
Ron Smith
Ron Smith has been NYSUT’s statewide Political Action Committee coordinator since 2018. A dedicated unionist, he is credited with helping shape NYSUT’s political profile over his career.

Smith first became interested in politics at SUNY Oswego and taught social studies in Sayville Public Schools for 37 years. He became involved in the union in the 1960s and assisted with the earliest contract negotiations for his local. “We were building contracts from the ground up,” he said. “It was the wild west of bargaining.” Smith was elected vice president and then in 1978, chosen as president of his local — a post he held for 28 years. It was during his time as union president that he realized the impact that the union could have on school board elections and began running full-scale campaigns. “It didn’t take a real leap for us to realize that if we had a good school board, if we had people who were friendly on the school board, that would make everything easier.”

Smith was elected to the NYSUT Board of Directors and selected to serve as a local Political Action Coordinator, before taking on the then-nascent role of statewide Political Action Coordinator. He also served as the executive vice president for the Long Island Federation of Labor and as a state committee member for the Working Families Party.