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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.

Caiifa Clark, Charissa Manigault, Ramona Rodriguez, LRS Amanda Velazquez, and President Keith McCall stand together for a picture at the NYSUT Winter 2024 SRP mentor pilot cohort
Leslie Fottrell
Ten teams joined NYSUT’s Winter 2024 SRP mentor pilot cohort. The team from the Mount Vernon Federation of Teachers includes, from left, Caiifa Clark, Charissa Manigault, Ramona Rodriguez, LRS Amanda Velazquez, and President Keith McCall.
Hughes was one of the facilitators at NYSUT’s inaugural SRP Mentor Pilot Program. Partnering with NEA, NYSUT launched the program to address the lack of mentor opportunities available to School-Related Professionals. Mentoring is required for new teachers in New York state.

“Mentor programs often increase staff retention and job satisfaction. SRPs should be afforded the same opportunity,” said NYSUT Second Vice President Ron Gross, whose office coordinates SRP issues for the union.

Ten SRP locals from across the state completed the training in January, where they received support in creating a plan to build a peer-to-peer mentoring program. Teams also learned about resources, including grants available from the National Education Association. To join the pilot, each team committed to bringing a team including their local president, NYSUT labor relations specialist and two other members. Some teams also brought administrators.

That team approach is crucial to a successful program, Hughes added, noting the ESMTAA relies on coordinators Diandra Western and Andrea Bailey.

“The mentor program has had an important effect; teaching assistants feel empowered and this was an immediate outcome,” Hughes said.