Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan praised NYSUT's role in helping Syracuse children aim for college through the nationally recognized "Say Yes to Education" program.
"Great teachers and great principals make a huge difference in the lives of our children; they're our unsung heroes," Biden told hundreds of educators and students at Syracuse University Wednesday as he acknowledged NYSUT President Richard Iannuzzi for his statewide leadership and also for his national leadership as a vice president of the American Federation of Teachers.
Biden spoke at Syracuse University at a forum on affordable education, along with Duncan and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.
He praised the AFT for initiating conversations on fair and appropriate measures of teacher effectiveness - a theme AFT President Randi Weingarten has sounded throughout her national listening tour, which included a stop Tuesday in Kenmore and in a visit Wednesday to Boston.
Iannuzzi was part of the forum's panel of education experts that also included NEA President Dennis Van Roekel and SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher.
In response to a question from an audience member, Duncan turned the microphone over to Iannuzzi to speak about teacher effectiveness.
NYSUT has focused extensively on teacher effectiveness, and has fought hard in recent years to retain or restore state funding that would allow teacher centers in school districts to continue operating as a source of mentoring and learning for new teachers, Iannuzzi said. NYSUT's focus on effectiveness, he told the audience, is right in line with the thinking of the new administration.
"I think one of the most valuable things in the Obama program is the focus on valuing the teacher," Iannuzzi said.
Saying 'yes' to education
Syracuse Teachers Association President Anne Marie Voutsinas talks with NYSUT President Richard Iannuzzi (center) and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan while touring the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Syracuse Wednesday. Photo by Lauren Long.
After the forum, Duncan and Iannuzzi visited the Dr. Martin Luther King Elementary School, one of several Syracuse schools to implement the "Say Yes to Education," a district-wide college preparatory program that adds numerous supplemental services and enrichment programs to the school day and to after-school programs. Anne Marie Voutsinas, President of Syracuse Teachers Association, said the program is working because teachers were involved early in the decision-making process.
Indeed, the local's leadership was recognized at the forum by Say Yes for Education President Mary Anne Schmitt-Carey .
"The union has been a partner with the Say Yes program from the get-go. It does start with the local," Schmitt-Carey said.
Duncan said this was his first visit to a school using the Say Yes program.
"This is so unbelievably refreshing and impressive to see an entire community coming together behind our children," he said.