NYSUT United September/October 2023

NYSUT United A Union of Professionals logo
Our Vision:
Support schools where students and educators can thrive, Ensure our members’ professions are enticing and sustainable career choices, Build the power of our union
September/October 2023
NYSUT UNITED [September/October 2023, Vol. 14, No. 1 ]
Director of Communications: James Morrison
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
Advertising: Andrew Watson
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 andrew.watson@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, Adam Piasecki, 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, James Davis, Ron Gross, Anthony M. Harmon, Frederick Kowal, Kara McCormick-Lyons, Michael Mulgrew, Melinda Person, Adam Urbanski
NEA DIRECTORS: Serena Kotch, Dora Leland
Alternate Directors: Sue Raichilson, Melissa Tierney
Executive Committee members are underlined.

To Our

My first months as president of NYSUT have been a whirlwind of energy. The officers and I have attended scores of conferences and regional meetings, and visited more than 50 schools and worksites across the state.

headshot of Melinda Person

Melinda Person, NYSUT President

headshot of Melinda Person

Melinda Person, NYSUT President

With each conversation, we are learning new ways to achieve our primary goals: Supporting schools where students and educators can thrive; ensuring our members’ professions are enticing and sustainable career choices; and building the strength of our union. (Read all about our vision in detail on page 16.)

We are bolstered by a national movement that has taken hold across the country this summer and shows no signs of slowing down. From the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes to the UPS Teamsters contract wins, the nation is watching organizing become a strategy for hope. And they are cheering us on.

It’s already underway at NYSUT. This year we have won political fights to foster learning environments that both students and educators deserve, including passage of state legislation to qualify thousands of additional students for free lunches and to prevent violence against school staff.

We’re pushing to make the profession attractive and sustainable by launching a dynamic campaign to fix the Tier 6 pension system.

Top ring spirals


Sept. 11–12

NYS Board of Regents meets, Albany

Sept. 22–23

NYSUT Board of Directors meets, Latham

A pink ribbon representing breast cancer awareness
Sept. 30–Oct. 22

Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walks take place at locations around the state. See page 21 for details.

SRPs Rising Wordmark Logo
Oct. 20–22

SRP Leadership Conference, Albany

Oct. 28

Deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 7 general elections

NYSUT community colleges logo
Nov. 3–5

Community College Leadership Conference, Saratoga

Womens Committee Logo
Nov. 17–18

NYSUT Women’s Commttee meets, Albany

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

On the Cover

Our union. Our vision.
NYSUT leaders share the member-driven focus for the union’s future. Cover design by Dana Fournier.
[ Fighting for you ]

Mannion earns NYSUT endorsement for Congressional bid


YSUT endorsed state Sen. John Mannion, D-Geddes, in his bid to represent New York’s 22nd Congressional District.

portrait of John Mannion

Before his election as New York state senator, John Mannion taught AP biology and chemistry for 21 years in Central New York.

“John Mannion is a fierce advocate for public educators and unions, and we are proud to support his run,” said NYSUT President Melinda Person.

“From his time in union leadership at West Genesee to his work in Albany as a state senator, John has proven he will fight tirelessly to uplift educators, students and communities. As a teacher and NYSUT member, we know John will be the powerful voice in Washington for working-class families and strong public schools that Central New York deserves.”

Mannion was former president of the West Genesee Teachers Association and is a graduate of the union’s Member Organizing Institute. He also participated in NYSUT’s Pipeline Project, which identifies and trains candidates to run for public office.

Endorsed candidates receive grassroots support from NYSUT members, including phone banking, door knocking and literature distribution. The union also makes financial contributions from voluntary donations through VOTE-COPE, the union’s non-partisan political action committee.

Check out nysut.org for announcments of other endorsements.

[ Fighting for you ]

Union student debt webinars help members navigate options


ith student loan repayments set to resume in October, borrowers across the country continue to have questions about what it means for them and their particular cases. Unions have advocated tirelessly for simplification, reform and expansion of the loan forgiveness programs. And union leaders are committed to keeping members informed.

In a June 30 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration’s one-time student debt relief plan, effectively ending the pandemic-era student loan repayment pause. Student loan interest will resume starting Sept. 1, and payments will be due starting in October. For more information and answers to frequently asked questions, visit StudentAid.gov/DebtRelief.

For assistance with your individual case, members are encouraged to sign up for one of NYSUT’s free online student loan webinars offered in partnership with Cambridge Credit Counseling. Thousands of NYSUT members have already taken advantage of this free union benefit. Through the program, counselors will help you better understand the various student loan repayment options, along with the latest information on Public Service Loan Forgiveness programs.

[ Fighting for you ]

Soaring temps make classrooms unhealthy


hen Adriana Galante opens the door of her Family and Consumer Sciences classroom at Weber Middle School in Port Washington, she is nearly knocked backwards by the heat.

“I’ve been blown away by how brutally hot it gets,” Galante said. Classroom temperatures begin in the high 80s but when her students start cooking, they soar to the mid-90s. “My students come in and they get sweaty, and their faces get red. Some just lay their heads down,” she said. “It’s a very strenuous day.”

The reason? Aging infrastructure that cannot keep up with the demands of today’s changing climate. As average temperatures in New York continue to rise, students and teachers alike are being forced to confront increasingly unhealthy indoor environments.

Galante’s second-floor classroom is located in a portion of the middle school that was built in 1929 and isn’t air conditioned. She has raised the issue repeatedly with administration only to be told that it would be too expensive to bring A/C to her classroom.

NYSUT Legacy Fund seal

Barbara Rink,
a dedicated unionist

Barbara Rink headshot

Barbara Rink is the type of union member that local leaders depend on. During her years with the Ossining Teachers Association, she’s served on the faculty council, been a building representative and a union secretary. Rink was also instrumental in developing union-building activities, particularly during the local’s three-year commitment to NYSUT’s Local Action Project.

The Ossining TA honored Rink, a recent retiree, with a NYSUT Legacy Award to thank her for her many years of service to the local.

“She’s worked tirelessly for our students, our members and our community,” Ossining TA treasurer Alanna Giarrusso wrote in nominating Rink for the award. “Barbara has been a powerful example, always embodying an open mind and a positive perspective, as well as a relentless pursuit of what is right for our members.

“She is always willing to and capable of participating in difficult conversations on behalf of our members, and has led with dignity and grace,” continued Giarrusso. “Her work as a teacher and representative will impact generations to come.”

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

[ fighting for you ]

LAP empowers locals to serve members, community


hink of it as a bootcamp for unionists. NYSUT’s Local Action Project helps locals improve their function and performance. Union members come together from all over the state to Saratoga Springs, where they hunker down for a week to devise a tactical plan for overcoming the stumbling blocks that prevent them from accomplishing their vision.

Local union leaders from the Edgemont Teachers Association outdoors jumping in the air

el-wise noisette

Local union leaders from the Edgemont Teachers Association are in their first year of NYSUT’s Local Action Project, a three-year program that helps local leadership develop the tools they need to take on member recruitment, retention, team building and political action.

The three-year program helps local leadership develop the tools they need to take on their biggest dilemmas, which include member recruitment, retention, team building and political action. In July, six first-year locals, five second-year locals and seven graduating third years came together to move their locals forward.

David Zupan, president of the third-year Carmel Teachers Association, said that LAP has helped them establish schools as central to the community. “We are an integral part of the development of the children and the future of the towns. By having these conversations over the course of these summers and then putting them into action, we’ve been able to draw more positive attention to our union and education.”

[ Fighting for you ]

Schenectady SRPs make progress


hree years ago, Schenectady City Schools laid off more than 200 School-Related Professionals a few days before the start of that school year.

Tracy Cimino was one of them.

“It was a horrible experience that still resonates in our unit,” she said. “We felt disposable. … We lost a lot of good people with a lot of experience.”

A few months later, Cimino returned to her position and has since worked her way to vice president and head of the negotiating team for the Schenectady Federation of Teachers Paraprofessional Unit, which recently ratified a four-year competitive contract. Aside from a salary increase, Cimino says she’s pleased with significant gains they made to improve members’ professional and personal lives such as tuition reimbursement for teaching assistant and teaching certificates and a mentorship program for first-year hires.

[ Fighting for you ]

Member organizers lead the way to help fix broken pension system


YSUT members hit the streets this summer, having one-on-one conversations with their education colleagues to discuss ways to keep educators in the profession and bolster union solidarity. The important work was part of this year’s Member Organizing Institute.

NYSUT members attend the first Member Organizing Institute training of 2023 in Woodbury, NY
NYSUT members attend the first Member Organizing Institute training of 2023 in Woodbury, NY. Union ambassadors received the resources they need to galvanize fellow members around pension tier equity.

The program trains a statewide network of paid member organizers who go out into their communities, building long-lasting relationships through member-to-member house calls.

This year, participants also learned about the union’s Fix Tier 6 campaign for pension equity. Through door-to-door conversations with members in their communities, participants will serve on the front line in our mission for a fair and equitable retirement system.

“I want people to want to become teachers in the future. If they see that there is something unjust in our retirement plan, then we’re not going to get more teachers to join this beautiful profession,” said Judith Rivera, a member of the West Hempstead Education Association.

Launched in the summer of 2017, the Member Organizing Institute is one piece of a larger puzzle to activate local unions in the fight for a stronger union — and that includes a dignified retirement. NYSUT stands firm in the belief that Tier 6 is unfair, forcing some educators to work longer, contribute more and receive less when they retire.

Learn more about how you can get involved at FixTier6.org.

[ Fighting for you ]

Lifeguards push state for first responder status


owerful riptides that pull swimmers out to sea, dangerous predators, and the knowledge that they may have to risk their life at any moment to save another are all parts of the job for an ocean lifeguard.

And yet, Ryan Clark will tell you, “There’s no better summer job.”

During the school year, Clark teaches social studies at Bellmore-Merrick Central High School. But he’s spent every summer for the last 27 years working as a lifeguard.

Now president of the New York State Lifeguard Corps, which represents about 1,200 working lifeguards in the state parks system, Clark estimates he’s made at least 500 rescues since he started lifeguarding at 16 years old. But unlike other heroes who rush into danger to save lives like police, firefighters and EMTs, open water lifeguards are not classified as first responders.

[ Fighting for you ]

Campaign will salute inspirational educators

Educator Inspired Logo

new NYSUT campaign will highlight the important work of educators by soliciting positive stories about teachers, coaches and other inspirational school professionals who have made a difference in the lives of New Yorkers.

Called Educator Inspired, the initiative seeks to build support and respect for the profession, bolster the ranks of educators and underscore the importance of school professionals at a time when the teaching profession is increasingly under attack.

“We all have an educator who inspired us, in ways small and large,” said NYSUT President Melinda Person. “Educators affect our lives for years to come, but many may never know how much they helped us or influenced our path in life. Now is the time to tell them how much they matter.”

Person explained that the need has never been greater for educators to know they’re making a difference as classroom professionals. Increasingly they’re being scapegoated by some politicians for doing their jobs and supporting students, a situation that’s exacerbating a nationwide teacher shortage.

“Educators don’t enter the profession for the money, they do it to make a difference,” Person continued. “We need to promote the education profession: It’s the single most important societal resource we have.”

The Educator Inspired campaign will begin to roll out this fall.


NYSUT Social Justice Academy graduates first cohort


cores of NYSUT members took part in the union’s first ever Social Justice Academy in late July. The two-part program educates members about social justice issues and teaches them how to raise awareness and advocate for change in their communities. The goal is for participants to form either a local social justice or a civil and human rights committee and leave with a concrete plan to increase awareness and activism within their community.

the inaugural class of the NYSUT Social Justice Academy take a large group photo, all wearing the NYSUT Social Justice Academy t-shirt
El-Wise Noisette

The inaugural class of the NYSUT Social Justice Academy.

“The locals participating this year were hand-picked, but we plan to have an application process to select 10 locals to continue the program next year,” explained J. Philippe Abraham, NYSUT secretary-treasurer, whose office coordinates social justice initiatives. Piloting the program are the Brentwood Teachers Association, Syracuse TA, Tri Valley TA, Solvay TA and the United Federation of Teachers. “The locals’ growth from March to now is incredible, they’re on fire, really energized and engaged in the work.”

Abraham noted that the pilot locals run the gamut from urban to rural and stretch across the state. “It’s amazing to see them gel and learn about their different colleagues and communities.”

The academy started in March with a weekend-long session to introduce the program and set goals and a budget. During the four-day July intensive iteration, members fine-tuned their plans, developed implementation strategies and learned about different aspects of social justice work, including community engagement, recruitment and team building, racial justice, and the intersection between poverty, LGBTQ+ and gender issues.

[ OUR SRPs ]

Getting to know … David Mills

Portrait photograph of David Mills grinning in a blue buttoned-up polo top with the New Rochelle School District logo displayed on the polo top and his black lanyard/chrome badge around his neck while he holds a blue pen and white paper

David Mills, a member of the New Rochelle Federation of United School Employees, is an assistant custodian. He was interviewed by Bill Coleman, executive vice president of the New Rochelle FUSE and a member of the NYSUT SRP Advisory Committee.

Why do you love what you do?

I have worked 42 years as assistant custodian for the New Rochelle school district. I love what I do because I get to watch each new generation grow up, and I get to help people from teachers to parents and kids. I have always been handy, good at fixing things and enjoy friendly communication with others. I help ensure that public spaces are safe and clean and maintain the grounds so the kids can focus on learning. I have had strong ties to the New Rochelle school district and community. My father worked for the district. Later, I decided to work for the district and even got the chance to watch my own children graduate from New Rochelle schools. The school community and relationships I have built with my coworkers have made these 42 years fly by.

Are you involved in the union?

I knew unions were essential to support because they sought to reduce wage gaps for workers of color, offer retirement security and provide equity and safety to those who join. These were just some of the main reasons I joined. I have seen how they have had our backs when we went on strike many years ago. They support us and always look into how they can negotiate better benefits. They also do outreach to the community. I am looking forward to becoming more involved.

Tell me, how do you make a difference?

I make a difference by approaching each day by going above and beyond, sharing kindness and showing a strong work ethic. It is essential to continuously interact with everyone with a smile and a good morning, it makes the day start off in a good way.

[ our srps ]

Plan now for annual SRP Leadership Conference


egistration is open for NYSUT’s 45th annual SRP Leadership Conference, Oct. 20–22 in Albany. The event is the statewide union’s largest leadership, professional development and networking opportunity for School-Related Professionals.

SRPs Rising Wordmark Logo

The registration deadline is Sept. 19.

Under the theme “SRPs Rising to the Challenge,” the conference features a host of workshops and sessions that benefit members in their personal and professionals lives.

“We encourage local leaders to sponsor some of your emerging or veteran SRP leaders to attend this inspiring conference,” said NYSUT Second Vice President Ron Gross, whose office coordinates initiatives for SRPs.

NYSUT Community Colleges Icon

Register now for NYSUT Community College Conference

“New Deal for the Next Generation,” NYSUT’s 44th annual Community College Conference, will be held Nov. 3–5 at the Gideon Putnam in Saratoga.

William A. Herbert, distinguished lecturer at Hunter College and executive director of the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions, will deliver the keynote address. Herbert, a member of the Professional Staff Congress, has written extensively on labor law, history and policy.

The conference will recognize Dante Morelli, the 2023 NYSUT Higher Education Member of the Year. Morelli is president of the Faculty Association of Suffolk CC.

In addition to opportunities to network with other higher education leaders, NYSUT’s annual Community College Conference features several informative and timely workshop sessions, including:

  • Internal and legislative threats to academic freedom
  • Labor history and BIPOC union members
  • Policy threats on tenure around the country
  • Community college finances

Early bird discounts end Sept. 20. The conference registration deadline is Oct. 2. First-time attendees are eligible to receive a 10 percent discount.

For more information or to register, visit nysut.org/cc.


Educator alert: Field trip resources available


his school year marks the first time in three years that pandemic-era travel restrictions have been fully lifted across the state. While the history and landscape of New York may not have changed much during that period, there are more ways than ever to access it.

Un“locking” the Erie Canal

The Erie Canal is a central piece of New York state history, and a core part of fourth-grade curriculum. To help classes explore all the canal system has to offer, the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor and New York State Canal Corporation recently launched the Erie Canal Learning Hub, an online portal for teachers to access lesson plans, videos and virtual tours of the waterway, as well as the Erie Canalway Ticket to Ride program.

Ticket to Ride covers bus and tour fees for students at 14 designated canal sites between Albany and Lockport, including several museums and historic sites. In the works since 2017, the Erie Canal Learning Hub makes it easier for teachers to access authoritative, high-quality learning materials for their students, said Patrick Stenshorn, education program manager of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor.

[ Teaching & Learning ]

Why I teach

Sarvenaz Zelkha Singh is an English language arts teacher at MS 51 in Park Slope, Brooklyn. A member of the United Federation of Teachers, she has been teaching in New York City public schools for 19 years. She served four years as an assistant teacher at NYU–Steinhardt School Of Education.
Sarvenaz Zelkha Singh smiling with black top on and green metal necklace
I was 9 years old watching “Wheel of Fortune” with my Iraqi grandmother, Simcha Zelkha. We did this every night. As the wheel went spinning, determining the gains and losses of each contestant, we’d be in awe of how each contestant could guess the phrases based on just a few bought vowels and lit-up consonants. My grandmother and I didn’t even know what the phrases meant. We spent most of our time learning our letters. We were learning the difference between vowels and consonants.

The year was 1984 and I had just recently immigrated from Teheran, Iran, to Queens, New York. I was temporarily living with my grandparents. My grandmother had lived in the United States for 10 years, but still spoke broken English. As I was learning how to sound out words, I realized, while watching “Wheel of Fortune,” that my Iraqi native grandmother did not know how to read or write in English. She admitted to me that in Arabic, she could only read on a third-grade level, which made it hard for her to even read Arabic books that her friends would lend her. It was a profound concept to me that the adult who was in charge of taking care of me could not read or write properly.

[ A Closer Look ]

Our union, our vision

Our union, our vision typographic title
mother walking with her arms around her two kids
As the school year begins, NYSUT’s new leadership is settling in and plotting a course for the future — not just for our union — but for thriving public schools and the communities they serve.
Our goals address core union values like good pay, access to quality, affordable health care and a voice in the workplace. They also aim to advance public education as one of the primary drivers of success, equity and advancement in our society.

This vision isn’t top-down. Our priorities come from and reflect our diverse and engaged membership across the state. One thing we’ve learned from the last year of labor activism is that all NYSUT members share a kinship with other professionals across the country fighting for dignity and benefits. We are at the front lines of addressing potentially life-changing technologies and their effects on our professions, the well-being of our children, and the implications for education and the workplace of tomorrow.

These goals are broad but achievable if we work together. For a complete and regularly updated list of NYSUT’s vision and policy agenda items, visit nysut.org/vision.

[ teaching & learning ]

State program highlights CTE opportunities for educators


hen Amy Fink, an English teacher at Maple Hill High School in Rensselaer County, searched for summer teaching opportunities, she never thought she’d find a position that would benefit her and her students. But that’s what the Schodack Faculty Association member found after applying for a project coordinator position with the Summer Career Development Ambassador Program.

The pilot initiative was launched jointly by the New York State Department of Labor and the NYS Education Department to help grades 6–9 educators better understand and explore future career options with their students.

Fink was one of 30 educators hired statewide to participate in the four-week paid program that operated in nine of the DOL’s 95 statewide career centers. Participants included classroom educators, guidance counselors and work-based learning coordinators.

[ Teaching & Learning ]

CTE works: Profiles from the field

Vincent LaVerdi, Erie Community College

innie LaVerdi has been the director of Erie Community College’s Automotive Technology Program for six months, and an instructor for six years. In that time, he has helped hundreds of his students score in demand jobs.

“I’m not good at a lot of things, but I think I have a pretty good handle on bridging the gap between training and industry,” he said. In fact, LaVerdi estimates that 75 percent of the technicians in some area dealers are graduates of his program.

The community college offers three different pathways to a career in the automotive industry: the two-year Associate in Applied Sciences (AAS) degree, the two-year Associate and Occupational Studies degree (AOS), and the 15-week Automotive Maintenance Program (AMP).

The AOS program has become increasingly popular in recent years because it is one of the fastest pathways from learning to earning. “When students come into the program, they’re basically employed already,” LaVerdi said. The community college’s innovative two-year program combines classroom learning with paid hands-on training at dealerships.

[ Teaching & Learning ]

Top three ELT picks for fall


ducators are heading back to the classroom with tons of new tools — thanks in part to online courses from the NYSUT Education & Learning Trust. ELT’s courses combine the latest research-based strategies with maximum flexibility so that all educators can get the training they need to succeed. Looking to up your game? Here are some of our top picks for fall:

In “Creating an Equitable Grading System for All Students,” ELT instructor Allyssa Graham, Moravia Teachers Association, examines how the grading system has been used to determine a student’s academic potential. The course also discusses methods that promote instead of punish. “The system was originally set up as a sorting mechanism that provided or denied opportunities to students. Students were tasked with meeting the needs of the industrial world and schools needed a way to standardize student progress,” said Graham. “It sends confusing messages to students about their efforts.”

In “Learning First, Technology Second,” ELT instructor Patricia Siano, Corinth Central TA, examines how the pandemic changed the way we use technology for education. “Our goal as educators is to create a technology-rich, but balanced, learning environment,” Siano said. “How can we balance purposeful integration of technology with irreplaceable in-person learning?”


Summer harvest makes tasty fall meals


his summer, Amanda Brown helped put up 10 bushels of peaches, 160 dozen ears of corn, 10 cases of blueberries, and too many green beans to remember. “The last box was like Mary Poppins, it just kept refilling,” she recalled.

Attica Central School District team members, from left, Melissa Brooks, Amanda Brown and Jenelle Bauer help break down and preserve produce from local farms for school meals. The team prepped green beans, corn, berries and more.
Attica Central School District team members, from left, Melissa Brooks, Amanda Brown and Jenelle Bauer help break down and preserve produce from local farms for school meals. The team prepped green beans, corn, berries and more.
Brown, a member of the Attica Central School Non-Teaching Employees Association, and her four-member team were hired by the district for the summer to capture the bounty from local farms and make it usable for cafeterias. Their jobs included unloading fresh fruits and veggies, and then cleaning, husking, blanching, flash-freezing, dehydrating and canning them — all the tasks needed to ensure that locally grown crops are preserved at the height of their freshness. “I think students will taste the difference. The corn alone. It stands by itself!” she said.

The program, which also includes an educational component, is funded through a $100,000 Farm to School Grant from the state Department of Agriculture & Markets. The program is just one of the ways the state is supporting farm fresh school meals.

“We’re developing a pretty deep toolbox at this point,” said Tim McBride, school food program manager for the state agency. This year’s state budget included $50 million to be administered over five years to help schools aggregate, store, process and prepare farm products.

Brooke Schery, president of the Attica Central School NTEA, hopes that more districts will take advantage of the Farm to School programs. Visit agriculture.ny.gov/farming/farm-school for more info.

[ Health & Safety ]

Cafeterias re-equip with help from federal grants


afeterias across New York are getting an upgrade, thanks to National School Lunch Program Equipment Assistance grants.

Owego-Apalachin Central School District just purchased and installed a new combi-oven, using a $20,000 award. “We’re going to be able to get food out more quickly, and that’s going to help the lines move much faster,” said Sandy Phillips, site manager for the Owego-Apalachin district and a member of the Broome BOCES Support Services Administration.

In July, the State Education Department, which administers the federal program, awarded 482 grants totaling $4,786,638 to 149 districts.

“The grant really is beneficial because schools do not have that kind of funding to buy equipment. They spend their money on labor and food, so this grant opportunity alleviates that financial burden for them,” said SED’s Tara Webster, supervisor of child nutrition programs. “It also allows them to do more scratch cooking, get more local food into their schools, and offer more variety for students.”

NYSUT logo beside the breast cancer ribbon wearing jogging shoes
NYSUT logo beside the breast cancer ribbon wearing jogging shoes

Join Team NYSUT

Visit the Team NYSUT page for more info about walks across the state and to join a team in your area, nysut.org/JoinMakingStrides.

Sept. 30: Grangabel Park, Riverhead, Suffolk County
Oct. 14: Wilkeson Pointe Park, Buffalo
Oct. 15: Washington Park, Albany; Recreation Park, Binghamton; Woodbury Common Outlets, Hudson Valley; Central Park, Manhattan; Jones Beach State Park, Nassau County; Manhattanville College, Purchase; Flushing Meadows, Queens; Clinton Square, Syracuse
Oct. 21: Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds, Watertown
Oct. 22: Bay Plaza, Bronx; Coney Island Boardwalk, Brooklyn; Glens Falls City Park, Glens Falls; Frontier Field, Rochester; Midland Beach, Staten Island; Mohawk Valley Community College, Utica

[ health & safety ]

Union program connects school nurses across the state


chool nurses face a common misconception about their jobs — they’re only there to put on band-aids and apply ice packs — and they say that’s only making it harder for them to meet their growing responsibilities.

“The biggest challenge of this profession isn’t the kids, it’s the lack of resources,” said Constance Griffin, RN, certified school nurse and member of the Valley Central Teachers Association. “It’s the lack of understanding about what we do.”

Enter the NYSUT School Nurse Connection, a new program designed to support these essential school personnel by providing valuable training, on-the-job support, and advocacy for this underrepresented professional sector.

Tricia Geisel, NYSUT’s Workplace Health & Safety specialist who has been helping spearhead the union initiative, said school nurses are in a unique professional position.

“When you work in a hospital, everyone knows why you’re there. It’s for patient care,” said Geisel. “When you move to a school, the primary purpose becomes education, not health care, and that’s a transition for nurses. Teachers don’t realize the extent of what school nurses do, and often there’s not really anyone to talk to about that.”

“People think we’re just the quick fix. They don’t see what we do every day or understand our connection to children’s health,” said Griffin. Griffin is part of the organizing committee for the School Nurse Connection, and said she is happy to see NYSUT stepping up to make sure nurses get what they need. Proper equipment and facilities top their list of demands, she said.

Notice of Special Election Meeting

NYSUT Board of Directors Special Election
Election District 45

A vacancy exists on the NYSUT Board of Directors for Election District 45. The vacancy was created by the resignation of Adam Piasecki, effective July 4, 2023.

In accordance with the NYSUT Constitution, Article IX, §§4(a) and 4(b): “Directors representing Election Districts shall be elected on a roll call vote by a majority of ballots cast by the representatives from their respective constituencies … [and in] … the event of a vacancy in the position of Election District Director, the President shall call a special election to elect a successor who shall serve for the remainder of the unexpired term.”

Pursuant to NYSUT Constitution, Article IX, §4(b) and the approved NYSUT Campaign and Election Procedures, NYSUT members who were reported as elected delegates to the 2023 Representative Assembly representing the members of ED 45 will be eligible to vote in this Special Election.

[ retirees in action ]

Summer months a busy time for retiree activists


hat did you do this summer? For many NYSUT retirees, the answer is simple: a lot. From helping the union chart its course for the months ahead, to representing NYSUT at various conferences, trainings and at important social justice events, NYSUT retirees, once again, proved they’re the union’s daytime army.

Joan Steinberg with Dinorah Morales-Cruz
While canvassing as part of the NYSUT Member Organizing Institute, Joan Steinberg, RC 6, right, discusses the need to Fix Tier 6 with Dinorah Morales-Cruz, Rochester TA.
NYSUT Union for Life badge logo
Seth Cohen, NYSUT President Melinda Person, and Albany Public School Teachers Association President Laura Franz
El-Wise Noisette
Seth Cohen, RC 10, is one of several NYSUT activists who marched in the June Pride Parade in Albany. From left, Cohen, NYSUT President Melinda Person, and Albany Public School Teachers Association President Laura Franz.
Quotes - Right
Quotes - Right


Quotable typography
Secretary Miguel Cardona
This year on #NationalBookLoversDay it’s more important than ever that we do not stay silent and that we protect the lessons our students have yet to learn from “banned” books. (@SecCardona)

Laborers’ Local 1290
It’s a fact, EVERYONE benefits from unions by improving wages, benefits & safety conditions for all workers! #Solidarity #UnionsForAll #UnionProud #UnionYES #WorkersRights (@LiUNA1290)

Randi Weingarten
Libraries (in schools and communities) help students become confident readers, and offer them a safe environment to learn, ask questions & grow. We should be investing in our public libraries, not threatening them. #RealSolutionsForKids (@rweingarten)

Robert Reich
Stop asking: Do Starbucks workers really need to unionize? Start asking: Does Starbucks’ new CEO really need a pay package worth $28 million+? Does he really need to be paid 800x Starbucks workers? (@RBReich)

Brandon Routh
Much love to the amazing #UnionStrikeCaptains from both @sagaftra & @WGAWest who’ve been keeping us organized and on the front lines. #UnionStrong (@BrandonJRouth)

No one bats an eye at the CEO making millions of dollars in salary and perks but hot damn that UPS driver making $80/hr has some of you all shook. Good for them and their union for advocating for all of them (incl my son) #UnionStrong (@saltywidowrn)

[ voices ]

5 Questions for…Ethel Kline

5 questions for typography
Ethel Kline

Buffalo Educational Support Team


You’ve been an educator for more than five decades. How did you start your career?

I was raised to care, not just for my own people, but for people in general. I had never thought of working in a school, but my son came home with a note from the school one day that said they were looking for parents to work there. I applied and I got the job! It was not even a full week later that I started, and I have been a teaching assistant ever since — 53 years.


Fifty-three years is a long time. What keeps you coming back?

The kids need us. They need me, and they need more people who are willing to roll up their sleeves and come in and try to do what they can. That is what I’ve tried to do.

Working with the kids means a lot to me. Sometimes I see my students out and about, all grown up. Maybe at one time, society had counted them out, or they were what we called ‘bad kids.’ Now they’ve gone on to become police officers and teachers and nurses. Even if I see someone, and they tell me, “Mrs. Kline, I’m working at Family Dollar,” I still praise them because it’s good to see them doing something good with their lives. They’re working. They’re being productive, and that’s so rewarding to see.

[ classifieds ]

Real Estate Sales

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.
ST. AUGUSTINE BEACH — Three- bedroom, two-bath condominium. NYSUT discount. rj@jobers.com 716-830-4635.
MARCO ISLAND, FLORIDA — Three-bedroom, two-bath condo. Monthly, seasonal. 518-869-5422.
TEACHERS, TUTOR NEAR home/work. All subjects/grades/licenses. Long-term: facultytutoring@aol.com. 718-886-2424.
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.

[ resources for you ]

Free NYSUT poster celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

NYSUT celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month, Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, with a new poster honoring Rita Moreno.

Born in Puerto Rico, Moreno is an actress, dancer, and singer whose stage and screen career spans over seven decades. One of the last remaining stars from the golden age of Hollywood, in 1961 Moreno became the first Latina to win an Academy Award for her role as Anita in West Side Story. She also appeared in the classic musical films Singin’ in the Rain and The King and I.

actress Rita Moreno on an NYSUT poster celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month
In 2021, Moreno appeared in a remake of West Side Story directed by Steven Spielberg; her life was also profiled that year in the documentary Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It.

Moreno is one of only 18 EGOT award winners — performers who have received Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Awards — and one of only 24 to achieve the Triple Crown of Acting, winning Academy, Emmy and Tony Awards. Other honors include a Golden Globe Award, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award and a Kennedy Center Honor Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award.

In 2000, the Hispanic Organization of Latin Actresses renamed their Award for Excellence in her honor to the HOLA Rita Moreno Award for Excellence.

The NYSUT poster is available for download in English-language and Spanish-language versions; limited quantities are free for NYSUT members and leaders at the statewide union’s online publications ordering catalog, nysut.org/publications.

CMM Plan open enrollment

The trustees of the NYSUT Member Benefits Catastrophe Major Medical Insurance Trust are offering an open enrollment opportunity for the CMM Plan from Sept. 8 to Oct. 13, with an effective date of Jan. 1, 2024. Learn more by registering for an upcoming webinar at memberbenefits.nysut.org.

The CMM Plan offers supplemental coverage that you and your eligible family members may need by providing benefits for eligible expenses that your basic plan does not fully cover (once your out-of-pocket deductible has been satisfied). The CMM Plan also offers benefits for home health care and long-term facility care, and includes a Critical Illness benefit (as of Jan. 1, 2023) that pays a one-time $1,000 lump sum in the event that a covered member is diagnosed with a critical illness.

During this open enrollment period, NYSUT in-service members have the opportunity to enroll themselves (and any eligible dependents); current participants also have the opportunity to enroll any eligible family members that are not already enrolled.

[ passings ]

Anthony ‘Tony’ Bifaro

headshot of Anthony ‘Tony’ Bifaro

Longtime NYSUT assistant to the president Anthony J. Bifaro Jr. died June 20, 2023. He was 77.

Tony taught English at Brocton Central School, where he also directed the school plays and musicals. Early in his career, he became active in what would become the Brocton Teachers Association. In 1984, he left the classroom to begin his career as assistant to the president of NYSUT. In that position, he worked with NYSUT founding President Tom Hobart and later President Richard Iannuzzi. Tony retired from NYSUT in 2009.

Whether in his role as NYSUT liaison for Special Olympics NY or in his continued service to local theatre, Tony always displayed his leadership and remained active in the community.

Tony is survived by his wife of more than 50 years, Julie; children Aaron and Jillian; his grandchildren, Colin and Madilyn; and his furbabies, Diamond and Zuzu.

Marleen S. Baum | Dec. 12, 2022
United Federation of Teachers

Ruth R. Deal | April 16, 2023
Maryvale Teachers Association

Frank Lisco | Dec. 18, 2022
Retiree Council 6

Elinor Riter | Feb. 10, 2023
Retiree Council 10

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 ]

Protect your family, save money with Member Benefits


YSUT Member Benefits provides an update at the beginning of each academic year about how the department operates, including its endorsement process and the many endorsed benefits available to NYSUT members.

NYSUT created the Member Benefits Trust as a separately funded trust 40 years ago in order to leverage the unified buying power of its membership and offer competitive benefit programs to members and their families. The Member Benefits Corporation and Catastrophe Major Medical Insurance Trust were subsequently created in 2008 and 2015, respectively, to add to the department’s breadth of offerings.

Each of these entities is overseen by a board of appointed trustees/directors who help to ensure these benefits meet the evolving needs of NYSUT members. The Member Benefits department is under the leadership of NYSUT Secretary-Treasurer J. Philippe Abraham, chairperson of the Member Benefits Trust, and is directed by Ginger LaChapelle.

[ Your ERS Pension ]

A warm welcome to new ERS members


f you joined the New York State and Local Employees’ Retirement System on or after April 1, 2012, you are likely a member of Tier 6, our largest tier. Your tier determines things such as how much you will contribute each pay period, your retirement and death benefit eligibility, and the formula used to calculate your pension.


A good place to learn about your membership and benefits is our New Members webpage at osc.state.ny.us/retirement/members/new-members. It provides links to a variety of resources and important information.

First, we encourage you to sign up for Retirement Online, your self-service account with ERS. It’s the most convenient way to review your benefit information and manage your account. Be sure to keep your contact information current. You should also check to make sure you have beneficiaries listed and that their contact information is up to date.

[ Your TRS Pension ]

Help NYSUT Fix Tier 6

blue and yellow illustration of Fix Tier 6 logo
Q :

I’ve been seeing and hearing a lot about “Fix Tier 6” recently. What’s that all about?

A :

“Fix Tier 6” is a NYSUT campaign to encourage lawmakers to reform Tier 6 of the New York state pension system. Compared to earlier tiers, Tier 6 members will earn a significantly reduced pension and pay considerably more into the pension system over the course of their careers, due to changes enacted on April 1, 2012. Tier 6 members’ contributions increase as they earn more, topping out at 6 percent, and they can’t retire until they reach age 63 without facing heavy penalties; that could mean up to 40 years of service.

Q :

That’s not fair. My colleague down the hall started teaching three years before me, but he’s Tier 4. Does that mean I’ll have to work eight years longer, and possibly pay double into the pension system, just because I’m Tier 6?

A :

Currently, yes. But we agree, it’s not fair. That’s why NYSUT is working hard to achieve parity with Tier 4 for our more than 100,000 members in Tier 6. Tier 4 members can retire at 55 with 30 years of service and their pension contributions cap at 3 percent and end after 10 years. The statewide union is fighting for similar improvements for Tier 6 members. On the bright side, this is a battle we’ve fought and won before. In 2000, after a decade-long campaign, NYSUT helped end Tier 4 contributions and reduced early retirement penalties. To get involved, and help NYSUT Fix Tier 6, visit fixtier6.org.

[ Local Unions in Action ]

Union Pride

shots of UUP members at the Rochester parade

Photos: Provided

UUP members hold up signs at the Rochester parade

Local unions across the state celebrated Pride Month in June to show support for their LGBTQ+ students and colleagues. Clockwise from top: Webster educators wore rainbow colors at all four of the district’s secondary schools; Syracuse TA members march in the Pride parade; UUP members at the Rochester parade; Half Hollow Hills TA art teacher Matthew Petrucci.

Patchogue Medford Congress of Teachers

Members of the PMCT, led by President Kevin Toolan, contributed more than $900 to the EJ Autism Foundation, a Long Island-based organization whose mission is to create Autism Awareness and to support programs and schools on Long Island that currently work with children on the spectrum. Members who contributed received an autism lanyard to wear and show their continued support for students diagnosed with autism and their families.

Mount Vernon Federation of of Teachers

Over the course of two weeks, students, staff and members of the MVFT answered an urgent call to feed the community and donated thousands of pounds of food along with more than $3,000 for the Westchester Food Pantry. The MVFT is led by President Keith McCall.

Share news about your local’s union or community events at united@nysut.org; include LIA in the subject line.

[ Resources for You ]

Premium Calm subscription available

Calm App logo
The premium Calm subscription provides NYSUT in-service members with free unlimited access to the full library of sleep, meditation and relaxation content at calm.com and in the Calm app. In-service members can also add up to five dependents (age 16 or older) to receive their own premium Calm subscription.

Explore guided meditations and specialized music playlists to help with stress and focus, mindful movement video and audio, nature scenes and sounds, specific content tailored for children and more. Learn more by visiting memberbenefits.nysut.org/free-member-benefits.

Back to school with Share My Lesson

Share My Lesson has curated a special back-to-school collection for new and returning educators including lesson plans for new teachers, professional development webinars and classroom management tips.
Share My Lesson logo
The site also features a Back to School Sweepstakes to win funding for your classroom through DonorsChoose. Eight lucky winners will win funding toward their projects. Sweepstakes deadline is Sept. 5.

Created and maintained by the American Federation of Teachers, Share My Lesson is a community of teachers, School-Related Professionals, higher education faculty, and parents and caregivers who contribute content, collaborate, and stay up to date on the issues that matter to students and educators everywhere.

Visit sharemylesson.com to enter the sweepstakes and for more information.


Kudos typography

It’s an honor

Eric Zizza, Cayuga Community College Faculty Association, was awarded the rank of SUNY Distinguished Service Professor, the highest honor for faculty in the State University of New York. Since 1963, SUNY has only awarded 358 Distinguished Service Professorships.

In print

Mary Howard, Grand Island Teachers Association, has written Artificial Intelligence to Streamline Your Teacher Life: The ChatGPT Guide for Teachers. The book, published by XFactorEDU and Codebreakers, is designed to support educators in adopting ChatGPT and artificial intelligence in effective ways in the classroom.

Karen Markoe, United University Professions–SUNY Maritime Chapter, has published Eddie Grant: Baseball and the Great War. Suitable for high school students and older, the book brings together WWl history and baseball. It is available from Fort Schuyler Press.

Lysa Mullady, Copiague TA, has written The Littlest Turtle, a children’s book about advocacy and change published by Magination Press.

Shari Pierce, Yonkers Federation of Teachers retired, has written Life Skills: A Handbook for Parents & Teachers of the Intellectually Disabled. The comprehensive resource is geared toward those who work with students with disabilities.

Madlyn Epstein Steinhart, United Federation of Teachers retired, has published Beautiful Heart: A Collection of Heartfelt Poems. The book is available at barnesandnoble.com.

Linda Foster Tripp, Marcus Whitman TA retired, has published Annie and the Healing Box. The middle-grade fiction incorporates coping strategies for children and adults.

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 | September/October 2023

® Graphic Communications International Union label 1220M

NYSUT represents teachers, school-related professionals, higher education faculty, professionals in education, human services and health care, and retirees.

NYSUT United A Union of Professionals logo

Thanks for reading our September/October 2023 issue!